Bioenergy Resources in Jordan

 

With high population growth rate, increase in industrial and commercial activities, high cost of imported energy fuels and higher GHGs emissions, supply of cheap and clean energy resources has become a challenge for the Jordanian Government. Consequently, the need for implementing renewable energy projects, especially solar, wind and biomass, has emerged as a national priority in recent years.

Jordan has substantial biomass resources in the form of municipal solid wastes, sewage, industrial wastes and animal manure. Municipal solid wastes represent the best source of biomass in Jordan. Solid waste generation in the country is approximately 2 million tons per annum, with per capita of almost 1 kg per day. The daily waste generation exceeds 6,000 tons which is characterized by high organic content (more than 50 percent). Food waste constitutes almost 60% of the total waste at most disposal sites. In addition, more than 2 million cubic meter of sewage sludge is generated every year from treatment of sewage water in Greater Amman area which could be a very good source for biogas generation.

Apart from MSW, the other potential biomass resources in the country are as follows:

  • Organic wastes from slaughterhouse, vegetable market, hotels and restaurants.
  • Organic waste from agro-industries
  • Animal manure, mainly from cows and chickens.
  • Olive mills.
  • Organic industrial waste

Organic industrial wastes, either liquid or solid, are a good substrate for biogas generation by making use of anaerobic digestion process. Anaerobic digestion of organic industrial waste is fast gaining popularity worldwide as one of the best waste management method. The utilization of anaerobic digestion technology for industrial waste management would be a significant step in Jordan’s emergence as a renewable energy hub in the MENA region. Jordan is planning to implement 40-50 MW of waste-to-energy projects by 2020.

Biogas Plant at Rusaifeh Landfill

The Government of Jordan, in collaboration with UNDP, GEF and the Danish Government, established 1MW biogas plant at Rusaifeh landfill near Amman in 1999.  The plant has been successfully operating since its commissioning and has recently been increased to 4MW. The project consists of a system of twelve landfill gas wells and an anaerobic digestion plant based on 60 tons per day of organic wastes from hotels, restaurants and slaughterhouses in Amman. The successful installation of the biogas project has made it a role model in the entire region and several big cities are striving to replicate the model.

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Renewable Energy Investment in Jordan

Jordan has tremendous wind, solar and biomass energy potential which can only be realized by large-scale investments. In 2007, the Government of Jordan developed an integrated and comprehensive Energy Master Plan. Renewable energy accounted for only 1% of the energy consumption in Jordan in 2007. However, ambitious targets have been set in the Master Plan to raise the share to 7% in 2015 and 10% in 2020. 

This transition from conventional fuels to renewable energy resources will require capital investments, technology transfer and human resources development, through a package of investments estimated at US $ 1.4 – 2.2 billion. The investment package includes Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) deals for wind energy with a total capacity of 660 MW and solar energy plants of 600 MW. This will be paralleled with the reduction of energy produced from oil from 58% currently to 40% in 2020.

As most of the clean energy technologies require high capital cost, investments in wind, solar and waste-to-energy plants will be possible only with appropriate support from the Government. Notably, the Government has expressed its readiness to provide necessary support within the framework of available resources. The Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation (MOPIC), is responsible for coordinating and directing developmental efforts in coordination with the public and private sectors, and civil society organizations. MOPIC is actively seeking support for renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives through continuous cooperation with international partners and donors.

Jordan has significant strengths in the form of renewable energy resources, a developed electricity grid, strong legal and intellectual property protections, a market-friendly economy and a skilled workforce. So it is well positioned to participate in the expanding cleantech industry. The best prospects for electricity generation in Jordan are as Independent Power Producers (IPPs).  This creates tremendous opportunities for foreign investors interested in investing in electricity generation ventures.

Jordan enacted a Renewable Energy Law in 2010 which provides for legislative framework for the cleantech sector. The main aim of the law is to facilitate domestic and international projects and streamline the investment process.  The Law permits and encourages the exploitation of renewable energy sources at any geographical location in the Kingdom. In April 2012, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources announced that it has qualified 34 international and local companies for investment in renewable energy projects, with an overall capacity reaching 1000 MW. Of the qualified companies, 22 companies will invest in solar power projects and the rest in wind energy.

Keeping in view the renewed interest in renewable energy, there is a huge potential for international technology companies to enter the Jordan market.  There is very good demand for wind energy equipments, solar power units and waste-to-energy systems which can be capitalized by technology providers and investment groups from around the world.

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Water Crisis in Refugee Camps

The refugee crisis has hit record heights in recent years. According to the UNHCR, as of the end of 2014 there were approximately 60 million refugees worldwide. This is a significant increase from a decade ago, when there were 37.5 million refugees worldwide. Syria’s ongoing civil war, with 7.6 million people displaced internally, and 3.88 million people displaced into the surrounding region and beyond as refugees, has alone made the Middle East the world’s largest producer and host of forced displacement. Adding to the high totals from Syria are displacements of at least 2.6 million people in Iraq and 309,000 in Libya. This significant increase in refuges has only escalated the need for specific water quality and quantity regulations for refugee camps.

Water Shortages in Refugee Camps

A human being can survive a week without food but cannot live more than three days without water. While the abundance of water in our daily lives means most of us take it for granted, the reality on the ground is that millions around the world suffer from lack of access to water – many of which are refugees. Refugee camps often do not have enough water to supply all refugees residing within them.

Majority of refugee camps in the world are unable to provide the recommended daily water minimum of 20 liters water per person per day. In addition, many countries holding refugees are water-scarce. Jordan, for example, is one of the top 10 water-scarce countries in the world and holds more than 1.4 million refugees (mainly from Syria). This has caused tremendous strain on the country’s very low water resources, making it extremely difficult to supply sufficient water for refugees. However the biggest reason behind lack of water at refugee camps across the globe is the lack of water infrastructure.

The lack of water infrastructure makes it very difficult to transport sufficient amounts of water, and provide proper sanitation to all residents of a refugee camp. In fact, a recent study by the Jordanian Ministry of Water and Irrigation showed that the country’s sewerage network are being overflowed and are subsequently leaking due to the increase in the number of refugees. Furthermore, studies have shown that water borne diseases are more persistently present when the minimum water requirement (20 liters per person) is not met simply because there is less water for sanitation and cleaning purposes. That is why it is absolutely vital that governments ensure that recommended daily water minimum is provided to all refugees.

Water Quality Issues

Poor quality of water in refugee camps has created a “crisis within a crisis” causing outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis. This is due to misuse of the water quality regulations present and the lack of time available to implement these regulations on water quality in refugee camps.

In refugee camps, surface water is usually treated in three steps:

  • Sedimentation: The water is stored for a few hours so that the biggest particles can settle to the bottom.
  • Filtration: It is then necessary to get rid of the small, invisible particles by filtering the water through sand filters.
  • Chlorination: The last stage, chlorine solution is added to the water which kills all the microorganisms.

Groundwater, on the other hand, is generally subjected to chlorination. These techniques seem to be sufficient to provide an acceptable quality of drinking water. However, according to Syed Imran Ali, an environmental engineer affiliated with UC Berkley, who worked extensively in refugee camps across Africa and the Middle East, the amount of chlorine used to purify the water is not sufficient enough to completely eliminate all the bacteria in the water used in refugee camps. The reason being that the current emergency guidelines on free residual chlorine concentrations (0.2 – 0.5 mg/L in general, 0.8 – 1.0 mg/L during outbreaks) are based on conventions from municipal piped-water systems (i.e. used in cities) rather than refugee camps.

A study conducted by Ali in South Sudan, where there was an outbreak of hepatitis E and other waterborne diseases, showed that the decay of chlorine added to drinking water is much faster in refugee camps than it is under urban conditions, and within 10-12 hours of household storage and use the chlorine all but disappears. Within a refugee camp, water is distributed from one point within the camp, carried to homes via containers and then stored and used over 24 hours or more. Therefore, due to all these different factors the guidelines used may not be sufficient enough to maintain an acceptable quality of water in all refugee camp settings.

Refugee camps must have specific guidelines created to deal with the water quality provided within the camps to prevent outbreaks and improve livelihood within the refugee camps. In his study in South Sudan, Ali recommended that guidelines for chlorination control to be revised to 1.0 mg/l in the camps there rather than 0.2 – 0.5 mg/l. This would provide protection of at least 0.2 mg/l for up to 10 hours post-distribution, which is consistent with the recommended concentration for point-of-use water chlorination in emergency and nonemergency settings and is within the WHO limits generally considered to be acceptable to users (2.0 mg/L).

Time to Act

With the refugee situation worsening and no permanent solution to this crisis in sight, the minimum that can be done is to provide an adequate amount and quality of water for these refugees. The current purification techniques are not efficient enough to protect refugees from all harmful bacteria. There are a variety of ways that water can be provided.

Wastewater treatment, rain harvesting, humidity harvesting, among others are sustainable sources of water. However, providing water is not sufficient; water quality is just as important as water quantity. There must be water quality regulations specific to refugee camps that take into account the different aspects that might affect the quality of water (transport, storage, temperature). If things are to improve, it is absolutely vital for concerned governments, aid agencies, NGOs, volunteers etc. to band together and create water quality guidelines specific to refugee camps and that are capable to withstand different aspects within these camps. Without these guidelines, the condition of refugees will continue to worsen, and the refugees will continue to flee to Western countries in search of better living conditions.

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Agricultural Biomass in MENA

 

Agriculture plays an important role in the economies of most of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa region.  Despite the fact that MENA is the most water-scarce and dry region in the world, many countries in the region, especially those around the Mediterranean Sea, are highly dependent on agriculture.  The contribution of the agricultural sector to the overall economy varies significantly among countries in the region, ranging, for example, from about 3.2 percent in Saudi Arabia to 13.4 percent in Egypt.  Large scale irrigation coupled with mechanization has enabled entensive production of high-value cash crops, including fruits, vegetables, cereals, and sugar in the Middle East.

The term ‘crop residues’ covers the whole range of biomass produced as by-products from growing and processing crops. Crop residues encompasses all agricultural wastes such as bagasse, straw, stem, stalk, leaves, husk, shell, peel, pulp, stubble, etc. Wheat and barley are the major staple crops grown in the Middle East region. In addition, significant quantities of rice, maize, lentils, chickpeas, vegetables and fruits are produced throughout the region, mainly in Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Jordan. 

Egypt is the one of world's biggest producer of rice and cotton and produced about 5.67 million tons of rice and 635,000 tons of cotton in 2011. Infact, crop residues are considered to be the most important and traditional source of domestic fuel in rural Egypt. The total amount of crop wastes in Egypt is estimated at about 16 million tons of dry matter per year. Cotton residues represent about 9% of the total amount of residues. These are materials comprising mainly cotton stalks, which present a disposal problem. The area of cotton crop cultivation accounts for about 5% of the cultivated area in Egypt.

Agricultural output is central to the Tunisian economy. Major crops are cereals and olive oil, with almost half of all the cultivated land sown with cereals and another third planted. Tunisia is one of the world's biggest producers and exporters of olive oil, and it exports dates and citrus fruits that are grown mostly in the northern parts of the country.

To sum up, large quantities of crop residues are produced annually in the region, and are vastly underutilised. Current farming practice is usually to plough these residues back into the soil, or they are burnt, left to decompose, or grazed by cattle. These residues could be processed into liquid fuels or thermochemically processed to produce electricity and heat in rural areas. Energy crops, such as Jatropha, can be successfully grown in arid regions for biodiesel production. Infact, Jatropha is already grown at limited scale in some Middle East countries and tremendous potential exists for its commercial exploitation.

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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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Energy Perspectives for Jordan

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is an emerging and stable economy in the Middle East. Jordan has almost no indigenous energy resources as domestic natural gas covers merely 3% of the Kingdom’s energy needs. The country is dependent on oil imports from neighbouring countries to meet its energy requirements. Energy import costs create a financial burden on the national economy and Jordan had to spend almost 20% of its GDP on the purchase of energy in 2008.

In Jordan, electricity is mainly generated by burning imported natural gas and oil. The price of electricity for Jordanians is dependent on price of oil in the world market, and this has been responsible for the continuous increase in electricity cost due to volatile oil prices in recent years. Due to fast economic growth, rapid industrial development and increasing population, energy demand is expected to increase by at least 50 percent over the next 20 years.

Therefore, the provision of reliable and cheap energy supply will play a vital role in Jordan’s economic growth. Electricity demand is growing rapidly, and the Jordanian government has been seeking ways to attract foreign investment to fund additional capacity. In 2008, the demand for electricity in Jordan was 2260 MW, which is expected to rise to 5770 MW by 2020.

In 2007, the Government unveiled an Energy Master Plan for the development of the energy sector requiring an investment of more than $3 billion during 2007 – 2020. Some ambitious objectives were fixed: heating half of the required hot water on solar energy by the year 2020; increasing energy efficiency and savings by 20% by the year 2020, while 7% of the energy mix should originate from renewable sources by 2015, and should rise to 10% by 2020. 

Concerted efforts are underway to remove barriers to exploitation of renewable energy, particularly wind, solar and biomass. There has been significant progress in the implementation of sustainable energy systems in the last few years to the active support from the government and increasing awareness among the local population.

With high population growth rate, increase in industrial and commercial activities, high cost of imported energy fuels and higher GHGs emissions, supply of cheap and clean energy resources has become a challenge for the Government. Consequently, the need for implementing energy efficiency measures and exploring renewable energy technologies has emerged as a national priority.  In the recent past, Jordan has witnessed a surge in initiatives to generate power from renewable resources with financial and technical backing from the government, international agencies and foreign donors. 

The best prospects for electricity generation in Jordan are as Independent Power Producers (IPPs).  This creates tremendous opportunities for foreign investors interested in investing in electricity generation ventures. Keeping in view the renewed interest in renewable energy, there is a huge potential for international technology companies to enter the Jordan market.  There is very good demand for wind energy equipments, solar power units and waste-to-energy systems which can be capitalized by technology providers and investment groups.

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Waste-to-Energy in Jordan: Potential and Challenges

landfill-jordanEffective sustainable solid waste management is of great importance both for people’s health and for environmental protection. In Jordan, insufficient financial resources, growing population, rapid urbanization, inadequate management and lacking of technical skills represent a serious environmental challenge confronting local government. At the same time, energy remains Jordan’s top challenge for development. The energy needs to be produced in a sustainable way, preferably from renewable sources which have a minimum environmental impact. To face the future problems in waste management, as well as securing the demand of renewable energy, it is necessary to reuse the wasted resources in energy production.

Jordan has definitely acknowledged that making affordable energy solutions available is critical to support industries, investment, and attain sustainable growth. One option is to use solid waste to generate electricity in centralized plants. Waste-to-energy has been recognized as an effective approach to improve recycling rates, reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, reduce the amount of materials sent to landfills and to avoid pollution.

Waste-to-Energy Potential

According to recent statistics, Jordan population stands at around 9.5 million. The estimated municipal waste generated according to the last five years average production is around 3,086,075 ton/year. This huge amount of waste generated is not only a burden, but a potential resource for use in energy production. Considering the country average waste composition 40% is organic waste e.g. avoidable and unavoidable food waste (1,200,000 ton), 10 % are recyclable e.g. paper, plastic, glass, ferrous metals and aluminum (300,000 ton) and 50% are suitable for incineration e.g. garden and park waste, wood and textiles (1,500,000 ton) with high calorific value and energy potential (8.1 MJ/Kg) that is capable to produce electricity 340 kWh/ton waste. The high organic waste is suitable for methane gas capture technologies which is estimated at 170 m3/ton waste.

Technology Options

Nowadays, there are many technologies available which makes it possible to utilize these energy potentials. The major alternatives conventional technologies for large scale waste management are incineration, landfilling and anaerobic digestion. These technologies are affordable, economical visible and associated with minimum environmental impact. The production of electricity is combined with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to the current energy situation (90% of the country energy produced from fossil fuel), the country emission factor is around 819 CO2-eq/kWh. However, the use of waste to energy solutions is considered to be a clean and definitely the amount of GHG emitted is a lot less than the gases generated by ordinary practices (open dumping and unsanitary landfills).

Construction of an incineration plant for electricity production is often a profitable system even though the installation cost is high since production of electricity often leads to a large economic gain. Landfill gas utilization avoids the release of untreated landfill gases into the atmosphere, and produces electricity to sell commercially in an environmental friendly manner. However, landfilling is associated with methane production. Methane is a potent GHG, contributing 21 times more to global warming than carbon dioxide.

Anaerobic digestion technology is another option. Anaerobic digestion not only decrease GHGs emission but also it is the best technology for treatment of high organic waste through converting the biodegradable fraction of the waste into high-quality renewable calorific gas. Currently, with the growing use of anaerobic technology for treating waste and wastewater, it is expected to become more economically competitive because of its enormous advantages e.g. reduction of pathogens, deactivation of weed seeds and production of sanitized compost.

alghabawi-landfill-jordan

Sorting at the place of generation and recycling e.g. paper, plastic, glass and metals needed to be practiced at the country level or at least where these technologies implemented. Incinerated waste containing plastics (not sorted) releases carbon dioxide, toxic substances and heavy metals to the atmosphere and contributes thereby to climate change and to global warming.

Challenges to Overcome

Waste-to-energy technologies offer enormous potentials as a renewable energy sources and to mitigate climate change in Joran. However, these technologies pose many challenges to the country and discussion makers. Currently, the waste sector is administrated by the government. Poor regulation and insufficient financial resources are limiting the available options toward adapting these new technologies. Private investments and collaboration with the private sector is the key solution in this regard.

Biomass Energy in Middle East

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region offers almost 45 percent of the world’s total energy potential from all renewable sources that can generate more than three times the world’s total power demand. MENA region has abundant biomass energy resources which have remained unexplored to a great extent. According to conservative estimates, the potential of biomass energy in the Euro-Mediterranean region is about 400TWh per year. Around the region, pollution of the air and water from municipal, industrial and agricultural operations continues to grow.  The technological advancements in the biomass energy industry, coupled with the tremendous regional potential, promises to usher in a new era of energy as well as environmental security for the region.

The major biomass producing countries are Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Jordan. Traditionally, biomass energy has been widely used in rural areas for domestic purposes in the MENA region, especially in Egypt, Yemen and Jordan. Since most of the region is arid or semi-arid, the biomass energy potential is mainly contributed by municipal solid wastes, agricultural residues and industrial wastes.

Municipal solid wastes represent the best source of biomass in Middle East countries. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait rank in the top-ten worldwide in terms of per capita solid waste generation. The gross urban waste generation quantity from Middle East countries is estimated at more than 150 million tons annually. Food waste is the third-largest component of generated waste by weight which mostly ends up rotting in landfill and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The mushrooming of hotels, restaurants, fast-food joints and cafeterias in the region has resulted in the generation of huge quantities of food wastes.

In Middle East countries, huge quantity of sewage sludge is produced on daily basis which presents a serious problem due to its high treatment costs and risk to environment and human health. On an average, the rate of wastewater generation is 80-200 litres per person each day and sewage output is rising by as much as 25 percent every year. According to conservative estimates, sewage generation in the Dubai is atleast 500,000 m3 per day.

The food processing industry in MENA produces a large number of organic residues and by-products that can be used as biomass energy sources. In recent decades, the fast-growing food and beverage processing industry has remarkably increased in importance in major countries of the region. Since the early 1990s, the increased agricultural output stimulated an increase in fruit and vegetable canning as well as juice, beverage, and oil processing in countries like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

The MENA countries have strong animal population. The livestock sector, in particular sheep, goats and camels, plays an important role in the national economy of respective countries. Many millions of live ruminants are imported each year from around the world. In addition, the region has witnessed very rapid growth in the poultry sector. The biogas potential of animal manure can be harnessed both at small- and community-scale.

The Middle East region is well-poised for biomass energy development, with its rich biomass resources in the form of municipal solid waste, crop residues and agro-industrial waste. The implementation of advanced biomass conversion technologies as a method for safe disposal of solid and liquid biomass wastes, and as an attractive option to generate heat, power and fuels, can greatly reduce environmental impacts of a wide array of biomass wastes. 

 

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Sustainability Reporting in the Middle East

The concept of sustainability centers on a balance of society, economy and environment for current and future health. Responsible resource management in all three areas ensures that future generations will have the resources they need to survive and thrive. One way that companies can consider sustainability and social responsibility is by focusing on the triple bottom line, which is an expanded baseline for measuring financial, social and environmental performance. It is also referred to as “People, Planet and Profit.”

The advantages enjoyed by an organisation that implements sustainable management include higher efficiency and competitiveness, increased financial returns and reduced risk for shareholders, attraction and retention of employees, stronger community relations, enhanced brand value and reputation, and improved customer sales and loyalty by responding to market needs (e.g.: including environmentally conscious consumers in your target market by providing environmentally or socially superior products to your competitors).

One certain way to prove that business is serious about doing “what’s right” is to publish a sustainability report. It shows the global community that it is serious about keeping its commitments and holding itself to a higher standard. In a world increasingly dominated by rankings and ratings, writing these reports has never been so critical; reading them has never been so revealing. Reporting, transparency, and accountability are signature issues. They illustrate integrity and build trust. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has pioneered the development of the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting framework and is committed to its continuous improvement and application worldwide.

Sustainability Reporting in the Middle East

There are some encouraging signs that sustainability reporting is beginning to take root in Middle East business landscape. In Jordan, for example, Aramex was the first company to issue a GRI checked report covering everything from staff training and salaries to promoting road safety and reducing poverty. The Jordan River Foundation became the first NGO in the region to produce a GRI checked report, thus spearheading the movement for NGOs to issue sustainability reports. NGOs that can show they’re accountable and transparent are more attractive to donors, and are more viable partners for corporations and government.

The Arab Bank recently issued its annual sustainability report for the third consecutive year, which was evaluated at a level ‘A’ by the GRI, the highest evaluation level they grant, thereby exceeding the Bank’s previous reports. The report focuses in detail on the internal programs adopted by the Bank, such as the integration of certain environmental and social criteria in the project financing process, in addition to the implementation of a number of initiatives that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also increase internal awareness levels of the sustainability concept.

Also covered in the report are Arab Bank’s social contributions which exceed financial support to include services that allow customers to donate to a number of non-profit organizations, in addition to the participation of the Bank’s employees in volunteering activities and capacity building programs for non-profit organizations to help them maintain their operations.

Another notable example is that of Zain Group, the leading telecommunications provider in eight countries across the Middle East and Africa, which recently published its second sustainability report entitled "Dedicated to the Promise of a Wonderful World". The report was prepared utilizing the GRI G3.1 guidelines and the principles of materiality, inclusivity and responsiveness taken from the AA 1000 Accountability Principles Standard. Focus was given to workers’ rights, human rights, the environment, ethics and governance, community involvement, supplier relation and gender disparity.

The United Arab Emirates is also keeping abreast of the sustainability reporting trend. The Centre for Responsible Business, which was formed in 2004, is the longest standing center promoting corporate responsibility in the UAE. The Centre not only assists Dubai Chamber members to apply responsible business practices that enhance performance and competitiveness but also offers a variety of educational, professional training and consulting services that are designed to build individual companies’ capacity to implement broad CSR programmes including business ethics, sustainability reporting and corporate governance.

In 2008, the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi set up the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Group (ADSG), a membership-based organisation whose mission is to promote sustainability management in Abu Dhabi by providing policy support, learning and knowledge sharing opportunities for government, private companies and non profit organisations in a spirit of cooperation and open dialogue.

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#InspireMENA Story 2: Ruba Al-Zu’bi – Inspiring Green Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship

ruba-alzubiRuba Al-Zu’bi is a very well-known sustainable development policy and planning expert, and a true inspiration for youngsters in Jordan and beyond. Currently she is the CEO of EDAMA, a Jordanian business association that seeks innovative solutions to advance the energy, water and environment sectors. Ruba Al-Zu’bi is Global Resolutions' Jordan Ambassador and a Plus Social Good Connector promoting SDGs and success stories around sustainability in the MENA region.

She is also a founding member of the Jordan Green Building Council, and has facilitated its organizational establishment and strategic planning process. Ruba led the Clean Technology Sector Development at USAID Jordan Competitiveness Program with focus on enhancing private sector’s competitiveness, creating jobs and increasing exports in the clean energy, solid waste management and water resources management clusters. She is associated with EcoMENA as a mentor, and has provided tremendous support to the organization in raising environmental awareness, mobilizing youth and disseminating knowledge. She was selected as Jordan’s Eisenhower Fellow for 2012 fellowship through which she investigated green economy, green buildings and sustainability policy in the US; and was named as 2012 Ward Wheelock Fellow for her outstanding contributions to her community. 

Here she talks to our collaborative partner Impact Squared about her educational background, professional achievements, strategic thinking and visionary approach.

Impact Squared: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and what you do? 
Ruba Al-Zu’bi: I was originally trained as an environmental engineer. When I was studying to become an engineer, I found that the training was disconnected from, rather than supportive of Jordanian society and development. I wanted to make that connection. When Jordan established the Ministry of the Environment in 2004, I was involved in the development of the ministry, updating policies and building its capacity. I was really supported by a minister who believed in empowering women. I continued my education and earned a degree in Institutional Change Management to be able to contribute to public sector reform in Jordan. Right now, I am the CEO of EDAMA, a nonprofit organization that activates the private sector to improve green technology and a green economy in Jordan.

Impact Squared: What specific challenges or issue areas are you driven to work on?
Ruba Al-Zu’bi: A big issue facing the world today is sustainability mainstreaming, which is the idea of bringing ideas and practices of sustainability to different sectors and development decisions. There are tradeoffs that we always need to make. In developing countries, it’s not always possible to put sustainability at the top of the priority list, it’s important to keep the costs of compromise and the tradeoffs in mind throughout the decision-making processes. 

I also think that equal opportunity, job development and bridging education with job opportunities is another important issue. Currently, there is not a lot of green innovation because there’s a lack of understanding of market needs and not a lot of resources to support that. It’s important to support green entrepreneurs to innovate on sustainability. The vision I try to keep in front of me includes these things. Whenever I have the chance to speak, I always integrate these issues and concepts to mobilize efforts for global support and to create action on a larger scene.

Impact Squared: What motivated you to pursue your career and what drives you to continue?
Ruba Al-Zu’bi: I’ve worked in public, private, government, and international donor-based organizations. I really want to be where I can add value and make an impact. Right now, working at a nonprofit organization is challenging because there’s a lack of resources and a need for financial sustainability, but it’s also really important to be closer to the general public because that’s where there is a greater need. At EDAMA, there’s an added advantage of working with the private sector. I’m able to link businesses with the community, which is a promising area in Jordan. The more we think about sustainable energy that can be provided to everyone, especially in light of the influx of Syrian refugees, the more we can alleviate pressure on both the economy and natural resources. 

Impact Squared: How do you approach leadership? What skills or values or are important in leadership?

Ruba Al-Zu’bi: I recently took my team out for brunch. They told me that they wake up happy and feel empowered and appreciated. They feel like they have the space to create, innovate and make decisions, rather than just implementing other people’s ideas, which matters a lot in a leading a nonprofit organization.  As a leader, creating a small community for your team is important for them to create a community in their work around a cause. If you don’t succeed at creating the internal community, you can’t have an impact on the larger community. 

As a young leader, Ruba Al-Zu'bi inspires lots of youngsters in Jordan

As a young leader, Ruba Al-Zu'bi inspires lots of youngsters in Jordan

I always say I wish I had a mentor in an earlier stage of my life – it wasn’t common in Jordan when I was younger. I have a couple of mentors now for myself and I serve as one for younger people. I think relationships like this are very important. It’s important for a mentor to understand how to give mentees support without influencing decisions. I like to help people find their way; I wish I had someone help me do that. Also, family support and friend support contributes to leadership. The more we’re comfortable in our personal lives, the more we can give professionally to our communities. I’m lucky to have that in my life.

I was a young leader, leading before age 30, which had advantages and disadvantages. If you’re not ready or mature enough, it can backfire on your career and how people see young leaders in general. So, it’s important to self-reflect, self-evaluate and to have the ability to see your own growth and skills. Keep learning about those things to be an effective leader. I try to explain that to the younger generation, as they rush, sometimes trying to climb the ladder too quickly. Maturity takes time.

Impact Squared: What values drive the ways you make decisions as a leader and in general?
Ruba Al-Zu’bi: In general, I try to implement my social and environmental values. I value social justice, equal opportunities, and gender equity, which is really what’s behind everything happening in the Arab world and Arab Spring. If we, as leaders, don’t care, integrate, and mainstream these values in our day-to-day life and then professionally, they can’t be implemented on the ground, cascading.  

 

Note: The interview is being republished with the kind permission of our collaborative partner Impact Squared. The unedited interview can be read here 

Countering Water Scarcity in Jordan

Water scarcity is a reality in Jordan, as the country is counted among the world’s most arid countries. The current per capita water supply in Jordan is 200m3 per year which is almost one-third of the global average. To make matters worse, it is projected that per capita water availability will decline to measly 90m3 by the year 2025. Thus, it is of paramount importance to augment water supply in addition to sustainable use of available water resources.

Augmenting Water Supply

There are couple of options to increase alternative water supply sources in Jordan – desalination of seawater and recycling of wastewater. Desalination can provide a safe drinking water to areas facing severe water scarcity, and may also help in resolving the conflict between urban and agricultural water requirement needs by providing a new independent water source.

The other way to counter water scarcity in Jordan is by recycling and reuse of municipal wastewater which is an attractive method in terms of water savings. Infact, the reuse of the treated wastewater in Jordan has reached one of the highest levels in the world. The treated wastewater flow in the country is returned to the Search River and the King Talal dam, where it is mixed with the surface flow and used in the pressurized irrigation distribution system in the Jordan valley.

Another cheap and natural option for wastewater reuse is the construction of wetlands, and surface water reservoirs, which are water storage facilities that are able to collect and hold rain water for later use during dry seasons for irrigation or even for fish farming purposes. To prevent water loss by evaporation, reservoirs should be covered in a specific way to allow air to enter but with minimum evaporation rate. Another option is to install floating solar panels above the reservoir which will not only reduce the evaporation rate but also produce clean energy.

However, technology-based solutions are also raising several environmental and health concerns. Seawater desalination and wastewater treatment are like large-scale industrial projects which are capital-intensive, energy-intensive and generate waste in one form or the other. The desalination process may be detrimental to the marine ecological system as it increases the salinity of seawater.

Similarly, irrigation using recycled municipal wastewater is causing public health concerns. For example, directly consumed vegetables and fruits are excluded from allowable crops. Further studies should be conducted so as to address health issues that might arise from municipal wastewater usage. Effluent irrigation standards should be broadened to encompass a wider range of pathogens, and appropriate public health guidelines need to be established for wastewater irrigation taking into consideration the elimination of steroids.

New Trends

New intervention is needed to satisfy local irrigation demands; irrigation water for agriculture makes up the largest part of total average water used, which accounted for 64% during 2010. The main period of water stress is during summer due to high irrigation demand, and there is therefore a conflict arising between the supply of water for urban use and agricultural consumption. There has to be a proper combination between improvement of irrigation methods and selection of crop types. Application of updated water techniques, such as micro-sprinkling, drip irrigation and nocturnal, can reduce water loss and improve irrigation efficiency. Infrastructure improvement is also necessary to improving efficiency and reducing water loss.

Crop substitution is another interesting method to increase water efficiency by growing new crop types that tolerate saline, brackish, and low irrigation requirements. Such approach is not only economically viable, but also is socially beneficial and viable to mankind in an arid ecosystem. Mulching system is also highly recommended to reduce evaporative loss of soil moisture and improve microbial activities and nutrient availability. Farmers should use organic manure, instead of chemical fertilizers, to increase quality of water and reduce risk of groundwater contamination and agricultural run-offs.

The industrial sector uses about 5 percent of water resources in Jordan, while releasing harmful substances to the environment (including water). Industries have to put together a water management plan to reduce water intake and control water pollution. For instance, the establishment of a local wastewater treatment plant within a hotel for irrigation purposes is a good solution. Traditional solutions, like Qanats, Mawasi and fog harvesting, can also be a good tool in fighting water scarcity in arid areas.

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Destruction of the Dead Sea

Dead Sea is the lowest point on the planet and one of the most unique environments around the world. It lies on the borders of Jordan, the West Bank and Israel. Known for its high-density waters and mineral rich soils, the Dead Sea is visited by a large number of tourists from all over the world. Its soils contain minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and salt.These minerals are used in cosmetics, chemical products such as industrial salts and are even used in table salts for home use.

State of the Affairs

The once mineral-rich Dead Sea has shrunk to the size of a small and pitiful pond. Water levels have been dropping at a rate of 1 meter per annum. Currently it lies 1,300 feet below sea level and if the rate of decline continues it will reach 1,800 feet below sea level before the end of the century. This sharp decline is due to the over-exploitation of its minerals, the use of its water for desalination, and the large increase in agriculture in both Jordan and Israel.

Many environmental casualties have been associated with the rapid retreat in the shoreline of the Dead Sea. An example is the emergence of sinkholes. Many residential areas and roads around the Dead Sea have been destroyed because of sinkholes. Sinkholes are natural depressions in the Earth’s surface caused by the chemical dissolution of nutrients in the soil.These sinkholes endanger the livesof locals and tourists alike.

In an attempt to save the Dead Sea, the governments of Jordan and Israel plan to implement a project called the “Red to Dead Water Conveyance Plan” which involves building of a pipeline that connects both the Red and the Dead Sea and pumping around two thousand million cubic meters (mcm) of water per year into the latter which is equivalent to the water produced by 60 desalination plants in a day. However, many scientists are skeptical of this project due to the many problems that would arise including:

  1. The different densities and minerals in the waters would cause algal blooms that would be detrimental to the environment while also causing the water to turn red/green.
  2. Large water withdrawal from the Red Sea would have a detrimental effect on the coral reefs, sea level, and nutrient levels.
  3. The pipeline carrying the water from the Red to the Dead Sea might leak salt water into groundwater reserves along its route thereby increasing salinity in both the groundwater and the surrounding soil.

On the basis of these apprehensions it seems that this project would do little to help rectify the problem and might even add to it. An alternative way to save the Dead Sea would be to rehabilitate the Jordan River. As it stands today, only 50 mcm of water from the Jordan River reaches the Dead Sea as opposed to 1.3 billion cubic meters in 1950.

The Jordan River is a shadow of what it once was. The river acts as the main water source for Jordan, Israel, and the West Bank. As a result, 90% of the fresh water that replenishes it is diverted to agriculture.  Another problem facing it is pollution from agricultural and wastewater run-offs. About 50% of the agricultural run-offs from the surrounding areas are dumped into the river which has caused its water levels to drop dramatically.

Action Plan

Unfortunately, with limited sources of water, it will be difficult to ask concerned governments to stop relying heavily on the Jordan River. Some of the actions that governments may initative include:

  1. Improve irrigation systems and abandon the traditional systems that waste more than 25% of the water that is used.
  2. Renovate pipe systems in cities to reduce the number of leaks from the pipelines and to supply clean drinking tap water for the public.
  3. Plant local plants, which do not require much water and refrain from planting water intensive plants (e.g. rice).
  4. Harvest rainwater by manufacturing storage Pillars or tanks.

The Dead Sea has a geological importance in the region, and has many important aspects that make it significant. It is the saltiest and most mineral rich water body in the world. It also has a biological importance as it is home to many unique biological bacteria that are not present anywhere else on Earth. Regenerating the Jordan River, less water desalination, and improving water management practices will help regenerate the Dead Sea and help maintain this unique and important environment.

Republished by Blog Post Promoter