The Menace of Plastic Water Bottles

During the holy month of Ramadan, the use of drinking water increases many folds as water bottles are supplied and provided especially at ‘Fatoor’ and dinner at religious places, hotels, Ramadan tents and private homes. The main consumption is however, at the religious places due to longer stay of people in offering special night prayers (taraweeh and Qiyam ul Lail). These water bottles are provided in bulk by philanthropists, sponsors and people at religious places to quench the thirst of people who gather for the long prayers.

In the Middle East, it is common to see people greatly misuse this resource considering it free, taking a bottle, sipping it half and leaving it at the venue. These used and partially consumed water bottles are then collected and thrown away in municipal garbage bins from where  it is collected and transported to Askar municipal landfill site located some 25 km away from the city center. These water bottles thus have a high carbon footprint and represent enormous wastage of precious water source and misuse of our other fragile resources. In many cases, these water bottles are being littered around the commercial and religious places.

Plastic water bottles are a common feature in our urban daily life. Bottled water is widely used by people from all walks of life and is considered to be convenient and safer than tap water. A person on an average drinks around 2.0 liters of water a day and may consume 4-6 plastic bottles per day. UAE is considered as the highest per capita consumer of bottled water worlwide. 

We need to understand that plastic is made from petroleum.  24 million gallons of oil is needed to produce a billion plastic bottles. Plastic takes around 700 years to be degraded. 90% of the cost of bottled water is due to the bottle itself. 80% of plastic bottles produced are not recycled.

Globally, plastic recycling rate is very low and major quantities of plastics are being disposed in the landfills, where they stay for hundreds of years not being naturally degraded. Recycling one ton of plastic saves 5.74 cubic meters of landfill space and save cost of collection and transportation.

Water bottles manufacturing, transportation, distribution and again collection and disposal after its use create enormous pollution in terms of trash generation, global warming and air pollution. The transportation of bottled water from its source to stores alone releases thousands of tons of carbon dioxide. In addition to the millions of gallons of water used in the plastic-making process, two gallons of water are wasted in the purification process for every gallon that goes into the plastic bottles.

The first step is that once you open a water bottle, you need to complete consume it to fully utilize the resource. Do not throw the plastic bottles as litter. The solution to the plastic bottles usage lies in its minimum use and safe disposal. Alternatively, a flask, thermos or reusable water bottle can be used which can be refilled as required. It is suggested that religious places, hotels and malls should have efficient water treatment plants to reduce the use of plastic water bottles.

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Airports: Viable Places for Green Initiatives

Bahrain-airportCan airports ever be green? This is an overwhelming concept in a carbon-driven, and carbon-intensive industry. The reality is that air travel is often the only realistic option for the movement of both people and cargo in the current lifestyle and demands encompassed with time constraints. This is especially critical for the island nation of Bahrain that is so heavily dependent on air travel in terms of food security. With over 90% of all goods: perishable and manufactured, imported into the nation, this carbon-intensive industry is not going to disappear.

Airports themselves, may only contribute 5% to the carbon emissions attributed to the aviation industry, never the less, airport infrastructure could ensure a lowering of emissions, especially nitrogen oxide levels [1]. The International Air Transportation Association (IATA) has statistical evidence of improved fuel efficiency and better CO2 performance over the past 15 years[1]. It is viable for airports to reduce the nitrogen oxide levels around airports by developing ground transportation infrastructure for transferring passengers and deploying employees across the airport terminals, ground handling of personal baggage and commercial cargo, as well as the catering services, in a more eco-friendly mode of transportation.

Scope for Green Airports

Airports are viable places for adoption of green initiatives. A significant portion of the emissions are from vehicle transportation onsite at the airport is from moving employees and passengers between terminals and aircraft carriers. Plus all the freight movement, personal baggage and inflight catering and servicing. To secure adequate food products for Bahrain, the greater part of all food produce that is available on the market (93%) is flown in on a daily basis. The dependency on aviation is long-term but the ground handling is an option for energy efficient initiatives.

There is an opportunity to move from fossil fuel vehicles to those running on clean such as hybrid, electric, bioethanol, biogas or hydrogen-fueled vehicles. As road transportation is a major contributor of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, greener, cleaner vehicles are a desirable consideration for protecting a fragile environment.

Role of Environmental Awareness

Greater awareness of renewable energy sources is necessary before developers can even start to appeal to the business sector to adopt viable alternatives of transportation energy. New airport development and expansion projects need to assess the feasibility of alternative mode of transportation which in turn will require electrical charging locations as well as hydrogen filling stations [2]. This can also be marketed to eco-friendly rental companies to avail themselves of green initiatives.

Freight and delivery corporation could also avail themselves of alternative power sources as petrol subsides are reduced over the coming years. Ultimately, sustainable energy sources will become more attractive. Together, a sustainable transportation model along with other sustainable life-cycle models will all help reduce the carbon footprint of the airport industry.

Airports are considered ideal sites for promoting electricity-powered vehicles because one has a captive audience. If the options are already determined for the clients, the clients experience the use of electric cars in a win-win situation.

Rapid Increase in Passenger Flow

During the month of November, 2016, almost 674,000 passengers passed through the Bahrain airport [3]. There was over 8,500 total aircraft movement and almost 20,000 pieces of cargo and mail in the 30 day period. (Data source: Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications). Based on the November data, the numbers could be extrapolated out for a 12-month period with over 8 million passengers per year, over 100,000 total aircraft movement and 240,000 pieces of cargo and mail.

Similar information based on the official Airport Councils International (ACI) statistics from the World Airport Traffic Reports for the 10-year period from 2005 to 2015 [3]. The reports indicate a yearly average of 7.8 million passengers with over 95,350  total aircraft movements and over 304,000 metric tons of cargo. The steady increase in usage of airport facilities [4] is driving the modernization plans for the Bahrain International Airport to be designed for an annual passenger flow of 14 million persons [5].

Heathrow Airport – An Upcoming Role Model

Heathrow Airport in London handles more than 76 million passengers each year. Heathrow is already conducting trials for electric buses and personal electric cars, as part of a sustainable model, which requires a major input for developing recharging infrastructure. Such a large airport in the heart of a metropolitan centre has the advantage of a well developed public transportation infrastructure.

Electric vehicles at Heathrow Aiport

Electric vehicles at Heathrow Aiport

Both travelers and employees use the public transport systems which allows the advanced planning in other sustainable green technology for other transportation systems. Passenger car parks as well as company car parks have charging points for electric cars. The airport strategic plan is to have all cars and vans electric rather than fossil fuel powered by 2020.

Perspectives for Bahrain

Aviation transportation is vital for Bahrain’s survival and daily operations. Therefore, a eco-friendly infrastructure is a viable option for implementing green technology in the form of onsite transportation. However, the modernization of the Bahrain International Airport has limited its eco-friendly inclusion to ground service equipment such as the transformer substations, pre-conditioned air systems and pop-up units and the 400Hz power supply system all contracted to Cavotec Middle East [5].

This is one step towards achieving the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) decision to implement a global carbon offset for the aviation industry. It would be great to see the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications reach out to other green initiatives for the modernization of the national airport.

 

References

1. Can airports be green? http://www.airport-technology.com/features/feature100283/

2. How airports uniquely placed to boost the adoption of electric cars. https://www.theguardian.com/heathrow-sustainable-mobility-zone/2016/nov/21/airports-uniquely-placed-boost-adoption-electric-cars-emissions-reduction?CMP=ema-1706&CMP=

3. Airports Council International, World Airport Traffic Reports, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2020, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015. Traffic by Calendar Year, Official ACI Statistics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahrain_International_Airport

4. Bahrain International Airport witnesses a 25% increase in passenger movement http://www.mtt.gov.bh//press-centre/press-releases/210914

5. New Passenger Terminal Building, Bahrain International Airport, Manama, Bahrain http://www.airport-technology.com/projects/new-passenger-terminal-building-bahrain-international-airport-manama/

New Fines for Littering in Bahrain

Littering is a common phenomenon both in urban and rural areas of Bahrain. Streets, sidewalks, parking lots, roads and highways are mostly covered with food wrappers, soft drink and water bottles, plastic bags, handbills, cigarette butts, tissues, papers etc. Litter has the potential to cause harm to human health, safety, welfare as well as the environment. Littering can be a fire hazard and it attracts pests and rodents. Litter also cause accidents on roads as drivers avoid litter on road. Litter also harm plants, vegetation and natural areas. The temptation to ‘litter’ is usually motivated by disrespect to the law and its enforcement as well as ignorance and arrogance in our attitude, thinking that municipalities will clean our mess.

There are several factors that may impact on littering behaviour including inconvenience and laziness, absence of ownership or pride for the area, feeling that someone else will pick it up, number, placement and appearance of litter bins at or near the site, absence of realistic penalties, enforcement of legislation, lack of social pressure and lack of knowledge of the environmental impacts of littering.

New Littering Fines in Bahrain

The local authorities in Bahrain have now taken cognizance of the situation. Now littering on Bahrain's roads could carry fines of up to BD300 if a new draft law is passed by parliament. The National Cleanliness Law was approved by the Capital Trustees Board last week and includes tougher punishments for dumping waste, leaving animal faeces on the streets, and disposing of medical or hazardous substances in public. The new law will give more judicial power to the municipal officials to penalize the offenders.

Under the existing law which is almost three decades old, offenders are fined only BD10 for littering. However, if the new rules are implemented, then fines for minor offences will range between BD100 and BD300 and for serious offences will be between BD500 and BD1,000.

Capital Trustees Board chairman has very rightly mentioned that ‘Dumping and littering have become a habit for a number of people and it needs immediate action, especially with fines not matching the offences. The fines once imposed will be monitored by the Capital Trustees Authority, and Bahrain's three other municipalities.

Thus, dumping and littering whether on main roads or neighborhoods, on pavements or alleys, at beaches or wasteland are prohibited. Also, dumping anything that may obstruct traffic or prevent people from movement is illegal whether it is garden waste, construction waste, furniture, vehicles or any other materials.

Conquering Litter

Litter can be conquered. People can make a difference. It is our responsibility to clean up the litter in an ‘earth-friendly manner.’ Clean communities have a better chance of attracting new business, residents and tourists. There is no reason for any of us to litter because we can always find a litter bin to throw the trash away.

Let us set an example for others, especially children, by not littering and by carrying a litterbag in our vehicle, securely covering trash containers to prevent wind or animals from spreading litter, when visiting parks and recreation areas make sure to leave the area clean for the next person to enjoy and restricting the distribution and disposal of handbills.

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Energy Conservation in Bahrain

bahrain-energyBahrain has one of the highest energy consumption rates in the world. The country uses almost three times more energy per person than the world average. Based on 2014 statistics, the country consumes 11,500 kWh of energy per capita compared with the global average of 3,030 kWh. The country is witnessing high population growth rate, rapid urbanization, industrialization and commercialization with more visitors coming in, causing fast growing domestic energy demand and is posing a major challenge for energy security.

The Government is aware of this challenging task and is continuously planning and implementing projects to enhance the energy production to meet with the growing demand. The issue of efficient use of energy, its conservation and sustainability, use of renewable and non-renewable resources is becoming more important to us. The increasing temperatures and warming on the other hand are also causing more need of air-conditioning and use of electrical appliances along with water usage for domestic and industrial purposes. This phenomenon is continuing in Bahrain and other GCC countries since past two decades with high annual electricity and water consumption rates compared with the rest of the world.

Bahrain’s energy requirement is forecast to more than double from the current energy use. The peak system demand will rise from 3,441 MW to around 8,000 MW. While the concerned authorities are planning for induction of more sustainable renewable energy initiatives, we need to understand the energy consumption scenario in terms of costs. With the prices of electricity and water going up again from March 2017 again, it is imperative that we as consumers need to think and adopt small actions and utilize practices that can conserve energy and ultimately cost.

The country has already embarked on the Energy Efficiency Implementation Program to address the challenge of curbing energy demand in the country over the next years. The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan and the National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) have already been endorsed. The NREAP aims to achieve long-term sustainability for the energy sector by proposing to increase the share of renewable energy to 5 percent by 2020 and 10 percent by 2030.

Per capita energy consumption in Bahrain is among the highest worldwide

Per capita energy conservation in Bahrain is among the highest worldwide

As individuals, we need to audit how much energy we are using and how we can minimize our usage and conserve it. Whenever we save energy, we not only save money, but also reduce the demand for such fossil fuels as coal, oil, and natural gas. Less burning of fossil fuels also means lower emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary contributor to global warming, and other pollutants. Energy needs to be conserved not only to cut costs but also to preserve the resources for longer use.

Here are few energy conservation tips we need to follow and adopt:

  • Turning off the lights, electrical and electronic gadgets when not in use.
  • Utilizing energy efficient appliances like LED lights, air conditioners, freezers and washing machines.
  • Service, clean or replace AC filters as recommended.
  • Utilizing normal water for washing machine. Use washing machine and dish washer only when the load is full. Avoid using the dryer with long cycles.
  • Select the most energy-efficient models when replacing your old appliances.
  • Buy the product that is sized to your actual needs and not the largest one available.
  • Turn off AC in unoccupied rooms and try to keep the room cool by keeping the curtains.
  • Make maximum use of sunlight during the day.
  • Water heaters/ Geysers consume a lot of energy. Use them to heat only the amount of water that is required.
  • Unplug electronic devices and chargers when they are not in use. Most new electronics use electricity even when switched off.
  • Allow hot food to cool off before putting it in the refrigerator

Food Waste, Ramadan and the Middle East

With the holy month of Ramadan only a few days away, huge food wastage in the Middle East is again hogging limelight. It is a widely acccepted fact that almost half of the municipal solid waste stream in the Middle East is comprised of food wastes and associated matter. The increasing amount of food waste in the Middle East urgently demands a strong food waste management strategy to ensure its minimization and eco-friendly disposal. 

Food Waste in Ramadan

Middle East nations are acknowleded as being the world’s top food wasters, and during Ramadan the situation takes a turn for the worse. In 2012, the Dubai Municipality estimated that in Ramadan, around 55% of household waste (or approximately 1,850 tons is thrown away every day. In Bahrain, food waste generation in Bahrain exceeds 400 tons per day during the holy month, according to Rehan Ahmad, Head of Waste Disposal Unit (Bahrain). As far as Qatar is concerned, it is expected that almost half of the food prepared during Ramadan will find its way into garbage bins.

The amount of food waste generated in Ramadan is significantly higher than other months. There is a chronic inclination of Muslims towards over-indulgence and lavishness in the holy month, even though the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), asked Muslims to adopt moderation in all walks of life. Socio-cultural attitudes and lavish lifestyles also play a major role in more food waste generation in Ramadan in almost all Muslim countries.

Economic Implications

The greater the economic prosperity and the higher percentage of urban population, the greater the amount of waste produced. A good example is the case of oil‐rich GCC which figures among the world’s most prolific per capita waste generators. High-income groups usually generate more food waste per capita when compared to less-affluent groups. Hotels, cafeterias, restaurants etc are also a big contributor of food wastes in the Middle East.

Food waste generation is expected to steadily with the rapid growth of regional economies boom. The per capita production of solid waste in Arab cities such as Riyadh, Doha and Abu Dhabi is more than 1.5 kg per day, placing them among the highest per capita waste producers in the world. These statistics point to loss of billions of dollars each year in the form of food waste throughout the Arab world.

Parting Shot

The foremost steps to reduce food wastage are behavioral change, increased public awareness, strong legislations, recycling facilities (composting and biogas plants) and community participation. Effective laws and mass sensitation campaigns are required to compel the people to adopt waste mimization practices and implement sustainable lifestyles. During Ramadan, religious scholars and prayer-leaders can play a vital role in motivating Muslims to follow Islamic principles of sustainability, as mentioned in the Holy Quran and Ahadith The best way to reduce food waste is to feel solidarity towards millions and millions of people around the world who face enormous hardships in having a single meal each day.

 

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Guide to Green Camping in Bahrain

camp-sakhirThe winter camping season in Bahrain will start from 22nd October and campers will be flocking to Sakhir and adjacent areas especially during weekends. The five month camping season will be starting soon and will conclude in March 2017 with many governmental authorities managing and monitoring the camping activities to avoid occurring of any accident due to sensitivity of the area and to protect the natural environment. The camping areas have been marked and displayed for the people’s attention to book the location/ site and register their camps.

Camping is not only an outing and enjoyment but it also serve as a learning method of how to live close to the nature. Once we are enjoying the camping, we often forget and disregard the environment and mistreat it with our careless behavior.

The authorities like previous years have devised plans and programs and are creating awareness among the campers on safety and environmental concerns through media, notices, bill boards and banners. As per the rules, the campers are required to camp at least 150 meters away from any oil and gas fields and more than 50 meters away from the electricity voltage pylons and main roads to ensure their safety. This year, officials have ambitious plans to organize awareness campaigns to combat littering menace and imposing fines on violators.

The Supreme Camping Season Committee has asked the campers to camp in the allocated areas, register their camps and obtain camping label stressing that camps that are not registered or against the rules will be removed. The campers are asked to place the label in a clear and prominent place. Placing of fencing or installing signs, poles as well as afforestation work before the start of camping season are not allowed. The committee has also urged campers to maintain their safety by providing safety equipment in tents like a fire extinguisher and a first-aid kit, not to use open fires or stoves inside tents and provide an independent venue for the kitchen.

Campers are advised not to store any flammable materials in the camp in any form. Camps should be established away from slopes, to avoid damages due to rain and floods, mountain heights, restricted areas or pipes. Campers have been asked to maintain cleanliness of the camps by collecting garbage in bags and putting them in the allocated spots for garbage collection. Burning waste during or after the end of the camping season has also been prohibited. The committee also prohibited establishing buildings of brick or cement, putting barriers or tires in the camping sites. Barns are not allowed for any purpose. Keeping animals and hunting is also prohibited. The engagement in any action that would harm the environment and the wildlife is prohibited. It includes the destruction of trees, wild plants, leveling the ground etc.

Protection of the environment should be embedded in camping activities

Protection of the environment should be embedded in camping activities

The principle of green camping is “If you brought it in…. you need to take it out and leave the area just as you found it.” Let us follow some basic rules for our safety, health and environmental conservation at the camping sites.

  • Use minimum illumination and electronic gadgets.
  • Switch off all electricity appliances and instruments when not in use.
  • Use minimum water and turn off the taps after use.
  • Do not store any waste at site. Keep all recyclable and disposable waste in separate bags.
  • Avoid using disposable plates, cups, cutlery, dishes etc. Use reusable dishes and utensils and wash them after each use.
  • Don’t throw any food in open. It will attract vermin, birds, insects and rodents.

Let us be more environmental conscious and respect our resources while enjoying the camping season this year.

Artificial Reef Construction in the Arabian Gulf

Artificial-ReefCoral reefs around the globe are highly sensitive to abiotic and biotic factors that alter the natural balance of the marine ecosystem. This in terms threatens coral species with the effect of ‘bleaching’ which is slowly destroying the coral communities. As the ecosystem deteriorates, this in turn impacts the fisheries industry which in the Arab Gulf is a major source of local revenue and a major food source for the people of the region.

Artificial Coral Reefs

To counteract the susceptible marine ecosystems, a very innovative and creative approach that has been tried and tested in other parts of the globe, has become a strength in reestablishing marine ecosystems in the Arabian Gulf. Artificial coral reef building approach is one way to mitigate the environmental situations where fish breeding grounds are being destroyed especially by human activities such as overfishing, and island development and land extension along the coast lines. A local company, Al Seef Reef Arabia was established in 2012 in partnership with international partners to design and produce artificial reef units suited for the local environs. 

The Magic of Reef Balls

The reef ball is the most widely used design for re-establishing coral reef areas. Within the Arab Gulf, the natural reef has coral “bommies”. The man-made reef balls are similar in design and function creating ideal environs for both juvenile and adult fishes. The reef balls provide safe and nutrient rich habitats for fish to bred and grow into full-sized mature species.

The reef balls are made of a marine grade concrete mix of high strength (50+ MPA). There are no toxic chemicals added to the mix and the life expectancy of the reef balls in the Arab Gulf is anticipated to be in excess of 100 years. The balls range in size from as small as 20 kg right up to 9 tonnes. The ball shape is the standard design, but indigenous designs are also explored and experimented with.  It is hoped that they will be an added feature in the tourist industry.

The artificial reef balls have other benefits as well as repairing fish habitats and assisting in replenishing local fisheries. The artificial reefs are hardier and more resilient, so once habitats are re-established, the reefs will provide more diving opportunities for both locals and tourists.

Re-establishment of Marine Ecosystems

Because the Gulf is a major region for oil production which impinges on the coastal waters, as well as the shipping of oil and its byproducts, the marine environment is subjected to harsher factors that degradate the local marine environment. The artificial reefs make a major contribution to reestablishing and strengthening these environments. As well as enhancing the local fisheries and coral regions, the reef balls can also provide beach protection and act as breakwaters in areas subjected to more aggressive wave action.

Reef ball is the most widely used design for re-establishing coral reef areas

Reef ball is the most widely used design for re-establishing coral reef areas

The changing climate also has its natural impact as temperatures steadily creep higher each season. There can also be increased levels of toxicity and salinity in the surrounding waters due to anthropogenic activities. Man is able to give nature a hand with these artificial structures.

Bahrain Leading the Way

With government support, the local company has been able to deploy 4,500 reef units since 2014. There are a total of ten reef complexes now deployed in Bahrain coastal waters.  The main objective was to re-establish fish breeding grounds that provide a safe environment for juvenile fishes to mature and ultimately replenish the fish stocks and secure the local fishing industry.

Potential sites for the establishment of artificial reefs are first identified. The areas are then studied and investigated directly with scuba divers and remotely with drop-down video camera, as well as by conducting fish surveys of the area. After a full hydrodynamic assessment of the area is conducted, then plans are devised for restorative action through the placement of the artificial reef balls. Monitoring is conducted on a quarterly basis to record and quantify the re-establishment of various fish species, especially those species that are most favoured in the fishing industry.

As the artificial reef balls projects are still in the early stages, details regarding exact location and the level of restoration is not released to the general public nor scientific community. We will all have to wait a little longer before quantitative evidence is made available to the community at large.

Medical Wastes in GCC

There has been a growing awareness of the need for safe management of medical waste all over the world. Medical Waste are generated by all health sectors including hospitals, laboratories, diagnostic and research centers, dental and medical clinics, blood banks, mortuaries and autopsy centres, veterinary hospitals, industrial laboratories etc.Medical wastes which pose the greatest risk to human health are infectious waste (or hazardous medical waste) which constitutes 15 – 25 percent of total healthcare waste.

Infectious wastes may include all waste items that are contaminated with or suspected of being contaminated with body fluids such as blood and blood products, used catheters and gloves, cultures and stocks of infectious agents, wound dressings, nappies, discarded diagnostic samples, contaminated materials (swabs, bandages, and gauze), disposal medical devices, contaminated laboratory animals etc.

The quantity of waste produced in a hospital depends on the level of national income and the type of facility concerned. A university hospital in a high-income country can produce up to 10 kg of waste per bed per day, all categories combined.

 

Medical Waste in the GCC

Healthcare sector in the Gulf Cooperation Council continues to grow at a very rapid pace, which in turn has led to big increase in the quantity of waste generated by hospitals, clinics and other establishments. According to conservative estimates, more than 150 tons of medical waste is generated in GCC countries every day.

Saudi Arabia leads the pack with daily healthcare waste generation of more than 80 tons. As far as UAE is concerned, approximately 21.5 tons per day of medical waste are generated in the UAE, out of which 12 tons per day is produced by Abu Dhabi alone. Kuwait produces around 12 tons while Bahrain generates 7 tons of hazardous medical waste daily.

These figures are indicative of the magnitude of the problem faced by municipal authorities in dealing with medical waste disposal problem across GCC. The growing amount of medical wastes is posing significant public health and environmental challenges in major cities of the region. The situation is worsened by improper disposal methods, insufficient physical resources, and lack of research on medical waste management.

 

Medical Waste Generation in Some GCC Countries

Country Medical Wastes (tons per day)
Saudi Arabia 80
UAE 21.5
Kuwait 12
Bahrain 7

 

Need for Medical Waste Management Strategy

Improper management of healthcare wastes from hospitals, clinics and other facilities in GCC countries pose occupational and public health risks to patients, health workers, waste handlers, haulers and general public. It may also lead to contamination of air, water and soil which may affect all forms of life. In addition, if waste is not disposed of properly, members of the community may have an opportunity to collect disposable medical equipment (particularly syringes) and to resell these materials which may cause dangerous diseases.

According to World Health Organization, hospital-associated infections (HAI) affect approximately 5% of hospitalized patients.The complexity of infectious healthcare waste problems and the recent rise in the incidence of diseases such as AIDS, SARS and Hepatitis B open up greater risk of contamination through mishandling and unsafe disposal practices.

Inadequate waste management can cause environmental pollution, growth and multiplication of vectors like insects, rodents and worms and may lead to the transmission of diseases like typhoid, cholera, hepatitis and AIDS through injuries from syringes and needles contaminated with human. In addition to health risks associated with poor management of medical waste, consideration must also be given to the impact on environment, especially to the risks of pollution of water, air and soil.

The situation is further complicated by the extreme climatic and environmental conditions of the region, which makes medical waste disposal more challenging. Since medical waste is more dangerous than ordinary trash, it is imperative on governments and private companies in GCC countries to devise a successful hospital waste management program to avoid the spread of diseases and to protect the environment.

 

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Food Waste and the Spirit of Ramadan

iftar-party-food-wasteIn recent years, enormous generation of food waste during the holy month of Ramadan has been a matter of big debate in Muslim countries and elsewhere. As per conservative estimates, around one-fifth of the food purchased or prepared during Ramadan finds its way to garbage bins or landfills. This translates into thousands of tons of precious food which could have been used for feeding tens of millions of hungry people in impoverished countries of Asia, Africa and elsewhere. The staggering amount of food waste generation during Ramadan urgently demands a strong strategy for its minimization, sustainable utilization and eco-friendly disposal. 

Gravity of the Situation

Middle East nations are acknowledged as being the world’s top food wasters, and during Ramadan the situation takes a turn for the worse. The holy city of Makkah witnessed the generation of 5,000 tons of food residuals during the first three days of Ramadan in 2014. Around 500 tons of food is wasted in the United Arab Emirates during the holy month of Ramadan. In Bahrain, food waste generation in Bahrain exceeds 400 tons per day during the holy month. Same is the case with Qatar where almost half of the food prepared during Ramadan finds its way into garbage bins. The scenario in less-affluent Muslim countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt and Pakistan is not different. According to Malaysia’s government agency Solid Waste And Public Cleansing Management Corporation, more than 270,000 tons of food in thrown into garbage bins during Ramadan.

Needless to say, the amount of food waste generated in Ramadan is significantly higher than other months, as much as 25%. There is a chronic inclination of Muslims towards over-indulgence and lavishness in the holy month, even though the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) asked Muslims to adopt moderation in all walks of life. Socio-cultural attitudes and lavish lifestyles also play a major role in more food waste generation in Ramadan in almost all Muslim countries. High-income groups usually generate more food waste per capita when compared to less-affluent groups. In Muslim countries, hotels and restaurants are a big contributor of food wastes during Ramadan due to super-lavish buffets and extravagant Iftar parties.

The Way Forward

The foremost steps to reduce food wastage in Ramadan are behavioral change, increased public awareness, strong legislations, creation of food banks and community participation. Effective laws and mass sensitization campaigns are required to persuade the people to adopt waste minimization practices and implement sustainable lifestyles. Establishment of food banks in residential as well as commercial areas can be a very good way to utilize surplus food in a humane and ethical manner. Infact, food banks in countries like Egypt, India and Pakistan have been operating successfully, however there is a real need to have such initiatives on a mass-scale to tackle the menace of food waste.

Dubai has laid down new guidelines to cut food wastage and streamline the donation of excess food prepared at banquets and buffets. The "Heafz Al Na'amah" is a notable initiative to ensure that surplus food from hotels, Iftar parties and households is not wasted and reach the needy in safe and hygienic conditions.

Super-lavish buffets and extravagant Iftar parties are big contributors of food waste in Ramadan

Super-lavish buffets and extravagant Iftar parties are big contributors of food waste in Ramadan

During Ramadan 2015, Dubai Municipality launched an initiative called 'Smart Homes,' which will continue this year. The initiative encourages Dubai residents to reduce waste during the holy month. Smart Homes is a waste gathering technique in electronic containers that measures the amount of waste produced by each home. The initiative mainly targets residential areas dominated by Emirati residents due to their large family gatherings," he said. Homes that produce the least amount of waste during the holy month are rewarded with cash prizes and certificates that encourage them to reduce waste.

In addition to such initiatives, religious scholars and prayer-leaders can play a vital role in motivating Muslims to follow Islamic principles of sustainability, as mentioned in the Holy Quran and Hadith. The best way to reduce food waste during Ramadan is to feel solidarity towards millions and millions of people around the world who face enormous hardships in having a single meal each day.

Wildlife Protection in Bahrain

giraffe-bahrainWildlife maintain ecological balance of nature, food chain and nature cycles and plays an important role in the environment and for human progress through availability of large gene pool for the scientists to carry research and breeding programs in agriculture, animal husbandry and fishery. The World Conservation Union estimates that there are more than 16,000 wildlife species that are currently threatened with extinction. In the last 500 years, 820 species have become extinct as a result of human activity. 

Bahrain has very limited wildlife population, and its conservation is of great importance. Al Areen Wildlife Park located in Sakhir is a nature reserve and zoo. The park is one of the five protected areas in the Kingdom. The reserve is house to 100,000 planted flora and more than 90 species of birds and 50 species of animals. The inmates include extinct species including the wild Arabian Oryx, Persian Gazelle, Chapman’s Zebra, the rare Addax and many other exotic birds. 

Unfortunately, many people try intimidating animals or birds for the sake of pleasure and time passing often with bad intentions and having no respect for wildlife. Usually children do mischievous activities of throwing stones and litter on animals to get their attention or throwing eatables thinking that these poor creatures will eat. It is a very cruel example of unfriendly action towards beautiful creatures that provide us with recreation and happiness.

We need to realize that we are bound with all other forms of life in one gigantic ecosystem and have to change/ improve our attitude and way of thinking about other creatures on earth. We need to understand that animals and birds are also creatures like us and have full right to live in harmony with the human beings. We need to be careful in our acts of dealing with them and taking care of their wellbeing.

Al-Areen Wildlife Park in the only protected area on land in Bahrain, and is spread over 400 hectares

Al-Areen Wildlife Park in the only protected area on land in Bahrain, and is spread over 400 hectares

We being the dominant creatures on this planet need to create more awareness about animals and birds and school children are to be trained in how we deal with them and care about their welfare. At park and other recreation areas, we need to stop other people harming the birds who do it just as a random sport or activity.

It is suggested that NGOs need to engage volunteers to support and assist the staff at wildlife parks and to create awareness amongst the people how and what contribution animals and birds are providing and how we need to take care of them.

Wildlife conservation is imperative if we are to become stewards of the earth, and to create a truly sustainable future for ourselves and for the generations to come.

Tips for Minimizing Food Waste

Food waste has environmental, economic as well as social impacts. The rising per capita income and expenditure, living standards, affordability and our careless behavior towards food is taking a significant toll on our finite resources. In shopping malls, restaurants and eateries, it is common to see plates piled up with uneaten or partially eaten food. Unfortunately, affordability is leading to rampant increase in food waste generation all over the Middle East, especially GCC.

The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the fact that over 300 tons per day of food waste is being generated in Bahrain which constitutes around 11% of the total municipal waste. All this waste is dumped in bins and collected by Municipal Contractors and transported to Askar landfill site located some 25 km away from the city.

People in the Middle East must understand that we are importing major quantity of our food items and throwing it carelessly in the garbage is not feasible. It is estimated that around one fourth of all food purchased becomes rot and find its way to the garbage bin even before being used or eaten.

People tend to buy more than what they require or what they can consume and often leave the ‘ordered’ and ‘bought’ food half uneaten, which is in-appropriate to follow. Leaving the food behind is bad trend leading to more wastage as the food items bought are not being fully and efficiently utilized and ultimately end up in garbage bins. In addition, the food wastage is more witnessed at buffets, where choices of dishes are many and quantity unlimited. The answer or attitude towards our food should be ‘take only what you can eat’.

The cost of uncooked and cooked food has increased sharply in recent years, putting more pressure on domestic budgets of the bread earners who are already struggling to cope with other elevated costs of living, housing, medication, transportation etc. Food waste prevention is the number one task for us to help reduce the amount of biodegradable waste going to the bins and then to the landfill. In addition, if we implement food waste collections, then we remove a large element of the biodegradable fraction from the waste bin. We also know that when food is sent to landfill it produces more greenhouse gases as it biodegrades.

The situation calls for developing better food habits and Take Only What You Can Eat attitude respecting Mother Nature. The “social and cultural solution” lies in the smart way of dealing with food avoiding waste. Let us practice the following tips to minimize food waste in Middle East:

  • Buy specifically what you want and in actual quantities.
  • Buying food items especially fruits and vegetables in smaller quantities depending on use.
  • Optimize use of food items and eating the required food and even left overs.
  • Don’t feel ashamed of taking/ packing ‘left overs’ in the parties, it does not affect your self esteem and reputation.
  • Daily checking the food items in your fridge/ deep freezer and in your fruit basket regarding items that may get rot/ expired. Utilize it or donate it before it becomes waste.
  • We need to follow our elders in “buying less and eating leftover food” which is becoming ‘out of fashion’ and ‘out of date’ due to our ‘modern day habits’.

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Tips for Hot Water Conservation in Households

hot-water-conservationWith the drop in temperatures and persisting cold weather in many Middle East counties, use of hot water at home, offices, commercial centers, educational buildings and institutions have increased many folds. In winter, heating water for showers, laundry and washing makes up more than a third of an average household’s water and energy use, so it is important to heat water efficiently and conserve the water and energy. This is now essential as the cost of both electricity and water are going to rise in the near future, as in Bahrain, and consumers have to pay the part cost of these utilities which were earlier heavily subsidized by the government.

The main areas of hot water usage in residential areas are bathroom and kitchen. Bathing consume up to 200 liters of hot water, depending on the type of dwelling, type of fixtures/ shower head and duration of bath. It also depends on the number of users and their age. Young people tend to use and waste more water as compared to adults. Women consume water than men.

The other usage of hot water is at ‘Laundry’ which consumes significant quantity of hot water. A standard warm cycle on a top loading washing machine may use up to 50 liters of hot water. People think that washing with hot water is more efficient and lead to cleaner and tidy clothes and textiles. However, this understanding is subjective due to good quality of washing powders that are available which can offset the use of hot water and maintain fabric quality and durability. A better understanding of what types of clothes are to be washed is to be made to avoid huge quantity of hot water usage.

The amount of hot water used in the kitchen depends on how we wash our cooking utensils. For dishes washed by hand in a sink full of water will typically use around 10 liters of hot water. It is advisable to fill the sink with mixed hot and cold/ warm water and do cleaning and clearing before rinsing to avoid use of more hot water. This activity can saves a lot of hot water which otherwise goes waste.

The main hot water wastage is when we open the tap and wait for hot water to come while the cold water goes to the drain. Usually all households are careless and do not think it is the water wastage as they wait for hot water to come. The other aspect is leakage in water heater, tank, equipment and piping. A tap dripping at one drop per second wastes 800 liters of water per month.

Here are a few tips to reduce our hot water wastage and for conserving our precious water:

  • Turning the hot water faucet off while shaving or brushing your teeth.
  • Using low-flow faucets, taps and showerheads to reduce water flow and thereby wastage.
  • Ensure geyser, washing machine and dish washers are of right capacity based on the number of users.
  • Install the hot water equipment close to the point of use to minimize long piping and heat loss like installing separate geyser in kitchen and bathroom.
  • Pre–rinse the dirty dishes using cold water, or scrape them clean before putting them in the dishwater.
  • Use washing machine and dishwasher only when the load is full.
  • Do not waste water when you open the hot water tap, collect this water in a bucket and use it for some other purposes like cleaning and watering plants