Towards Effective Environmental Education

green-hope-uaeChildren are the "Future Generation" and their engagement in environmental conservation is an absolute must. Education is the key to fostering this engagement and hence , all efforts must be made in this regard. One of the main reasons for the current state of environmental degradation is the general apathy of civil society and the only way to address this issue is through intrinsic involvement of all stakeholders, in particular, children,  since it is their future that is at stake.

Involvement of children in environmental conservation initiatives will also ensure that the movement becomes "bottom-up" rather than something that is mandated by legislation — this "bottom-up" approach has always been seen to be more effective in terms of implementation.

Towards Effective Environmental Education

In order to be effective, environmental education needs to be both formally and informally imparted. Otherwise it ceases to be attractive and loses its effect. It becomes just another textbook one has to read and answer questions on. Children are inherently creative and the environmental education curriculum must try to build on this creativity. Rather than prescribing solutions, it must seek to obtain the answers from the children. After all, it is their future that is being decided upon.

Once this fundamental truth is understood, children will come forward with their views and actions to mitigate the environmental challenges. To be effective, environmental education needs to be imparted outside the four walls of the classroom. However, the weather in the Middle East, for most part of the year, is hardly conducive to outdoor activities and this should to be taken into account.

A beach cleanup campaign by Green Hope

A beach cleanup campaign by Green Hope

Green Hope – A Shining Example

My youth organisation, Green Hope, engages and educates young people through our "Environment Academies" which are tailor-made workshops on environmental issues. Till date, we have interacted with several hundred school and university students following all curriculum — our attendees are from all nationalities including native students. I have found them to be immensely concerned and motivated on environmental issues. Being from the region, they also have a lot of traditional knowledge about adapting to the natural environment which is a learning for those who have recently moved here. 

Water Conservation in Islamic Teachings

water-conservation-islamWater occupies a pivotal role in Islam, and is recognized by Muslims as a blessing that “gives and sustains life, and purifies humankind and the earth”. The Arabic word for water, ma’a, is referenced exactly 63 times throughout the Holy Qur’an and is a recurring topic in many of the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him).

Water is not only praised for its life providing and sustaining properties, but it is essential in the daily life of a Muslim. A follower is required to complete ablution prior to the performance of the prayer, five times a day. This ritual cleansing before the prayer signifies the attainment of cleanliness and purification of the body and soul. According to a Hadith narrated by Hazrat Abu Huraira, no prayer is accepted without ablution (Sahih al Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 4).

The Holy Quran and the Hadith teach its followers principles of social justice and equity which extends into the practice of preserving earth’s natural resources, particularly water conservation. According to Islam, water is community resource and is a right for all humankind. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) highlights this in the following hadith:

“Muslims have common share in three things: grass [pasture], water, and fire [fuel]” ( Musnad Vol. 2, Book 22 ).

The Holy Qur’an has set down the foundations of water conservation and demand management by making it known to humankind that earth’s water resources are finite in verse 23:18 of Surah Al Mu’minun (The Believers):

 “And We sent down from the sky water (rain) in (due) measure, and We gave it lodging in the earth, and verily, We are Able to take it away.”

Furthermore, God has instructed humankind not to be wasteful in the following verse: “O Children of Adam! Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for God loveth not the wasters” ( Surah al Araaf, The Heights 7:31 ).

Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) exemplifies the “logical approach to sustainable water use” through the manner in which he performed the ritual ablution. The principle of water conservation is beautifully illustrated by the rule which says that while making ablutions (wudu) we should be abstemious in the use of water even if we have a river at our disposal. : “Do not waste even if performing ablution on the bank of a fast flowing large river” (Al Thirmidhi). The Prophet himself would perform ablution with just one mudd of water (equivalent to 2/3 of a liter), and take bath with one saa’ of water (equivalent to around 3 liters in modern volume measurements).

As per Islamic law (shariah), there is a responsibility placed on upstream farms to be considerate of downstream users. A farm beside a stream is forbidden to monopolize its water. After withholding a reasonable amount of water for his crops, the farmer must release the rest to those downstream. Furthermore, if the water is insufficient for all of the farms along the stream, the needs of the older farms are to be satisfied before the newer farm is permitted to irrigate. This reflects the emphasis placed by Islam on sustainable utilization of water.

References:

  1. Naser I. Faruqui, Asit K. Biswas, and Murad J. Bino. (2001) Water Management in Islam, UN University Press <available on http://www.idrc.ca/EN/Resources/Publications/openebooks/924-0/index.html>
  2.  Abumoghli, I. (2015), Islamic Principles on Sustainable Development, EcoMENA <available on http://www.ecomena.org/islam-sustainable-development/>
  3. Zafar, S. (2016) Environment in Islamic Teachings, Cleantech Solutions <available on http://www.cleantechloops.com/islam-environment/>

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The City of Nouakchott – Perspectives and Challenges

Nouakchott, capital city of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, is the biggest city in the Sahara region. Like other major cities worldwide, the city is plagued by environmental, social and economical challenges. Sewage disposal network, dating back to 1960’s is no longer sufficient for Nouakchott. The country is heavily dependent on fossil fuels and woody biomass for meeting energy requirements, though there is good potential of solar, wind and biomass energy. Solid waste management is becoming a major headache for city planners. Population is increasing at a tremendous pace which is putting tremendous strain on meagre civic resources.

Making of a City

Mauritania is a Western African country bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Morocco, Algeria, Mali and Senegal. Most of its 1,030,700 km2 are covered by deserts. A country as wide as Egypt, it is only scarcely inhabited by some 3.500.000 people. A crossing of cultures, most of the country is inhabited by Arab nomads, the Moors, while the South is inhabited by the African Toucouleur and Soninke people.

Before the country became independent in 1960, the French founded the new capital city Nouakchott. Originally, Nouakchott was a city intended for 3.000 inhabitants. Most of the inhabitants were nomads and the city was established at a meeting place and cattle fair for the nomads. The etymology of the name may mean salt marsh or shore. The area is flat, protected from the sea by low dunes and originally bordered by savannah type vegetation.

After independence, the city grew very quickly, well beyond the expectation of its French founders. In the 1970’s Mauritania sided with Morocco in the Western Sahara war, and was badly defeated by the Polisario rebels. The war caused a massive arrival of refugees from the combat zones in Northern Mauritania. At the same time, drought and famine devastated the whole Sahel region which causes a large-scale refugee influx in the Nouakchott region.

Problems Galore

The arrival of refugees swelled the population of the city, making it the fastest growing city in the region, apart from causing a massive disruption in the environment. For decades, the majority inhabitants of Nouakchott lived in slums. The refugees came with their cattle and contributed to the destruction of existing savanna vegetation by overgrazing. The sand dunes quickly became loose and began to threaten the city from the East and North. Chaotic urbanization caused further environmental destruction, destroying the littoral zone.

The city also suffered social problems, as traditional ways of life disappeared. Former shepherds, agricultural workers and freed slaves became urban poors with little education and abilities to fit in a new economical model. The modern way of life lead to proliferation in plastics items and the landscape of Nouakchott got littered with all sorts of wastes, including plastic bags and bottles.

Nouakchott continues to grow with population reaching one million. However there is stark absence of basic amenities in the city.  Apart from several wells, there are no potable water supplies. The city had no bituminous road beside the two main avenues until recently. The city lacks urban planning, wastewater management and waste management. The construction of harbour and urbanization has led to the destruction of the littoral dunes. The city is in real danger of being flooded in case of sea storm or high tide. The most threatened place is Tevragh Zeina, the most affluent part of the city.

Sand dunes are another cause of worry for Nouakchott. In the 1990’s a Belgian project for the construction of a green belt helped in stopping the progression of dunes. However with expansion of the city, people have now started to build their dwellings in the green belt. The city is also at risk of being flooded in case of rain. In September 2013, during late rainy season, several parts of the city were flooded by rain. Parts of the city are still marked by semi-permanent sewage pools which are a major threat to public health.

Silver Lining

Environment and sustainable development has become a priority during rule of President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz. The government has built roads in Nouakchott and constructed a water abduction system for bringing water from the Senegal River. Slums have been replaced by social dwellings for the poorest.  New schools, hospitals and universities are sprouting at a rapid pace.

Plans are underway to develop the interior of the country to stop internal immigration to Nouakchott. The country is also making made ambitious climate change strategies and has banned the use of plastic bags which has led to its replacement by biodegradable or reusable bags. Mauritania has rich biodiversity, especially in its sea. Infact, the country has many biodiversity hotspots which may attract people for ecotourism. 

There are huge challenges to be tackled to transform Nouakchott into a modern city. Due to nomadic links, Mauritania’s Arabs have a special link to desert and are counted among the environmentally-conscious people of Western and North Africa. However considerable efforts are required to educate the people living in and around Nouakchott and motivate them to become an active participant in sustainable development of the city.

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Saudi Arabia’s Road to Fuel Economy

Saudi Arabia is a private car-oriented society, and has one of the world’s highest per capita fuel consumption in the transportation sector. This is primarily due to lack of efficient public transportation and current fuel subsidy policy. The country is witnessing an escalating demand on its domestic energy needs and it is imperative on policymakers to devise policies for conservation of energy resources and reduction of GHGs emissions in the transportation sector. Adapting energy-efficient fuel standards will help Saudi Arabia country to bridge the gap with the developed countries. The enforcement mechanism for the establishment of Saudi fuel economy standards will lead to achievement of strategic energy conservation objectives.

Energy intensity in Saudi Arabia has set high records reflecting the growth of the economy and the increasing demand on fossil energy in the domestic use and heavy industries operations. Energy intensity in the Kingdom was twice the world average in 2010 and with unbalanced growth between energy use and economy, this should rang the bell for the Saudi government to adapt a bundle of energy policies that curtail the increasing growth of energy demand domestically.

CAFE Standards

Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standard (CAFE) was first enacted after the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 in the USA. That policy was due to energy security concerns and environmental objectives. The USA current standard is 27.5 mpg for passenger’s vehicle and 20.7mpg for light trucks. Similarly to the USA CAFE objectives, the Kingdom approach is to reduce gasoline consumption and induce conservation and increasing efficiency of the light-duty vehicles (LDV).The proposed standard mandates require that all new and used passenger vehicles and light trucks either imported or locally manufacture should comply with new fuel standards. The framework for this law to be effective will start by January 1, 2016 and fully phased out by December 31, 2025. The Saudi Energy Efficiency Center (SEEC) and other entities including the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization, Saudi Customs, and Ministry of Commerce and Industry have been asked to monitor the implementation of the CAFE standards.

The purpose of the fuel standards is to commit the light-duty vehicle manufactures sell their cars in the kingdom and comply with the Saudi CAFE. This standard has a double dividends from the automobile manufacturer side its incentivize them to introduce the up-to-date efficiency technologies and cut the supply the low-efficient technologies to the Saudi market. The Saudi CAFE standard targets an improving in the overall fuel economy with an average of 4% annually. This would lift up the Kingdom’s fuel economy LDVs from its current level of 12 km per liter to 19 km per liter by 2025.

The Saudi CAFE standard shows a focused strategy to setting long-term standards over the course of a given time frame and its committed efforts to manage both newly imported or used LDVs. According to Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman al-Saud, the Saudi transportation sector consumes about 23 percent of the total energy in the kingdom and about 12 million vehicles consume about 811,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel per day. Moreover, there are 7 LDVs entering the market every year with a forecast to reach 20 million by 2030.

Conclusion

Saudi Arabia’s CAFE standard is a means to stimulate energy efficiency and encourage resource conservation and contribute to the environment. This will enable consumers to save money, reduce fossil fuel consumption and strengthen the Kingdom’s role in the fight against climate change.

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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

Green Girl’s Message to the World

These are strange times indeed. Children today are bombarded with phrases such as global warming, carbon footprint and deforestation. These scary terms were totally alien a hundred years ago, but we only have ourselves to blame for their importance now. I ask you a simple question “What kind of future are you leaving for children and youth like me?”

Every day, every minute we are writing an epitaph for a lake, or a wetland or a forest. The mighty river Ganges which once flowed, pristine and pure, from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, is now a cesspool of filth. The roaring Yangste River has forgotten its original trail thanks to the numerous dams and barrages which it encounters.

The Himalayas, shorn of their glacial cover, look like dull pieces of chalk. The historic Dodo is now rejoicing at the thought that it may soon have tigers, lions and pandas for company. The Caspian Sea is now more of a lake than a sea. Caviar may soon be just a word in the dictionary, given the rate at which sturgeons are being fished out.

Every day, while millions go hungry, we let tons of food rot in warehouses. Thousands of children walk miles in the scorching heat to collect a bucket of brackish water because the world does not take note while the rivers dry up.

The questions that arise are: by the time my child goes to school, how many more such species, lakes, forests, rivers will disappear? What kind of environment will the future generations inherit? Isn’t now time ripe to institute ombudspersons for our future generations so that we can prevent reoccurence of environmental disasters? The question that we ask is when, instead of why.

In the words of Robert Swan, “The Greatest Threat to Our Planet Is the Belief That Someone Else Will Save It”. I implore you to take action and turn back the clock before it is too late. We urge you not to ignore us. Listen to us, involve us, allow us to help you in framing the policies that will deliver the future we want.

In the the words of Mother Teresa – “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”

Thank you.

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Progress of Green Building Sector in Qatar

There has been rapid progress in green building sector in Qatar with the emergence of many world-class sustainable constructions in recent years. With the fifth-highest number of LEED-registered and certified buildings outside the U.S., Qatar has valuable experience and inputs to offer on the system’s local relevancy and application. Various countries in the Middle East have been accredited with regards to the LEED system. Of these buildings, 65 per cent (802) are located in the UAE. Qatar is ranked second on the list, with 173 green buildings, followed by Saudi Arabia (145), Lebanon (25) and Egypt (22).

 

Qatar’s Green Building Rating System

Qatar has developed established its own assessment called Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS), formerly known as the Qatar Sustainability Assessment System (QSAS) system specifically developed for the State of Qatar. GSAS is billed as the world’s most comprehensive green building assessment system developed after rigorous analysis of 40 green building codes from all over the world. The assessment criterion takes into consideration various categories related to sustainable development and its impact on environmental stress mitigation. Each criterion elucidates the requirements of reducing environmental stress and a score is then given to each criterion based on the level of compliance. QSAS is assessed on the following eight categories; urban connectivity, site, energy, water, indoor environment, materials, management and operations and cultural – economic values. Qatar has incorporated QSAS into Qatar Construction Standards 2010 and it is now mandatory for all private and public sector projects to get GSAS certification. 

 

Qatar Green Building Council

The Qatar Green Building Council (QGBC) was established in 2009 to promote sustainable growth and development in Qatar through cost efficient and environment-friendly building practices. The organisation aims to support the overall health and sustainability its environment, people and economic security in Qatar for generations to come. As one of the 30 members of the LEED roundtable, the Qatar Green Building Council endeavour to prioritise factors such as environmental conditions and its influence on green buildings. For instance, in arid regions such as Qatar, improving a building’s water efficiency in order to reduce the burden on local supply is a priority.

 

Benefits for Qatar

Sustainable development has been identified as one of the top priorities in Qatar’s National Development Strategy. The ultimate objective of green buildings is to reduce the overall impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment. This can be promoted by using water, energy and other resources more efficiently as well as ensuring occupant health and improving employee productivity. Green buildings can bring a variety of social, economic and environmental benefits for Qatari residents. Through rainwater harvesting, greywater recycling and renewable energy systems, green buildings can promote water conservation, energy management as well as climate change mitigation. Moreover, this can also bring along sizable reduction in operation costs and offer long-term savings. Finally, sustainable buildings in Qatar can improve overall health of the occupants by tackling common issues such as insufficient air circulation, poor lighting and temperature variances. Green buildings emphasize natural ventilation which creates healthier and more comfortable living environments.

 

Qatar National Convention Center – A Shining Example

The Qatar National Convention Center, located in Doha, has recently been accredited for its approach to environmental stress mitigation. The 177,000 square meter structure has been commended for its recognition as one of the world’s most iconic energy-efficient convention centers built to date. The building has 3,500 square meters of its roof areas with solar panels, contributing 12.5% of the building total electrical consumption. Other contributors include, LED lighting, air volume systems and carbon dioxide monitors. The building has also gained recognition for being one of Qatar’s first environmentally sustainable structures which has even been given the gold certification standards under the LEED system equivalent to 6 stars on the QSAS.

 

Conclusion

Structures such as the Qatar National Convention Center will be a benchmark for all future green structure in Qatar. With an increase in population along with an ailing environment, it is absolutely necessary that we begin to take an approach that is suitable to the demands of our time. It is heartening to see that Qatar has recognised the importance of green architecture and lucrative benefits associated with it. 

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Effective Energy Management for Businesses

energy-management-middle-east-businessesMiddle East has been witnessing a rapid increase in energy consumption due to high degree of industrialization, high standards of living and exponential increase in population. Infact, the level of primary energy consumption in the Middle East is among the highest worldwide.  These factors have made businesses in Middle East to realize that effective energy management is not only good for the businesses but also an essential requirement.

In recent years, many businesses in the Middle East have come up with dynamic strategies to achieve immediate reduction in energy consumption. This trend towards effective energy management is expected to continue to grow in the region in the coming years on account on changing regulations and growing awareness on energy conservation.

Ingredients of Effective Energy Management Plan

For an energy management plan to succeed, the entire organization including its employees and management team, should be committed to the implementation of energy management strategy whose main elements are:

  • Goal-setting: how much energy reduction do you want to achieve?
  • Number-crunching: how much energy do you consume?
  • Identifying energy-guzzlers: What are major consumption units and what measures can be taken to reduce consumption
  • Technology and automation: Smart metering, schedule-based lighting, occupancy sensors, HVAC control and latest technological innovation provides an active approach to energy management
  • Continuous review and management: Regular performance monitoring is essential to check the progress towards your energy-saving goals. 

Hurdles to Overcome

​Lack of incentives to reduce energy consumption is a major hurdle faced by businesses in the Middle East. In the GCC region, electricity is usually provided at heavily subsidized rates which fail to provide the motivation to the consumer to reduce energy consumption. Most of the commercial buildings in the Middle East consume huge amount of energy in the form of HVAC, lighting, ventilation etc., and there is a real need to make such buildings ‘ energy smart’ in the real sense of the word.

An energy smart building - Siemens headquarters at Masdar

An energy smart building – Siemens headquarters at Masdar

Role of Technology

Technology plays a vital role in reducing energy consumption as energy-savings are not limited to power consumption by HVAC, lighting or ventilations, but also encompass optimization of energy use, building infrastructure, supply chain networks, product design, transportation networks etc. Businesses in the Middle East may strive for energy-smart buildings, smart grid systems and renewable energy sources (like rooptop solar and biogas systems) to improve their long-term sustainability and more effective cost-management.

Preserving Biodiversity in Jordan

Jordan is situated at the center of unique biota, representing the biodiversity of dry lands. The natural ecosystems in Jordan support human activities in agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, tourism, traditional and pharmaceutical health products, traditional medicine and many others. These ecosystems are also important for their intrinsic value, and for protection of overall environmental quality.

The Levant states in general, and Jordan in particular, went through changes during the past two centuries from various anthropogenic activities. These changes are threatening the natural ecosystems, which have been destroyed to make way for agricultural, industrial, or housing developments. Species biodiversity have been severely affected, with many facing extinction. Rare and endemic plant and animals are endangered.

Biodiversity in Jordan

Despite its relatively small size, Jordan is highly rich in biodiversity. The country is divided into four different bio-geographical zones – the Mediterranean, Irano -Turanian, saharo-Arabian and Sudania. These zones are key elements in supporting biodiversity, containing three major ecosystems – terrestrial, marine, and wetland.

Biodiversity in Jordan has been seriously threatened in recent years. Natural areas and wildlife has been severely affected due to rapid urban growth resulting from population growth, large-scale migration and rapid industrial expansion has led to depletion of natural ecosystems.  Agriculture, animal-grazing, construction and other human activities has led to soil erosion, desertification and fragmentation of the land and reduction or extinction of wildlife. Furthermore, the increasing stress on limited water supplies has led to overexploitation of water resources and a decline in its quality and general decline in biological systems.

The agricultural expansion has led to ecological changes in two ways: decrease in population of some species due to alteration of their natural habitat, and over-exploitation of water resources. For some species, the lack of water has forced the animals to move or die, although for others it has increased their population. Rampant use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers has contaminated soil and water resources while reckless use of heavy agricultural machinery on marginal arid lands has encouraged soil erosion.

Overgrazing is widely recognized as harmful to ecosystems as it may lead to desertification, which increases atmospheric dust; such dust creates a health problem for both humans and wildlife. Furthermore, overgrazing is harmful for soil microorganisms on which the health of the entire ecosystem depends upon. Desertification and deforestation causes the land to deteriorate rapidly. Although Jordan is committed to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), illegal hunting and trapping is still common which is threatening a host of wildlife species. Traffic and vehicular movement is increasing rapidly in Jordan which is also reading to soil erosion and death of animals.

Roadmap for Biodiversity Conservation

Jordan is working toward more profound strategic policies and actions to meet the requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity. At the national level, the goal is to raise public awareness about nature as related to the conservation of biodiversity, and to direct national concern in different sectors about the conservation and management of Jordan’s natural habitat in a sustainable way. Decision makers in Jordan should be more aware of the threats facing biological diversity and the degree of its deterioration.

An important development is a multidisciplinary approach that uses geographic information system (GIS) analysis. The plan should involve many stakeholders, including the government, specialized nongovernmental organizations, local communities, and representatives research initiations and universities. As a response to the urgent need for conservation of biodiversity in Jordan, I suggest the following solutions:

  • Rehabilitation of damaged ecosystems in order to promote biodiversity and solving causes of poverty and unemployment – Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of biodiversity degradation: poor people are forced to put urgent needs before the long-term quality of the biodiversity.
  • Designing water supply models and monitoring water quantity and quality for plant and animal biodiversity. To reduce pressure from the growing urban demand, a long-term water solution will require fundamental changes in national water policy and adoption of a large-scale management by the Jordanian government.
  • Coordinating implementation of the plan between the local communities, government agencies and the private sector. It is important to involve local communities in decision making regarding hunting, water use and grazing.
  • Implementation of comprehensive plan, guidelines and national and international policies for sustainable development of arid areas, preservation of biodiversity, and adoption of strategies to prevent harmful practices such as overgrazing or over extraction of water.
  • Establishment of separated areas for biodiversity conservation, off-limits to grazing and other activities, and the monitoring of biodiversity in those areas.
  • Addressing the problems faced by farmers, such as crop selection. There is currently a lack of information on alternative crops that are tolerant to water stress and water-saving irrigation techniques. Livestock owners need services such as grazing reserves and infrastructure for marketing milk and other products.
  • Land use plans are essential for conservation of biodiversity of Jordan, there is an urgent need to encourage shifting the rural pressure to none fertile land, also new trends should be adopted to minimize reduction in forested land and reforest cleared areas.
  • Establishment of more natural reserves to give Jordanians beautiful places to visit and preserve Jordan’s beauty for future generations. A network of protected areas for ecosystems species and genetic resources preservation must also be established.
  • Introduction of sustainable systems for farming, include disease control and crops that help to regenerate soils. Appropriate support and encouragement to farmers to adopt new policies and new practices, such as water-saving irrigation techniques and plantings of sustainable crops such as date palms or honey production.

Jordan is committed to study its biodiversity to conserve its natural resources and ensure the sustainable use of its resources. It is also hoped that Jordan Biodiversity study will be the basis for cross-cultural cooperation and exchange, resulting in scientific integration between Jordan and the rest of the World. The result of applying there principle across several areas will be a visible recovery and improvement of Jordan’s ecosystem. Additionally, new jobs will be created as part of the conservation efforts.

A biological survey is necessary to monitor changes in the Jordanian ecosystems.  National guidance is required, as well as national and international funding for these activities. Appropriate development organizations should encourage research in ethno-biology to identify plant and animal species used by local people, which will prevent species from being irretrievably lost. 

As human induced environmental change continues, society is facing an increasing array of pressing environmental challenges. Answers to these complex challenges must be informed by coordinated, long-term interdisciplinary research. The LTER sites (Long term ecological research sites) are poised to address a set of new initiatives to be pursued in response to these environmental challenges.

Considering that one third of the land mass surface of the earth is classified as arid land, knowledge of the composition of their bio-communities and of how these communities are affected by landscape sustainability measures will find wider application in landscape sustainability programs and contribute to future global policies. Government and specialized environmental NGO involvement is essential for the success of these measures.

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Women and the Environment in Arabia

Women and the environment are closely interlinked, throughout history, different nations glorified women as powerful symbols of nature, and nature has always been given the female characteristics: care, reproduction and life-giving. Nevertheless, women’s involvement in the preservation of the environment has seldom been recognized and documented in the histories of several nations.

One of the most significant phenomena in the last decades is recognition of women rights to achieve sustainable development; many international agreements reflected this recognition, including Rio Declaration in 1992, which stresses the point of the centrality of the full women participation to achieve environmental sustainability. The UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 has acknowledged the importance of gender equality and women empowerment, the CBD identifies the integration of women right in biodiversity conservation as intrinsically vital. Linking gender equality and sustainable development is not only important for ethical and moral reasons, but also because achieving gender equality as human rights of women is prerequisite of a fair and sustainable globe and future.

Increasingly, achievement environmental sustainability is recognized as central to pursue development goals. It`s crucial that gender equality —a human right—is central to this pursuit. Worldwide, there is a perception that women are closer to nature than men, as women interact directly and more intensively with the natural surroundings more than their counterparts' men, which produced their profound experience, understanding and knowledge about the environment. Many studies on women and environment have shown that women are significant role player in natural resources management and ecological preservation. Women have served as farmers, water and firewood collectors and scientists with more respective and caring attitude.

The interesting dilemma about all is since women interact directly with the environment, and because of their roles as home-managers, they are often vulnerable to several environmental threats and hazards especially rural women in developing countries. The toxic environmental hazards may increase the risk of birth defects, abortion, perinatal death, and fetal growth retardation.

Women in Agriculture and Plant and Soil Conservation

Globally, women produce around half of all the grown food, women`s roles in agriculture include: planting, cultivation, production, weeding, distribution, harvesting and storage, women are also involved in animal farming such as rearing poultry and goat. Some examples of women role in agriculture in Arabia include rural women in the Jordan Valley, who have proved themselves in agricultural work and is now irreplaceable in various agricultural operations. In addition, women have participated in and led soil and plant conservation projects. A role model is the Royal Botanic Garden (RBG) of Jordan, led by its founder HRH Princess Basma bint Ali. The RBG aims to preserve plants and ecosystems, and promote biodiversity research and environmental education in Jordan.

Women in Forest Management and Tree Planting                                                

In many areas of the Arab world, natural resources, such as firewood, are the main source of energy for domestic consumption. Unfortunately, the extensive use of these sources has led to forests degradation and air pollution. At the same time, women are the main contributor in forest management through planting and protection. A good example is the campaign organized by the APN, represented by its President Razan Zeater, which has planted more than two million trees in Jordan and Palestine.

Women and Water Resources

Around the Middle East, women constitute the main group of direct users of water for household consumptions. Therefore, they are a mainstream interest group in water management to provide and safeguard their own water resources. Women involvement in water management is growing up, but not yet receiving the attention it deserves. To fill the gap, many programs are launched to empower women at all levels including research. Dr. Malak AlNory, a scientist and a winner of Ibn Khaldun fellowship, researched the supply chain for water in Saudi Arabia and was the first Saudi woman presented her paper at the IDA Congress in 2013.

Women and Waste Management

Women role in waste management include garbage disposal management and research. Dr.Sumaya Abbas, a Bahraini engineer and a winner of L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women In Science Fellowship, works on waste management and waste transformation into energy. “Because oil and gas resources are depleting, we are looking at alternatives sources of energy, and waste is one of them ” she clarifies.

Women and Energy

Worldwide, many people lack access to modern, clean energy, which has a huge impact on general quality of life. Rural women devote much of their time as fuel gatherers. Additionally, women work on projects to produce energy. An excellent model is the Jordanian brave Bedouin Rafea, who decided to challenge gender roles in her Bedouin community and followed her aspirations to light up her underprivileged village by enrolling in a solar program in India. Rafea has not only become the first female solar engineer in Jordan, but she has also set up 80 small-scale solar systems, helping her village to become solar-powered. Today Rafea is a role model, an elected leader and training many others on how to use sustainable energy.

Women and Policy

There is growing evidence of the synergies between gender equality and environmental sustainability. While women participation is vital, their involvement in policy-making aimed at sustainability does not mean better gender equality, especially when the foundations of gender inequality remain unchanged. Governments and donor agencies target women as influential agents for green transformation.

However, such stereotypical assumptions which view women as “sustainability saviors” have risks, as it's based on the assumption that women are unlimited resource that can sustain environments without consideration of women’s health, time, knowledge, interests and opportunities. Thus, women’s involvement in policy-making focused only at sustainability doesn't mean better gender equality; on the contrary, increase of women’s already heavy unpaid work burdens without consideration of their benefits in advantage to the environment can worsen gender inequalities and power imbalances.

Conclusions

Despite the challenges, this is a time of great opportunity for Arab women.  Worldwide, there are many examples of alternative pathways that move towards environmental sustainability and gender equality synergistically, which means respect for women knowledge, capabilities and rights, while ensuring that roles are matched with rights, control over resources and decision-making power.

 

References

  1. Wuyep, Solomon Z. et al "Women Participation in Environmental Protection and Management: Lessons from Plateau State, Nigeria." American Journal of Environmental Protection, n.d. Web. 2014.
  2. Yalan, Zhu. Women’s Participation in Environmental Protection Organizations—A Qualitative Study of Australian Women’s Involvement in Green Non-Governmental Organizations. Diss. D the Graduate School of Beijing Foreign Studies U, 2007. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
  3. Chelala, Cesar. "Women's Role Key to Saving Environment." China Daily. N.p., 2011. Web. 27 July 2015.
  4. "Women, Environment and Sustainable Development: Making the Links." UNEP (n.d.): n. pag. Web. <http://www.unep.org/civilsociety/Portals/24105/documents/publications/Women%20and%20the%20environment/ChapterTwo.pdf>.
  5. The Environment and Women's Health (n.d.): n. pag. Web. <http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/environment-womens-health.pdf>.
  6. JACKSON, CECILE. "Doing What Comes Naturally? Women and Environment in Development." World Development. N.p., n.d. Web. http://josiah.berkeley.edu/2007Fall/ER275/Readings/DP3/jackson-GAD-1993.pdf.
  7. Schultz, . Irmgard.et al  "Research on Gender, the Environment and Sustainable Development." N.p., n.d. Web. <ftp://ftp.cordis.europa.eu/pub/eesd/docs/wp1_endversion_complete.pdf>.
  8. UN Documents. Beijing Platform for Action. Chapter IV. K. Women and the Environment, n.d. Web. 26 July 2013. http://www.un-documents.net/bpa-4-k.html
  9. "Gender and Sustainable Development." (2014): n. pag. The Research and Data Section of UN Women. Web..
  10. "Postural Synergies: Gender Equality, Economic Development and Environmental Sustainability." SpringerReference (2012): n. pag. UNDP. Web.
  11. "For Women, It's Personal." Water.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 July 2015.
  12. "WEDO » NEW Article: "Women and Energy Access: Impact on Sustainable Development and Livelihoods"" WEDO RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 July 2015
  13. "Sustainable Energy." (2010): n. pag" http://www.ashden.org/files/pdfs/reports/DFID-Energia-Ashden-Report-Public-Summary-Feb-2015.pdf"
  14. Rafea: Solar Mama. Dir. Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief. Perf. Rafea, Rouf Dabbas, Um Bader. N.p., 2014. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ON_NQ1HnRYs>.
  15. Sarant, Louise. "L'Oreal-UNESCO Recognises Exceptional Arab Women Scientists." – News. Nature Middle East, 9 Feb. 2013. Web. 31 July 2015. <http://www.natureasia.com/en/nmiddleeast/article/10.1038/nmiddleeast.2013.20>.
  16. http://ccwce.mit.edu/Ibn-Khaldun-Fellowship <2015>.
  17. www.rbg.org.jo

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Islamic Principles on Sustainable Development

A huge number of verses in Qura’n and several sayings of the Prophet Muhammad indicate the great importance that has been given to environmental concerns and the responsibility of man to the environment. The concept of sustainable development in Islam can be defined as “The balanced and simultaneous realization of consumer welfare, economic efficiency, attainment of social justice, and ecological balance in the framework of a evolutionary knowledge-based, socially interactive model defining the Shuratic process”The Shuratic process is the consultation or participatory ruling principle of Islam.

The over arching principle in the use of nature is derived from the prophetic declaration that states: "There shall be no damage and no infliction of damage". The right to benefit from the essential environmental elements and resources such as water, minerals, land, forests, fish and wildlife, arable soil, air and sunlight is in Islam, a right held in common by all members of society.  Each individual is entitled to benefit from a common resource subject to establishing the degree of need, (needs have to be distinguished from wants) and the impact on the environment.

Earth is mentioned 61 times in the Qura’n. According to Islam, the universe has been created by Allah (God) with a specific purpose and for a limited time. The utilization of natural resources (ni‘matullah – the gifts of Allah) is a sacred trust invested in mankind; he is a mere manager and not an owner, a beneficiary and not a disposer. Side by side, the Islamic nation has been termed as) ummatan wasatan) the moderate nation in the Qur’an, a nation that avoids excesses in all things. Thus, Muslims in particular have to utilize the earth responsibly for their benefit, honestly maintain and preserve it, use it considerately and moderately, and pass it on to future generations in an excellent condition. This includes the appreciation of its beauty and handing it over in a way that realizes the worship of Allah.

The utilization of all natural resources – land, water, air, fire (energy), forests, oceans – are considered the right and the joint property of the entire humankind. Since Man is Khalifatullah (the vicegerent of Allah) on earth, he should take every precaution to ensure the interests and rights of others, and regard his mastery over his allotted piece of land as a joint ownership with the next generation. 

Land Reclamation

Prophet Muhammad said, "Whosoever brings dead land to life, for him is a reward in it, and whatever any creature seeking food eats of it shall be reckoned as charity from him". The Prophet in another occasion said, "There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows a field for a human, bird, or animal eats from it, but it shall be reckoned as charity from him"; and, "If anyone plants a tree, no human nor any of the creatures of Allah will eat from it without it being reckoned as charity from him". This testifies the importance the Prophet in the early days of Islam has given to reclamation of land and the equal rights of all God’s creatures to benefit from the resources of earth. 

Wildlife Protection

Wildlife and natural resources are protected under Shariah (Rules of Islam) by zoning around areas called “hima”. In such places, industrial development, habitation, extensive grazing, are not allowed. The Prophet himself, followed by the Caliphs of Islam, established such “hima” zones as public property or common lands managed and protected by public authority for conservation of natural resources.

Water Rights

In the Shariah, there is a responsibility placed on upstream farms to be considerate of downstream users. A farm beside a stream is forbidden to monopolize its water. After withholding a reasonable amount of water for his crops, the farmer must release the rest to those downstream. Furthermore, if the water is insufficient for all of the farms along the stream, the needs of the older farms are to be satisfied before the newer farm is permitted to irrigate. This reflects the sustainable utilization of water based on its safe yield.

Environment Protection

The rights to benefit from nature are linked to accountability and maintenance or conservation of the resource. The fundamental legal principle established by the Prophet Muhammad is that "The benefit of a thing is in return for the liability attached to it.” Much environmental degradation is due to people's ignorance of what their Creator requires of them. People should be made to realize that the conservation of the environment is a religious duty demanded by God. God has said.  “And do good as Allâh has been good to you. And do not seek to cause corruption in the earth. Allâh does not love the corrupters”, (Al Qasas 28:77.(

Waste Generation

Islam calls for the efficient use of natural resources and waste minimization. God says in Qura’n: “Eat and drink, but waste not by excess; “He” loves not the excessive”, (Al-A'raf 7:31). "And do not follow the bidding of the excessive, who cause corruption in the earth and do not work good”, (Ash-Shu'ara 26: 151-152). “And do not cause corruption in the earth, when it has been set in order”, (Al-A'râf 7:56).

Water Pollution

Water also plays another socio-religious function: cleaning of the body and clothes from all dirt, impurities, and purification so that mankind can be presentable at all times. Only after cleaning with pure (colorless, odorless and tasteless) water, Muslims are allowed to pray. One can only pray at a place that has been cleaned. In light of these facts, Islam stresses on preventing pollution of water resources. Urinating in water (discharging wastewater into water stream) and washing or having a bath in stagnant water are forbidden acts in Islam. The Prophet said: "No one should bathe in still water, when he is unclean”. 

Water Conservation

The teachings of Prophet Muhammad emphasize the proper use of water without wasting it. The Prophet said: “Don’t waste water even if you are on a running river”. He also said: “Whoever increases (more than three), he does injustice and wrong”.  

Sustainable Forestry

Islamic legislation on the preservation of trees and plants finds its roots in Qura’nic teachings of Prophet. They include the following:Whoever plants a tree and looks after it with care, until it matures and becomes productive, will be rewarded in the Hereafter” and “If anyone plants a tree or sows a field and men, beasts or birds eat from it, he should consider it as a charity on his part". He is also reported to have encouraged tree planting as a constructive practice, saying that even if one hour remained before the final hour and one has a palm-shoot in his hand, he should plant it. Even at times of war, Muslim leaders, such as Abu Baker, advised their troops not to chop down trees and destroy agriculture or kill an animal.

Public Participation

The protection, conservation, and development of the environment and natural resources is a mandatory religious duty to which every Muslim should be committed. This commitment emanates from the individual's responsibility before God to protect himself and his community.  God has said, "Do good, even as God has done you good, and do not pursue corruption in the earth. God does not love corrupters”.

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Green Ahadith – Ecological Advice from Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, is one of the most, if not the only one who reached a pinnacle of success by not only verbally teaching, but stringently applying Islamic principles of ecological welfare. His concern for preserving nature was so consistent that history reports the only time he cut down plants were the palm trees in Madina to impede the Jewish tribe Banu Nadhir.

Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, categorically taught people to live on less, to protect animal and plant life, and to worship the Creator by being merciful to the creation. What is also distinctive about Prophet Muhammad's advice is the connection between ethical practices and the eternal effects in the life after death, which represents a greater incentive for Muslims to care for the earth and its resources.

What makes a successful leader? Many world leaders and religious figures have advocated protection of planet Earth in their struggle to reach the top, but most have ultimately failed to create a long-lasting conservation plan. I wanted to share these Prophetic sayings (ahadith) which I believe are excellent indicators to reflect the Islamic faith as a relevant environmental 'movement'.

A believer is like a growing tree

"The example of a believer is that of a fresh tender plant; from whatever direction the wind comes, it bends it, but when the wind quietens down, the plant becomes straight again…" narrated by Abu Hurayra (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anhu), Bukhari

Prophet Muhammad was teaching new Muslims that their life on the path of faith must always progress and beware of climatic changes, just like a young tree. There will be tough times when the storm seems to never end. But patience and persistence in planting roots no matter what the trouble, will heal both one's own branches and protect the nearest plants.

Plant a tree even if it's your last deed

“If the Hour (the day of Resurrection) is about to be established and one of you was holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it."Al-Albani.

Renewable reward of planting trees

"If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him."Imam Bukhari.

Conservation of resources

Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, happened to pass by a Companion, Sa’d (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anhu), as he was performing ablution (wudhu) next to a river. At this, the Prophet said, "Sa’d what is this squandering?"
Sa’d replied: "Can there be an idea of squandering (israf) in ablution?"
The Prophet ﷺ said: "Yes, even if you are by the side of a flowing river.” –
Ibn Majah.

Environmental sanitation

"Beware of the three acts that cause you to be cursed: [1] relieving yourselves in shaded places (that people utilise), in a walkway or in a watering place." – Narrated by Mu`adh, hasan, by Al-Albani

Hygiene and cleanliness (tahara) is so integral to Islam that it is actually a major sub-branch of Muslim belief. Without physical hygiene, prayers are broken. Without clean facilities pollution ruins cities, and without any effort to improve one's own purity, it becomes more difficult to prevent external corruptions like littering.

Significance of street clean-ups

"Removing harmful things from the road is an act of charity (sadaqah)." Narrated by Abu Dharr Al-Ghafari (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anhu)

Sustainable living 

Abdullah ibn `Abbas reported that the Prophet said, "The believer is not he who eats his fill while his neighbor is hungry." Authenticated by Al-Albani

Eat a little less every day

Excessive eating is abhorred in Islam. For the days of Ramadan, fasting is precisely a command in order to learn control and when to say 'no'. Prophet Muhammad did not encourage eating a three course meal nor a heavy meal. Every meal should be shared between two and choosing between take-outs and home-cooked, a healthier diet is always the better option (less meat, more greens). In the Islamic law system (Shariah), a person should stop eating as soon as the hunger pangs cease.

“Nothing is worse than a person who fills his stomach. It should be enough for the son of Adam to have a few bites to satisfy his hunger. If he wishes more, it should be: One-third for his food, one-third for his liquids, and one-third for his breath.” Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah.

Waste minimization

When asked about how the Prophet of Islam used to live in his house, the Prophet's wife, `A'ishah (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anha), said that he used to repair his own shoes, sew his clothes and carry out all such household chores done without complaint or want for more. (Authenticated by Al-Albani).

The idea behind this was to show Muslims that menial tasks (mehna) were not degrading for God's Prophet (peace be upon him). Reusing and repairing things instead of always buying new is not a sign of poverty, they are a sign of power. By performing household duties, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was saying we can build foundations on less 'stuff', we are in control of what we consume and we don't need more.

Caring for animals

"A man felt very thirsty while he was on the way, there he came across a well. He went down the well, quenched his thirst and came out. Meanwhile he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. He said to himself, "This dog is suffering from thirst as I did." So, he went down the well again, filled his shoe with water, held it with his mouth and watered the dog. Allah appreciated him for that deed and forgave him." The Companions said, "O Allah's Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?" He replied: "There is a reward for serving any living being." Imam Bukhari.

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, provided for animals, as did Abu Huraira (Radi Allahu Ta'ala Anhu) who narrated this hadith. Abu Huraira's name translates as the 'father of kittens', named so because he was known to carry kittens in the draped sleeves of his robe.

Animals have a huge role in the ecological welfare system. The tenets of the Shariah law towards animal rights make it obligatory for any individual to take care of crippled animals, to rescue strays and to guard a bird's nest of eggs.

Key takeaway

Hopefully this will inspire everyone reading to follow through on the Eco-Sunnah. Adopt an animal, reuse your wudhu water, eat much less. Be a leader.

Note: The original article can be viewed on The Eco Muslim website at this link

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