Asbestos Waste Management in MENA

Each year countries from the Middle East and North Africa import large amount of asbestos for use in the construction industry. As per the last known statistics, the Middle East and Africa accounted for 20% of world demand for the material. Iran and the United Arab Emirates are among the biggest consumers of the material. Infact, the entire Middle East has been steadily increasing their asbestos imports, except for Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which are the only two countries that have placed bans on asbestos but with questionable effectiveness. Iran alone has been reported to order 30,000 tons of asbestos each year. More than 17,000 tonnes of asbestos was imported and consumed in the United Arab Emirates in 2007. 

Fallouts from Wars and Revolutions

Asbestos is at its most dangerous when exposed to people who are not protected with masks and other clothing. In times past, such considerations were not thought about. At the moment, most people think of asbestos exposure as part of the construction industry. This means demolition, refurbishment and construction are the prime times that people can be exposed to the fibres.

In the Middle East and North Africa, however, turbulent times have increased the danger of exposure for people across the region. Since 2003, there has been the Iraq War, revolutions in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, plus the uprising in Syria. Not to mention a raft of conflicts in Lebanon, Palestine and Israel. The upshot of this is that a building hit by an explosive, which contains asbestos, is likely to put the material in the local atmosphere, further endangering the lives of nearby.

Asbestos Waste Management

In many countries around the world companies, institutions and organizations have a legal responsibility to manage their waste. They are banned from using substances that are deemed hazardous to the general public. This includes a blanket ban on the use of asbestos. Where discovered it must be removed and dealt with by trained individuals wearing protective clothing. In the Middle East and North Africa, it is vitally important for there to be the development of anti-asbestos policies at government and business levels to further protect the citizens of those countries.

Not a single Middle East country has ratified International Labour Organization Law Number 162, which was instituted at the 1986 Asbestos Convention. The ILO No. 162 outlines health and safety procedures related to asbestos, including regulations for employers put forth in an effort to protect the safety of all workers. Asbestos waste management in the MENA region needs to take in several distinct action phases. Education and legislation are the first two important steps followed by actual waste management of asbestos. 

Largely speaking, the MENA region has little or no framework systems in place to deal with this kind of problem. Each year more than 100,000 people die worldwide due to asbestos-related diseases and keeping in view the continuous use of asbestos use in the region, it is necessary to devise a strong strategy for phasing out of asbestos from the construction industry.

Future Strategy

Many may argue that there is still a philosophical hurdle to overcome. This is why education must go in tandem with legislation. As of 2006, only Egypt and Saudi Arabia had signed up to a ban on asbestos. Even then, there is evidence of its continued use. Whether as part of official pronouncements or in the papers, on the TVs or in schools, it is vitally important that bans are backed up with information so the general public understand why asbestos should not only be banned, but removed. It is important that other countries consider banning the material and promoting awareness of it too.

Governments have the resources to open up pathways for local or international companies to begin an asbestos removal programme. In many places education will be required to help companies become prepared for these acts. Industrial asbestos removal begins with a management survey to identify what asbestos materials are in a building and where. This is followed up by a refurbishment and pre-demolition survey to best see how to remove the asbestos and replace it with better materials. These come in tandem with risk assessments and fully detailed plans.

Asbestos management cannot be completed without such a survey. This may prove to be the most difficult part of implementing widespread asbestos waste management in the Middle East and North Africa. Doing so will be expensive and time consuming, but the alternative is unthinkable – to rip out the asbestos without taking human safety into account. First, therefore, the infrastructure and training needs to be put into place to begin the long work of removing asbestos from the MENA region.

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Education for Sustainable Development: Key Challenges

education-for-sustainable-developmentThe basic aim of 'Education for Sustainable Development' is to nurture an individual who is capable to solve environmental challenges facing the world and to promote the formation of a sustainable society. The first challenge is to have an ethos in schools that openly and enthusiastically supports the development of ESD (Education for Sustainable Development). This is partly down to the curriculum the school follows, but is mainly as a result of the interest and effort shown by senior management in promoting integration and whole school engagement; a critical element being teacher training. It is also down to the expectations that are put upon schools by education authorities when it comes to ESD.

With trained and motivated teachers, it is far easier to inspire and motivate students. Teachers can often use the environment as a vehicle for teaching certain concepts in their own specific subject. Once teachers have decided that this is something they feel is worthwhile, they will increasingly find ways to do so.

Using environmental issues in student learning shows students the bigger picture, which can significantly improve motivation. By letting pupils know why the work they are completing is important, and showing them where it fits in on a local and global scale, you’re enabling them to see its value.

Another challenge is being able to bridge the gap between what happens at home and what is taught in schools. For example, if a child is learning about recycling at school, but parents are not open to supporting their learning by adopting recycling practices at home, then the child, especially at a young age, receives very conflicting messages.

Schools are busy places and there are increasing pressures on teachers within the workplace. These can create additional challenges such as gaps between awareness and understanding; motivation to and knowledge of how to become more sustainable; individual to collective empowerment; finding time; budget restraints; linking infrastructure change to mind set change and whole community engagement.

However, with a more directed focus and commitment towards ESD in schools, children generally need very little motivation to care for their environment. You just have to give them a voice and they are away! The problem often comes from adults not understanding the bigger picture about caring for the long term future of the planet.

Strategy for GCC Countries

When it comes to educating locals and expats in the GCC, it can be categorized into three parts:

The physical change: looking at how schools, households and businesses can reduce their waste, water and energy and focus on more sustainable resources in general.

The mind set change: this is all about raising environmental understanding, awareness and action programmes throughout the school and business communities through workshops, cross-curricular activities and presentations, so that everybody is on the 'same page', as well as giving students and employees a voice. This leads to a fundamental change in attitudes and the choices people make.

Learning to respect others and appreciate the environment, as well as giving back to society: this is focused around the opportunities to learn beyond the workplace and home, and connect back to nature, as well as help communities in need. In a nutshell, it about being more caring.

Partnerships and action orientated behaviour within all 3 parts are crucially important to their success. Environmental awareness in itself is not enough, simply because awareness without leading to meaningful action and behaviour change goes nowhere.

Using environmental issues in student learning shows children the bigger picture

Using environmental issues in student learning shows children the bigger picture

This approach can be illustrated in the Beyond COP21 Symposium series that I am currently running globally with the support of Eco-Schools. The event consists of themed high impact presentations from, and discussions with, guest speakers on the SDGs Agenda 2030 and climate negotiations in and beyond Paris; individual & community action; pledge- making and practical activities/workshops.

Local sustainable companies and organisations are invited to showcase their initiatives and engage with students from a variety of schools, both local and expat, in each city or region. Successfully run in Dubai twice and with an upcoming event in Jordan, the Middle East region has certainly embraced the partnership approach when it comes to supporting environmental education initiatives that benefit all those involved.

Role of Technology and Social Media

The greatest role it can play is through the spread of information and ideas, as well as the sharing of good practice within the GCC. Sometimes the hardest thing is to know where to start and how to become motivated, and certainly both can help. Also technology can help to source important resources for teachers. Bee’ah’s School of Environment, which I have been recently developing new online resources for, is a very good example of how well this can work.

Please visit my website http://www.target4green.com for more information about my organization and its activities.

The Concept of Environmental Education

Unlike traditional forms of education, Environmental Education is a holistic, lifelong learning process directed at creating responsible individuals who explore and identify environmental issues, engage in problem solving, and take action effectively to improve the environment. As a result, individuals develop a deeper awareness and understanding of environmental issues and have effective skills to make informed and responsible decisions that lead to resolute the environmental challenges.

Environmental Education is neither environmental advocacy nor environmental information; rather, Environmental Education is a varied and diverse field that focuses on the educational process that has to remain neutral by teaching individuals critical thinking and enhancing their own problem-solving and decision-making skills in a participatory approach. The guiding principles of Environmental Education include awareness, knowledge, attitudes, skills and participation.

Environmental Education can be taught formally in schools classrooms, colleges and universities, or it can take place in informal learning contexts through NGOs, businesses, and the media, natural centers, botanic gardens, bird-watching canoeing, and scuba diving. Besides, Environmental Education takes place in various non-formal education programs such as experiential outdoor education, workshops, outreach programs and community education.

Environmental educator should deliver Environmental Education in a unique way as it is not only based on science, but also concerned with historical, political, and cultural aspects with the human dimension of socio-economic factors. It is also based on developing knowledge on socio-ecological systems.

Environmental Education provides opportunities to kids to build skills, including problem-solving and investigation skills. Qualified environmental educators should work in the field, conducting programs, involving and collaborating with local communities, and using strategies to link the environmental awareness, building skills, and responsible action. It is through Environmental Education that citizens, especially children, can test various aspects of an issue to make informed, science-based, non-biased, and responsible decisions.

Environmental Education in Islam

Islam considers seeking knowledge as an obligation. Islam teaches its followers to keep streets clean, to help animals and any living being, prohibits the pollution of water, prohibits cutting down a fruitful tree and preserves the components of the environment. Islam also sets legislation for cultivating land and benefiting from it. Additionally, Islam has strict teachings to prevent environmental deterioration caused by industrial development, urbanization, poverty etc. Islam organizes the relationship between humans and nature where it calls for its protection and enrichment through a comprehensive educational process. Islamic teachings in preserving environmental components hold the sense of responsibility and sensitivity. Such teachings were extraordinary at a time when the environment was not suffering the pressures it is suffering nowadays.

Environmental Education in Jordan

As far as Jordan is concerned, National Environmental Education efforts remain largely focused on programs organized by NGOs. For example, JREDS is a Jordanian NGO which became the national organization for the Foundation for Environmental Education. JREDS is implementing three international eco-labeling programs – Green Key, Blue Flag and Eco-SchoolsRSCN is another Jordanian NGO that designed Environmental Education programs to improve peoples’ general understanding and awareness of environmental issues. Activities of nature protection organizations have been instrumental in fostering significant cultural change.

Environmentally-literate citizens take active part in solving and reducing the impact of environmental problems by buying "green" products and using natural alternatives to pesticides to name two. However, the success of environmental programs adopted by NGOs will be difficult to sustain for future generations without continuing Environmental Education.

Eco-literacy Outlook for Jordan

Jordan has typically centralized education system where teachers aren't consulted about curricula. School curricula are mono-disciplinary, making interdisciplinary learning hard to apply. Despite environmental topics incorporation into curricula recently, still it is fragmentary. Jordan has a long way to go before a national strategy of environmental education can be totally implemented in its educational system.

Jordan should employ a holistic Environmental Education program adopting sustainable development principles, and presenting green ideas that perceive handling the environmental issues as important target and offers various solutions to different environmental problems which has become a national scourge. Ministry of Education should merge the eco-traditional knowledge effectively with leadership due to the link between the two, and empower the youth to participate in solving their own environmental problems as well as affecting the actions of public towards the desired goal, which is participating in solving the grim reality of environmental problems in the country. The scientific community should also get involved in public relations efforts that enable communication of its research, in effective and understandable ways, to the organizations responsible for education.

Additionally, Jordan should adopt a holistic approach of zero-emission eco-schools throughout the country, eco-schools that relies entirely on renewables for their energy supply and be completely self-sustaining. The design shall adopt Earth building and be constructed out of locally sourced materials, while the geothermal energy will cool and heat it.  Furthermore, school garden and cleaning routines will use the harvested rainwater. Such an eco-school model, hold a bright future where students will eventually have access to a bright green education thereby facilitating a sustainable future.

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Community Engagement in Recycling Initiatives in Qatar

The current state of environmental custodianship in Qatar leaves much to be desired from the national government and other institutions that publicly endorse initiatives with much fan-fare but do not commit to sustained action. My previous piece titled “Environmental Initiatives in Middle East – Challenges and Remedies” illuminated some of these gaps, but did not provide a detailed description of what underpins this trend and possible solutions might look like. Thus, this article seeks to delve deeper into how state institutions and civil society in Qatar may be able to work cooperatively in staving off further environmental degradation, especially with regards to waste management and recycling.

I believe that real success will be achieved through popular buy-in and a paradigm shift towards recognizing the interconnectedness of humans with their surroundings, which can be encouraged through education. Perhaps more importantly, there needs to be a public acknowledgement that all individuals residing in Qatar have a vested interest in pushing for greater environmental protection enforcement and accountability. In a region that is already faced with a lack of potable water and arable land, allowing the existing course to be maintained is not only risky, it is flat-out dangerous to the nation’s survival.

An Uphill Battle, But a Necessary One

Individuals that either live in or visited a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nation, especially a hydrocarbon-rich rentier state like Qatar, are probably quite familiar with the inadequacies of current recycling initiatives. As someone who has visited the country on three different occasions I can tell you that I have searched high and low for something resembling a recycling bin, can, or other receptacle but to no avail, save for a few located in Education City. One might imagine this to be exceptionally jarring coming from the hyper-attentive, green-obsessed Washington, DC where trash and recycling cans typically are placed together on streets and in buildings.

Further adding to my chagrin is the apparent disconnect between high level, widely publicized recycling improvements and the realities (and consequences) manifesting among general society. For example, last year there was much excitement surrounding the announcement of upcoming environmental reforms in July 2014, but it appears nothing further came to fruition.

The article touches upon some of the apparent hindrances for recycling programs and other environmental initiatives: bureaucracy; paperwork; budgetary constraints. I would add to this list based upon personal experiences: general apathy towards recycling; inaccessibility of bins; perception of additional costs to conducting business.

Fair enough – I acknowledge that some of these issues are out of citizens’ and expats’ hands, but that is no excuse for giving up. The predicted 6.8% GDP growth spurred by the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup and hydrocarbon exports will surely put further pressure on an already fragile ecosystem and lead to an uptick in waste production. This is not meant to stoke unnecessary fear, but the equation here is straightforward; more people present in Qatar, more trash will be created from residential and commercial zones. As noted by fellow EcoMENA contributor, Surya Suresh, the nation presently possesses one solid waste facility at Mesaieed and three landfills devoted to particular items, which now seem to be overwhelmed by growing waste inputs.

Possible Solutions: Personal and Community Action

Given this lag in state responses to the existing recycling crisis and future issues stemming from it, readers may be asking what they can do to help. At the personal level, I would encourage Qatari residents, as well as others in neighboring nations, to begin with educating themselves about the current state of recycling initiatives and conducting an inventory of their daily waste generation. EcoMENA website offers a variety of informative pieces and external resources useful to individuals seeking more information.

My latter point about doing a personal inventory is about consciousness-raising about how we each contribute to a wider problem and identifying means of reducing our impact on the environment. Examples from my own life that I believe are applicable in Qatar include counting the number of plastic bags I used to transport groceries and replacing them with a backpack and reusable bags. I also frequently re-appropriate glass jars for storing items, such as rice, spices, and coffee – make sure to wash them well before reuse! It has taken me several years to get to past the social stigmas surrounding reusing containers and to cultivate the future planning to bring my reusable bags with me, but knowing my actions, aggregated with those of my friends and family, positively affect the environment is quite rewarding and reinforces good behavior. Give it a shot and see what happens.

Furthermore, it may be beneficial for the community at large to begin discussing the topic of recycling and what they would like to see, rather than solely wait on state agencies to address issues. Doing so could initially be formulated on a level that many Qatari residents are probably most familiar with: their place of employment, apartment, or neighborhood. After all, if individuals, specifically employers, are expected to bear the increased costs associated with improved recycling then an understanding of what people want is necessary in hopefully resolving issues effectively and with greater community enthusiasm.

Because of the nature of nation-states’ institutions typically being reactive entities and incapable of being aware of every societal problem, it is up to community-level groups to voice their concerns and be committed to change. Organizations such as the Qatar Green Building Council and the Qatar Green Leaders, offer a variety of informative pieces and training services that may help in establishing dialogues between groups and the government. Perhaps this is too idealistic right now, but Qatari residents have organized popular support for other initiatives, notably in the initial pilot recycling program in 2012. Now let us make that a sustained commitment to recycling!

 

References

  1. Andrew Clark, “Environmental Initiatives in Middle East – Challenges and Remedies,” on EcoMENA.org, http://www.ecomena.org/environment-middle-east/.
  2. Doha News Staff, “Official: New, Sorely Needed Recycling Policies in Qatar Afoot,” on Dohanews.co, http://dohanews.co/official-new-sorely-needed-recycling-policies-in/.
  3. Qatar National Bank, “Qatar Economic Insight 2013,” on www.qnb.com.qa  
  4. Surya Suresh, “Waste Management Outlook for Qatar,” http://www.ecomena.org/waste-qatar/
  5. Doha News Staff, “Responding to Community Calls, Qatar Rolls Out Pilot Recycling Program,” http://dohanews.co/responding-to-community-calls-qatar-rolls-out-pilot/.

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Earth Day 2015 – It’s Our Turn to Lead

Like Earth Days of the past, Earth Day 2015 will focus on the unique environmental challenges of our time. As the world’s population migrates to cities, and as the bleak reality of climate change becomes increasingly clear, the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever. Earth Day 2015 will seek to do just that through its global theme: It’s Our Turn to Lead. With smart investments in sustainable technology, forward-thinking public policy, and an educated and active public, we can transform our cities and forge a sustainable future. Nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people.

Due to rising population, more migration is taking place from rural to urban areas. Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities with urbanisation rates rising and impacts of climate change have prompted the need to create sustainable communities. The Earth day is observed believing that nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people.

It is a fact that people are crowding cities and with the increase in population density, pollution of all sorts is increasing as well. Many cities are finding it difficult to cope with this fast urbanisation and to provide basic facilities like shelter, infrastructures, water, sanitation, sewerage, garbage, electricity, transportation etc. to its inhabitants.

People who live in high-density air pollution area, have 20 per cent higher risk of dying from lung cancer, than people living in less polluted areas. Children contribute to only 10 per cent of the world’s population but are prone to 40 per cent of global diseases. More than 3 million children under the age of 5 years die every year due to environmental factors like pollution.

Earth Day 2015 will seek to create awareness amongst people to act in an environmental friendly manner, promote and do smart investments in sustainable urban system transforming our polluted cities into a healthier place and forge a sustainable future. It’s exceptionally challenging for our communities and cities to be green.

Time for Action

It’s time for us to invest in efficiency and renewable energy, rebuild our cities and towns, and begin to solve the climate crisis. Most of the Middle East nations have limited land area and are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change which is affecting the social and environmental determinants of health, clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. We need to audit our actions and see what are we contributing towards your environment and community? Earth Day is a day for action; a chance to show how important the environment is to us. Earth Day is about uniting voices around the globe in support of a healthy planet. The earth is what we all have in common.

Let us be a part of this green revolution, plan and participate in Earth Day activities moving from single-day actions, such as park cleanups and tree-planting parties to long-term actions and commitments and make our city a healthier place to live as the message of the Earth Day is to “Actively participate and adopt environmental friendly habits”.

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The Paper Bag Boy of Abu Dhabi

Abdul Muqeet, also known as the Paper Bag Boy, has risen from being just another ordinary student to an extra-ordinary environmentalist. At just ten years old, Abdul Muqeet has demonstrated his commitment to saving the environment in United Arab Emirates and elsewhere. 

Inspired by the 2010 campaign “UAE Free of Plastic Bags”, Abdul Muqeet, a student of Standard V at Abu Dhabi Indian School, applied his own initiative and imagination to create 100% recycled carry bags using discarded newspapers. He then set out to distribute these bags in Abu Dhabi, replacing plastic bags that take hundreds of years to degrade biologically. The bags were lovingly named ‘Mukku bags' and Abdul Muqeet became famous as the Paper Bag Boy.

Abdul Muqeet’s environmental initiative has catalyzed a much larger community campaign. During the first year, Abdul Muqeet created and donated more than 4,000 paper bags in Abu Dhabi. In addition, he has led workshops at schools, private companies and government entities, demonstrating how to create paper bags using old newspapers. His school along with a number of companies in Abu Dhabi adopted his idea by exchanging their plastic bags for paper bags.

Abdul Muqeet was one of the youngest recipients of Abu Dhabi Awards 2011, for his remarkable contribution to conserve environment. The awards were presented by General Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. In 2011, Abdul Muqeet was selected to attend the United Nation’s Tunza conference in Indonesia where he demonstrated his commitment for a cleaner environment through his paper bag initiative. He is actively involved in spreading environmental awareness worldwide, especially UAE, India, USA and Indonesia.

 

Abdul Muqeet continues to make headlines for his concerted efforts towards a plastic-free environment, and has been widely covered by leading newspapers in UAE and other countries. He tirelessly campaigned for the Rio+20 summit, urging world leaders to commit to the Green Economy. “Plant more trees; use less water; reuse and recycle; always remember that everything in this world can be recycled but not time,” offers Abdul.

He has been remarkably supported by his parents and siblings throughout his truly inspiring environmental sojourn. Abdul Muqeet’s monumental achievements at such a tender age make him a torch-bearer of the global environmental movement, and should also inspire the young generation to protect the environment by implementing the concept of ‘Zero Waste’.

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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/

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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A Message on World Water Day

Water is the major driving force of sustainable development. World Water Day aims to increase people’s awareness of the water’s importance in all aspects of life and focus on its judicious use and sustainable management. In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly designated 22 March as the first World Water Day (WWD). Since then the WWD is celebrated to draw wider public attention to the importance of water for mankind. Globally the day is celebrated to focus attention on water conservation, carrying out appropriate concrete measures and implementing the UN recommendations at individual, local and national level. WWD is a global day creating awareness on the subject and urging people to take appropriate actions for its conservation and avoiding its misuse.

The World Water Day 2016 theme is ‘Better water, better jobs’ which aims to highlight how water can create paid and decent work whiile contributing to a greener economy and sustainable development. Water is essential to our survival, it is essential to human health. The human body can last weeks without food, but only days without water. Water is at the core of sustainable development. From food and energy security to human and environmental health, water contributes to improvements in social well-being and growth, affecting the livelihoods of billions.

Globally, 768 million people lack access to improved water sources and 2.5 billion people have no improved sanitation. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 7.5 liters per capita per day to meet domestic demands. Around 20 liters per capita per day will take care of basic hygiene needs and basic food hygiene. Poor water quality and absence of appropriate sanitation facilities are detrimental to public health and more than 5 million people die each year due to polluted drinking water. The WHO estimates that providing safe water could prevent 1.4 million child deaths from diarrhea each year.

This year, the UN is collectively bringing its focus to the water-sustainability development nexus, particularly addressing non access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, sufficient food and energy services. It is ironical that a large number of people in the Middle East are still consuming excess water and are ignorant or careless about the looming water shortages. With the threat of dwindling water and energy resources becoming increasingly real and with each passing day, it is important for every person in the Arab world to contribute to the conservation of water.

Celebrating World Water Day means that we need to conserve and reduce our water use as excessive water use will generate more waste water which is also to be collected, transported, treated and disposed. We need to understand that 60% of total household water supply is used inside the home in three main areas: the kitchen, the bathroom and the laundry room.

Saving water is easy for everyone to do. Let us try to implement the following basic water conservation tips at home:

  • Turn off the water tap while tooth brushing, shaving and face washing.
  • Clean vegetables, fruits, dishes and utensils with minimum water. Don’t let the water run while rinsing.
  • Run washing machine and dishwasher only when they are full.
  • Using water-efficient showerheads and taking shorter showers.
  • Learning to turn off faucets tightly after each use.
  • Repair and fix any water leaks.

The World Water Day implores us to respect our water resources. Act Now and Do Your Part.

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Green Resolutions for New Year

green-resolutionsThis year, in addition to our personal goals, let us make another New Year resolution: to make this year the year we really ‘go green’. Supporting environmental initiatives should be one of our main priorities and needs to be reflected through our resolutions and commitment to safeguard it against all forms of pollution and to protect our fragile and finite resources. Depending on our age, work, location etc., our priorities may be different but our actions should be in unison towards environmental protection.

We need to understand that we have very recklessly plundered the global resources in a short span of time that is causing many adversities and catastrophes, but we are the only species that have to take preventive measures to avoid any such occurrences in future. Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment.

Let us, at the least, try to support the following activities and tasks starting from this year and onward, if we have not practiced earlier:

  • Protect and enhance the green spaces, parks and playgrounds.
  • Utilizing our roof for gardening and creating green areas.
  • Enviauditing of our household and office related activities. Improving tasks that require electricity and water usage.
  • Use minimum water for our daily activities.
  • Wash clothes in normal water and washing only when full loads are in the dishwasher and washing machine.
  • Turn off the faucet while we brush our teeth or shave.
  • Watering our lawn in the morning/ evening to reduce evaporation losses.
  • Changing incandescent bulbs for C.F.L.s.
  • Conserve energy in all forms. Switch lights when not in use.
  • Unplug mobile charger and computer after use as it wastes a lot of energy.
  • Avoid fast fashion. Reduce our insatiable appetite for design apparel and related clothing that we wear for only one season and throw it in next. Only buy what you need.
  • Do green shopping and donate items/ clothes we do not use.
  • Detox your home. Only use safe chemicals and detergents as household cleaning products for furniture, bathrooms and clothes including air fresheners.
  • Reuse and recycle material
  • Plan vehicle trips to avoid peak hours and traffic congestion.
  • Avoiding wasting any food items.
  • Avoid plastic bags and taking our own bag for shopping.
  • Avoid using Styrofoam cups, disposable cutlery and other related items.
  • Avoid un-necessary print outs and photocopy.
  • Minimize using bottled drinking water. This is expensive and generates plastic bottles waste. Instead use filtering equipment at home or use large refillable and reusable bottles.
  • Avoid using paper towels and napkins. Instead use cotton clothes and old used fabrics.
  • Enhancing our awareness by reading and knowing more on environment.

Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment (Image Courtesy: www.inhabitat.com)

Let us make sincere pledges and serious commitments towards our planet and protecting our environment (Image Courtesy: www.inhabitat.com)

Enjoy the festivities of the season and be a more responsible citizen of the world. Happy New Year!

EcoMENA – Vision and Mission

The MENA region is plagued by a host of issues including water scarcity, waste disposal, food security, industrial pollution and desertification. Providing free access to quality information and knowledge-based resources motivates youngsters in a big way. EcoMENA provides encouragement to masses in tackling major environmental challenges by empowering them with knowledge and by providing them a solid platform to share their views with the outside world.

Salman Zafar, Founder of EcoMENA, talks to the Florentine Association of International Relations (FAIR) about the vision, aims, objectives and rationale behind the creation of EcoMENA. The original version of the interview can be viewed at http://goo.gl/dnfa4K

 

FAIR: What is EcoMENA and what is its primary mission?

Salman Zafar: EcoMENA came into existence in early 2012 with the primary aim to raise environmental awareness in the MENA region and provide a one-stop destination for high-quality information on environment, energy, waste, water, sustainability and related areas.

EcoMENA has made remarkable progress within a short period of time and has huge knowledge base in English as well as Arabic catering to all aspects of sustainability sector, including renewable energy, resource conservation, waste management, environment protection and water management.

FAIR: How did the idea of such an activity come from?

Salman Zafar: While doing research sometimes back, I noticed lack of easily-accessible information on Middle East environmental sector. EcoMENA was launched to empower masses with updated information on Middle East sustainability sector and latest developments taking place worldwide.

EcoMENA is an online information powerhouse freely accessible to anyone having an interest in sustainable development. Our articles, reports and analyses are well-researched, well-written and of the highest professional standards.

FAIR: What is the “state of the art” in the field of sustainability and environment protection in the MENA countries?

Salman Zafar: Unfortunately environment protection is not given due importance by regional countries, though there has been some high-profile initiatives like Masdar City in Abu Dhabi. Sustainability is, no doubt, making its way in the Middle East but the progress has been slow and unsatisfactory.

The MENA region is plagued by a host of issues including water scarcity, waste disposal, food security, industrial pollution and desertification. A regional initiative with a multi-pronged strategy is urgently required to protect the environment and conserve scarce natural resources.

FAIR: What are EcoMENA aims and initiatives for the future?

Salman Zafar: One of the major objectives of EcoMENA is to provide a strong platform for Middle East youngsters to showcase their talents. We are mentoring young students and providing them opportunities to display their innovativeness, creativity and dedication towards environment protection.

Providing free access to quality information and knowledge-based resources motivates youngsters in a big way. EcoMENA provides encouragement to people in tackling major environmental challenges by empowering them with knowledge and by providing them a solid platform to share their views with the outside world. With soaring popularity of social media, networking plays a vital role in assimilation of ideas, knowledge-sharing, scientific thinking and creativeness.

We have a strong pool of expert writers from different parts of the world, and remarkably supported by a handful of volunteers from across the MENA region. Apart from being an information portal, EcoMENA also provide expert guidance and mentorship to entrepreneurs, researchers, students and general public.

FAIR: Do you think there is enough attention and sensitiveness in the sustainable development?

Salman Zafar: Things are slowly, but steadily, changing in most of the MENA countries and a more concerted and organized effort is required to bring about a real change in the prevalent environmental scenario.

A green MENA requires proactive approach from all stakeholders including governments, corporates and general public. Strong environmental laws, promotion of clean energy and eco-friendly projects, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, institutional support and funding, implementing resource conservation, raising environmental awareness and fostering entrepreneurial initiatives are some of the measures that may herald a ‘green revolution’ in the region.

FAIR: In your opinion, what is the “added value” of your mission?

Salman Zafar: EcoMENA endeavor to create mass awareness about the need for clean and green environment in the Middle East through articles, projects, events and campaigns. EcoMENA is counted among the best and most popular Middle East sustainability initiatives with wide following across the world.

Our goal is to transform EcoMENA into a regional cleantech and environmental hub by providing quality information, professional solutions and high level of motivation to people from all walks of life.

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Significance of E-Waste Management

Electronic waste (or e-waste) is the fastest growing waste stream, and its disposal is a major environmental concern in all parts of the world. More than 50 million tons of e-waste is generated every year with major fraction finding its way to landfills and dumpsites. E-waste comprises as much as 8% of the municipal solid waste stream in rich nations, such as those in GCC. Globally only 15 – 20 percent of e-waste is recycled while the rest is dumped into developing countries. However, in the Middle East, merely 5 percent of e-waste is sent to recycling facilities (which are located in Asia, Africa and South America) while the rest ends up in landfills.

What is E-Waste

The term ‘e-waste’ stands for any electrical or electronic appliance that has reached its end-of-life, such as refrigerators, washing machines, microwaves, cell phones, TVs and computers. Such waste is made up of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics, glass, wood, circuit boards, ceramics, rubber etc. The major constituent of e-waste is iron and steel (about 50%) followed by plastics (21%), and non-ferrous metals (13%) like copper, aluminum and precious metals like silver, gold, platinum, palladium etc. E-waste also contains toxic elements like lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, selenium and chromium.

E-waste is different from municipal and industrial wastes and requires special handling procedures due to the presence of both valuable and expensive materials. Recycling of e-waste can help in the recovery of reusable components and base materials, especially copper and precious metals. However, due to lack of recycling facilities, high labour costs, and tough environmental regulations, rich countries either landfill or export e-waste to poor countries which is illegal under the Basel Convention.

Health Hazards

Recycling techniques for e-waste include burning and dissolution in strong acids with few measures to protect human health and the environment. E-waste workers often suffer from bad health effects through skin contact and inhalation. Workers, consumers and communities are exposed to the chemicals contained in electronics throughout their life cycle, from manufacture through use and disposal. The incineration, land-filling, and illegal dumping of electronic wastes all contribute toxic chemicals to the environment.

Electronics recycling workers have been shown to have higher levels of flame retardants in their blood, potentially from exposure to contaminated indoor air. Similar exposures are likely for communities where recycling plants are located, especially if these plants are not adequately regulated. Much of the electronics industry in the Middle East, Europe and North America has outsourced manufacturing and disposal to developing countries of Southeast Asia, China and India. Uncontrolled management of e-wastes is having a highly negative effect on local communities and environment in these countries.

E-Waste Recycling and Metal Industry

Electrical and electronic equipment are made up a wide range of materials including metals, plastics and ceramics. For example, a mobile phone may contain more than 40 elements including base metals like copper and tin, special metals such as cobalt, indium and antimony, and precious metals like silver, gold and palladium. Infact, metals represents almost one-fourth of the weight of a phone, the remainder being plastic and ceramic material. Taking into account the fact that worldwide mobile device sale totaled 1.8 billion in 2010, this will translate into significant metal demand each year.

If we consider the high growth rate of electronic devices, including cell phones, TVs, monitors, MP3 players, digital cameras and electronic toys, it becomes obvious that these equipment are responsible for high demand and high prices for a wide range of metals. These metal resources are available again at final end-of-life of the device which could be used for manufacture of new products if effective recycling methods are implemented.

Mining plays a vital role in the supply of metals for electrical and electronic industry. The environmental impact of metal production is significant, especially for precious and special metals. For example, to produce 1 ton of gold or palladium, 10,000 tons of carbon dioxide is generated. If recycling processes are used to recover metals from e-waste, only a fraction of CO2 emissions will occur, apart from numerous other benefits.

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