Energy Management in the Middle East

Managing and reducing energy consumption not only saves money but also helps in mitigating climate change and enhancing corporate reputation. The primary objective of energy management is to achieve and maintain optimum energy procurement and utilisation, throughout the organisation which may help in minimizing energy costs and mitigating environmental effects. Infact, energy management is widely acknowledged as the best solution for direct and immediate reduction of energy consumption.

Importance of Energy Management

Energy should be regarded as a business cost, like raw material or labour. Companies can achieve substantial reduction in energy bills by implementing simple housekeeping measures. Reduction and control of energy usage is vital for an organization as it:

  • Reduces costs: Reducing cost is the most compelling reason for saving energy. Most organisations can save up to 20% on their fuel cost by managing their energy use;
  • Reduces carbon emissions: Reducing energy consumption also reduces carbon emissions and adverse environmental effects. Reducing your organisation’s carbon footprint helps build a ‘green’ image thereby generating good business opportunities; and
  • Reduce risk: Reducing energy use helps reduce risk of energy price fluctuations and supply shortages.

Regulatory requirements aiming to reduce carbon emissions and energy use require accurate energy data collection and effective management systems. Good energy management practices are compliant with these requirements and help fulfil regulatory obligations. Businesses worldwide are showing interest in appointment of a formal/informal energy manager to coordinate energy management activities. The main task of an energy manager is to set up a system to collect, analyse and report on energy consumption and costs which may involve reading electricity meters regularly and analysis of utility bills.

Carbon emissions from energy use dominate the total greenhouse gas emissions of most organisations. Sound energy management is rapidly emerging as an integral part of carbon management which in turn helps organisations in effective overall environmental management. In addition to financial benefits, energy management has other significant advantages for an organisation such as:

  • Organisations achieve stronger market position by demonstrating ‘green’ credentials. Energy management improves competitive advantage as most consumers prefer to source from socially responsible businesses;
  • Organisations adopting energy management systems can influence supply chains by preferring suppliers who adopt environment management practices; and
  • Energy management creates a better workplace environment for employees by improving working conditions.

Energy Management in the Middle East

In recent years, energy consumption in the Middle East is rising exponentially due to rapid industrialization and high population growth rate. Infact, the level of primary energy consumption in MENA region is one of the highest worldwide.  However, the efficiency of energy production and consumption patterns in the region requires improvement. Though the per capita energy consumption in the GCC sub-region are among the world’s top list, more than 40 percent of the Arab population in rural and urban poor areas do not have adequate access to energy services.

The Middle East is making a steady change towards energy efficiency and alternative sources of energy. Several declarations have been issued in recent years emphasizing concerns and commitment of regional powers to achieve sustainable development. Energy Strategy 2030 introduced by Dubai aims to reduce energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions by 30% by the year 2030 through secure energy supply and efficient energy use while meeting environmental and sustainability objectives. Simalarly Saudi Arabia and Qatar are seriously pursuing the use of alternative energy in power generation. This is an attractive driver for businesses to adopt solutions that reduce overall energy consumption. 

Considering the rapid rise in power demand in the region, governments are now looking to diversify their energy mix from their primary energy source to a greater reliance on renewable energy. Middle East energy efficiency ranking is expected to get a major boost due to the development of large renewable energy projects in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan etc. Balanced approaches are being employed to drive feasible clean energy projects while developing the regulatory framework and adaptation of energy efficient technologies.

Many businesses in the Middle East have set dynamic strategic direction to achieve immediate reduction in energy consumption. The trend towards energy efficiency will only continue to grow to sustain this demand. With increasing environmental awareness, there is significant room for growth and leadership within the Middle East for the adoption of energy optimisation, introduction of specialised energy-saving systems and implementation of sustainable energy technologies.

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Women and the Environment in Arabia

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

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

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

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

Women in Agriculture and Plant and Soil Conservation

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

Women in Forest Management and Tree Planting                                                

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

Women and Water Resources

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

Women and Waste Management

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

Women and Energy

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

Women and Policy

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

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

Conclusions

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

 

References

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

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My Little Paper Recycling Project

Paper industry is considered as one of the world’s largest consumers of fossil fuels and biggest industrial polluter. The industry is criticized by environmental groups for being responsible for massive deforestation around the world. With the use of modern technology such as the printing press and the highly mechanised harvesting of wood, paper has become a cheap commodity. This has led to a high level of consumption and waste. Worldwide consumption of paper has risen by 400% in the past 40 years, with 35% of harvested trees being used for paper manufacture. 

Paper wastes constitute as much as one-fourth of the solid wastes stream in the Middle East. Infact the percentage of paper wastes in municipal solid waste is around 28 percent in GCC countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. These grim statistics are a major wake-up call for all concerned stakeholders to cut down on paper consumption and adopt paper recycling in a big way. High paper consumption and waste generation rate in the Middle East makes it imperative on regional countries to embrace the sustainable waste management strategy involving Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Why Recycling?

Material recycling process is one of the best ways to protect the environment.  Waste management can be initiated in private households and organizations by minimizing the consumption of electricity, water, food, paper etc. Recycling is processing used materials (waste) into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from landfilling) by reducing the need for "conventional" waste disposal, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Use of 3Rs of waste management can also reduce dependence on landfills, protect environment, conserve natural resources and also generate revenues.

Manufacture of Pencils from Paper Wastes

I started this project last year in my college to encourage and motivate students to recycle papers. Like other educational institutions, paper consumption is very high in our college and I devised a simple cost-effective method to transform old papers and magazines into a high-quality quality pencil which can be used at school or at work. The following materials are required to start your paper recycling project.

  • White Glue
  • Lead from any stationary store
  • Old newspapers
  • Pencil for drawing lines
  • Ruler
  • Scissor

Step 1

Use 4 to 5 pages of the newspaper and measure the right size for the lead which is about 18 cm length x 10cm width. You can also draw with the pencil to make sure it fits the right size of the lead.

Step 2

Cut the newspaper following the lines you have drawn and it will look like a rectangle shape.

Step 3

Apply glue at the edge of the rectangle shaped-paper and place the lead to start the rolling process.

Step 4

Carefully roll the paper with lead inside by using glue at fixed intervals.

Step 5

After finishing the rolling process, let it dry for few minutes. Re-start the rolling process with another piece of newspaper until the pencil is of the same size as a regular wood pencil.  Finally, your pencil, which will be same as a normal wooden pencil, is ready for use.

What Can You Do?

Be an active part of your local environmental community by participating and organizing paper recycling campaigns at your school, college or organizations. This also works when you are at home by sending reminders and emails through social networks and building global communities by sharing recycling ideas and activities that people can adapt while they are moving on their daily activities.

Please propagate this environmental message among your friends and co-workers. These 5 simple steps have the potential to make a big impact on the environment. Don’t forget that recycling a ton of paper saves 17 trees and 3.3 cubic yards in landfill space!

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Water-Food Linkage in Arab World

The water-food linkage represents an important and vital nexus in the Arab countries. Under the current unstable food security situation (fluctuating energy prices, poor harvests, rising demand from a growing population, the use of bio-fuels and export bans have all increased prices), the ability for the Arab countries to feed their growing population is severely challenged by competition over increasingly limited water resources. Agriculture is currently challenged by competition among sectors on available water resources.

While the majority of water in the Arab region is used inefficiently in the agricultural sector (about 85% with less than 40% efficiency), which is not only crucial for food production but also employs a large labor force of rural population, the contribution of agriculture to GDP is significantly low. Hence, and using the argument of higher productivity per drop, voices are increasingly advocating for shift of water resources from agriculture to meet pressing demands of the industrial and municipal sectors.  The negative repercussions of that on the agricultural sector and rural population are most evident.  However, improving irrigation efficiency can release water for other uses (see AFED report on water in the Arab Region).

The Arab countries are far from having enough water to grow sufficient basic food, the obsession with the idea of self-sufficiency at any cost, had been predominant in the 1970s and 1980s, has been abandoned. It is no longer rational or sustainable. In fact, the region has been importing more and more food to meet its need. Recent studies have shown that more than half of the food calories consumed in the region is imported and would increase to 64% over the next two decades (World Bank, 2009). An older study in the mid-1990s showed that the food imports of the region were equivalent to 83 billion m3 of virtual water, or about 12% of the region’s annual renewable water resources. In fact, the same study has shown that for selected countries, this percentage was much higher: Algeria (87%), Egypt (31%), Jordan (398%), Libya (530%) and Saudi Arabia (580%) (FAO, 2001). With the rise of the population and improvement of lifestyles, one can expect these figures to be much higher today.

A better policy to address national food security can be to improve agricultural production and maximise water productivity and to rely on virtual water trade in food imports. By importing water intensive crops, not only can there be local water savings, there are also energy savings through reduction in withdrawal of irrigation water from deep aquifers (Siddiqi and Anadon, 2011), which could be significant for many Arab countries that have energy intensive groundwater withdrawals, such as the GCC countries. 

Moreover, Arab food security could be achieved through regional agricultural integration that combines the relative comparative advantages of all of the Arab countries, such as land and water resources, human resources, and financial resources. Joint agricultural projects could be implemented towards achieving food security for the region as a whole using advanced agricultural methods supported by active R&D programs in agricultural production as well as effective governance of water and land resources. 

References:

  1. World Bank. 2009. Water Resources: Managing a Scarce, Shared Resource. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/IDA/Resources/IDA-Water_Resources.pdf
  2. FAO. 2001. The State of Food and Agriculture 2001. Rome, Italy. ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/003/x9800e/
  3. Siddiqi, A., and Anadon, L. D. 2011. The water-energy nexus in Middle East and North Afirca. Energy policy (2011) doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2011.04.023. 

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Solid Waste Management Challenges in GCC

garbage-dump-kuwaitThe challenges posed by solid waste to governments and communities are many and varied. In the Gulf Cooperation Council region, where most countries have considerably high per capita waste generation values, the scale of the challenge faced by civic authorities is even bigger. Fast-paced industrial growth, recent construction boom, increasing population, rapid urbanisation, and vastly improved lifestyle coupled with unsustainable consumption patterns have all contributed to the growing waste crisis in the GCC.

Among the GCC nations, United Arab Emirates has the highest municipal solid waste generation per capita of 2.2 kg (which is among the highest worldwide) followed closely by Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain. The total urban waste generation in the GCC has been estimated to be around 150 million tons per annum, with MSW being the second largest stream after construction wastes.

Key Challenges

A look at the composition of municipal solid waste in GCC nations suggests that it is largely decomposable and recyclable. However, at present waste disposal into landfills/dumpsites remains the widely practiced method. In countries such as Kuwait and Bahrain where limited land is available, this doesn’t seem to be most prudent option. At present, GCC waste management sector is facing multiple challenges in the form of:

  1. Lack of clear reliable framework by which the solid waste sector is administered from the collection, transformation to disposing or treatment phases
  2. Absence  of effective and comprehensive legislative frameworks governing the solid waste sector and the inadequate enforcement mechanisms, which are no less important than the legislations themselves
  3. Management activities of MSW are considered public services
    which are directly controlled by governmental institutions. Such management arrangement is considered weak as it lacks market mechanisms, and in this case economical incentives cannot be used to improve and develop the MSW management services
  4. Inadequate human and organizational capacities and capabilities
  5. Scarcity of accurate and reliable background data and information on the status of solid waste such as rate of generation of different solid waste constituencies, assessment of natural resources and land-use,   and transportation needs, scenarios of treatment, growth scenarios of solid waste which are linked to several driving forces. Needless to say, data and information are the crucial elements for developing MSW management system including the adequate monitoring of the sector.
  6. Inadequate waste strategies/management infrastructure:  In most GCC countries existing waste handling capacities are insufficient. Presently recyclable recovery rate is low. Further, in the absence of local recycling facilities, there is no alternative except to dump the otherwise recyclable material at Landfills.
  7. Waste recycling is expensive: Though recent years have seen an increase in the number of waste recycling facilities the economics of recycling is still not very favourable. In many cases recycling waste is expensive compared to buying the product which can be attributed to lack of recycling facilities.
  8. Under developed market for recycled products: Insufficient demand for recycled products in the local market is another reason, which has hampered the growth of the waste recycling industry.
  9. Public attitude: Economies in the GCC countries are oil dependant due to high reserves of fossil fuels. For several decades alternatives such as solar and wind were not considered and oil was the easier option.  Recently and due to drop in oil prices more consideration is given to renewable sources. Similarly waste was mainly landfilled as it was the easier choice, yet due to known complication with such treatment, more suitable measures were considered. Therefore there is the need for an effective comprehensive “education and awareness” program in regards of these two issues

The Way Forward

GCC urgently requires an ambitious sustainable development agenda with waste management (minimisation, reuse and recycling) among its main priorities. Waste has a range of environmental impacts, on air, water, and land and also is a major economic drain, especially on city budgets. It is estimated that 50% of a city’s budget is spent on waste management. The inefficient use of scarce resources reflected in materials discarded and abandoned as waste represents a huge economic and environmental cost borne by society as a whole.

GCC urgently requires more recycling facilities, like this MRF in Sharjah

GCC urgently requires more recycling facilities, like this MRF in Sharjah

Management of solid waste is a serious challenge faced by most modern societies. But waste is not only a challenge: it is also a largely untapped opportunity. Proper waste management presents an opportunity not only to avoid the detrimental impacts associated with waste, but also to recover resources, realise environmental, economic and social benefits and take a step on the road to a sustainable future. The benefits arise when waste is treated as a resource, a resource that can be
recovered and put to productive and profitable use. Products can be reused and the materials that make them up can be recovered and converted to other uses or recycled.

Medical Wastes in GCC

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

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

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

 

Medical Waste in the GCC

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

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

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

 

Medical Waste Generation in Some GCC Countries

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

 

Need for Medical Waste Management Strategy

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

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

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

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

 

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الطاقة المتجددة….مستقبل الكامن في السهل الممتنع

لقد دلت المؤشرات على أن متوسط استهلاك الفرد للطاقة في المملكة العربية السعودية بلغ ضعف متوسط الإستهلاك العالمي بحسب الاحصاءات,و تعد بذلك من أعلى المستويات في العالم. مع العلم أن نسبة استهلاك أجهزة التكييف للطاقة الكهربائية تمثل أكثر من 70 بالمائة و ترتفع هذ النسبة في فصل الصيف لتصل إلى 100 بالمائة مما يشكل إختلالآ في عمل المنظومات الكهربائية.

فلذلك تعمل المملكة العربية السعودية الآن على تبني مصادر متنوعة للطاقة المتجددة و استكشاف الطرق الرامية إلى تحسين أداء الطاقة البترولية والحد من أثآرها على البيئة ويمكنها في نهاية المطاف أن تحقق الاستدامة من خلال تنويع مصادر هذه الطاقة. فالإعتماد على مصادر الطاقة المتجددة مهم جداً ، مثل الطاقة الشمسية الكثيفة بالإضافة إلى طاقة الرياح والطاقة الجوف أرضية وتنضم الطاقة الذرية إلى كل ذلك.

الطاقة الشمسية

علميآ تقع المملكة بمحاذاة الحزام الشمسي و هو عبارة عن نطاق قريب جدآ من المنطقة الإستوائية, حيث تبلغ سقوط أشعة الشمس أقصاها. فبذلك يعتبر موقعها مثالي جدآ للإستثمار في الطاقة الشمسية,ناهيك عن المساحات الواسعة و القادرة على استيعاب المعدات الهائلة لتوليد الطاقة. و تستقبل السعودية من الطاقة الشمسية ما يعادل 7 كيلوواط في الساعة لكل متر مربع في ساعات النهار, مما يؤهلها لتكون الدولة الأمثل للإستفادة منها و لإبتكار حلول تكنولوجية في المستقبل.

طاقة الرياح

تمثل طاقة الرياح اليوم أهمية متزايدة في جميع أنحاء العالم , و تتمتع المملكة بمؤهلات جيدة للإستفادة من هذه الطاقة. حيث قدر توفرالرياح القوية من 4 إلى 5 ساعات يوميآ, و يعد هذا المعدل الأعلى في الشرق الأوسط. و من الجدير بالذكر الخطط الطامحة من قبل المملكة في الإستفادة من هذه الطاقة لإنتاج 9 جيجاواط خلال السنوات العشرون القادمة.

الطاقة الذرية

توجهت المملكة حاليآ نحو إنتاج الطاقة الذرية. و يعتبر تأسيس مدينة الملك عبدالله للطاقة الذرية و المتجددة أكبر دليل على ذلك. فإن  تنفيذ مشاريع لتوليد الطاقة الكهربائية و إنتاج مياه محلاة تعتبر من أكبر أهدافها. و لكن كشفت بعض الأراء بأن محطات توليد هذه الطاقة لن تستطيع العمل بكفاءة و الإنتاج إلا بعد مضي عشر سنوات.

فهل ستتمكن المملكة من التحول والإعتماد على مزيج متوازن ومستدام من مصادر الطاقة ليس لأسباب بيئية وحسب ولكن لأهمية مصادر الطاقة هذه و التي من شأنها المساعدة في بناء قطاع إقتصادي متنوع، يوفر المزيد من فرص الأعمال والوظائف، الأمر الذي سيرفع من مستوى حياة المواطنين وينقل المملكة لتصبح إحدى الدول الرائدة في مجال الطاقة البديلة على مستوى العالم.

رفع أسعار النفط المحلي

لتحقيق هذا الأمل الوردي, هناك المزيد من الخطوات العملية يجب أن تطبق في مجال التشجيع على الاستثمار في الطاقة النظيفة. فهل من الممكن رفع أسعار النفط المحلي؟ و ما أثره ذلك اقتصاديآ و اجتماعيآ؟ أليس من الأهم التركيز على دفع عجلة البناء والإقتصاد ومن ثم العمل على الخطط البديلة للطاقة كناتج للتقدم الحضاري؟

المجهودات الحكومية لتقليل الاستهلاك الداخلي المسرف للطاقة دائماُ ماتقابل بمعوقات مرتبطة بقلة أسعار الوقود.بالطبع يساعد خفض أسعار النفط سواء كان وقود للمركبات أو الكهرباء في التخفيف من الفقر وتحفيز التنمية في الاقتصاد غير النفطي ولكن من الممكن أن الآثار السلبية تطغى على الإيجابية, حيث أنها قد ترسخ عدم الكفاءة في الإستهلاك خصوصاُ مع الآراء المتصاعدة والمنبئة بنضوب مصادر البترول قريباً. رفع الدعم الحكومي للطاقة المستهلكة داخليا من شأنه تشجيع استخدام البدائل الصديقة للبيئة وبقدر مايعتقد الكثير أن ذلك من السهل حدوثه فإن التحول للطاقة النظيفة يلزمه الكثير من العمل على المستوى الفردي والمؤسسي مما يجعل الطاقة البديلة السهل الممتنع.

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Combined Heat and Power Systems

Combined Heat and Power (CHP), or Cogeneration, is the sequential or simultaneous generation of multiple forms of useful energy (usually mechanical and thermal) in a single, integrated system. In conventional electricity generation systems, about 35% of the energy potential contained in the fuel is converted on average into electricity, whilst the rest is lost as waste heat.

CHP systems uses both electricity and heat and therefore can achieve an efficiency of up to 90%, giving energy savings between 15-40% when compared with the separate production of electricity from conventional power stations and of heat from boilers.

CHP systems consist of a number of individual components—prime mover (heat engine), generator, heat recovery, and electrical interconnection—configured into an integrated whole. The type of equipment that drives the overall system (i.e., the prime mover) typically identifies the CHP unit. 

Prime movers for CHP units include reciprocating engines, combustion or gas turbines, steam turbines, microturbines, and fuel cells. These prime movers are capable of burning a variety of fuels, including natural gas, coal, oil, and alternative fuels to produce shaft power or mechanical energy.

CHP Technology Options

Reciprocating or internal combustion engines (ICEs) are among the most widely used prime movers to power small electricity generators. Advantages include large variations in the size range available, fast start-up, good efficiencies under partial load efficiency, reliability, and long life.

Steam turbines are the most commonly employed prime movers for large power outputs. Steam at lower pressure is extracted from the steam turbine and used directly or is converted to other forms of thermal energy. System efficiencies can vary between 15 and 35% depending on the steam parameters.

Co-firing of biomass with coal and other fossil fuels can provide a short-term, low-risk, low-cost option for producing renewable energy while simultaneously reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Biomass can typically provide between 3 and 15 percent of the input energy into the power plant. Most forms of biomass are suitable for co-firing. 

Steam engines are also proven technology but suited mainly for constant speed operation in industrial environments. Steam engines are available in different sizes ranging from a few kW to more than 1 MWe.

A gas turbine system requires landfill gas, biogas, or a biomass gasifier to produce the gas for the turbine. This biogas must be carefully filtered of particulate matter to avoid damaging the blades of the gas turbine.  

Stirling engines utilize any source of heat provided that it is of sufficiently high temperature. A wide variety of heat sources can be used but the Stirling engine is particularly well-suited to biomass fuels. Stirling engines are available in the 0.5 to 150 kWe range and a number of companies are working on its further development.

A micro-turbine recovers part of the exhaust heat for preheating the combustion air and hence increases overall efficiency to around 20-30%. Several competing manufacturers are developing units in the 25-250kWe range. Advantages of micro-turbines include compact and light weight design, a fairly wide size range due to modularity, and low noise levels. 

Saudi ARAMCO's CHP Initiatives

Recently ARAMCO announced the signing of agreements to build and operate cogeneration plants at three major oil and gas complexes in Saudi Arabia. These agreements demonstrate ARAMCO's commitment to pursue energy efficiency in its operation. Upon completion, the cogeneration plants will meet power and heating requirements at Abqaiq, Hawiya and Ras Tanura plants. These plants are expected to generate a total on 900MW of power and 1,500 tons of steam per hour when they come onstream in 2016.

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Future of Urban Transportation in Saudi Arabia

Transportation sector has played a prominent role in the socio-economic development of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. However, there are a wide range of current and future issues which should be tackled to ensure sustainable development in the country. More than 75% of the total population of Saudi Arabia lives in urban areas. Given the worldwide trends and statistics on urban population growth, many have regarded the 21st century as the urban century, understanding the prominence and importance urban areas have played and will continueto play in the future. Therefore, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia must focus its attention in the re-planning and re-designing of existing cities in order to absorb the pressure of increasing urban populations, in a manner that will improve environmental sustainability and energy efficiency. In re-fitting urban areas for expected expansion, the future of urban transportation will be a much needed but thoroughly thought-out strategy to ensure the cities’ lifelines are able to cope with the needs and demands of the increasing urban population.

Prevalent Scenario

Accordingly to a 2014 article published in The Peninsula Times, Saudi Arabia had 15.9 million licensed cars at the end of 2012. The article also mentioned that an analysis by Al-Eqtisadiah (a Saudi newspaper) estimated that the number of cars was expected to increase to 18 million in 2014. Therefore if we were to do a ‘rough’ calculation using the projected number of cars for 2014 and the total population of persons in 2013, then for approximately every two persons there is one licensed car. For urban areas, a ‘rough’ calculation using the 2010 urban population figure and the ‘roughly’ calculated ratio of one licensed car to approximately every two persons, means that if at present, over 22.9 million people live in the urban cities, then there is a high probability that there are over 11.4 million licenced cars in the urban areas of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The reality that such figures exist in the Kingdom for licensed cars in urban areas, solidifies the importance of reviewing present modes of urban transport.Such modes of urban transport must be seen as energy efficient, compactable, aesthetically pleasing, safe, reliable and environmentally-sustainable. A key area in applying such type of urban transport is through the urban public transportation system. This can be done through the implementation of urban mass transit systems, for example, bus and extensive rapid railway systems.Such systems will encourage the city inhabitants to forego personal vehicles for public transport. Fortunately, the Kingdom is well on their way in this regard, having an already functioning public bus and railway system. These two public systems are governed under two separate organizations, Saudi Arabian Public Transport Company, and Saudi Railways. Saudi Arabian Public Transport Company has an inter-city and inner-city bus system, while Saudi Railways is responsible for passenger railway transport in the Kingdom. The railway organization has many projects in the pipelinesand is working on implementing their Master Plan, which speaks of the creation of a railway for urban transportation, Urban Transit. 

Future Outlook

Even though the Kingdom is in the process of planning to implement extensions of those transport systems on a larger scale for urban areas, that type of infrastructure will take a number of years to complete. In the interim, simpler alternative modes of public transport, which can bring about positive changes to the country’s urban transportation sector, can be installed and implemented. One such alternative is a bike –share system. Although it is seen as child’s play, bikes have traditionally been used for transport. However, with a bit of innovation and creativity, bike-shares having smart and green technology have popped up all over the world, in many of the mega-cities with huge success. In the case of Saudi Arabia, new city developments and economic zones can easily incorporate such a system into their plans and designs. The bike-share concept can also be incorporated on university campuses and other large-scale development centres throughout the Kingdom. There are numerous advantages to a bike-share, such as improved health, air quality, urban environment and urban aesthetics. The Kingdom can successfully create its own version of a fashionably green urban bike-share system but it will require support from all stakeholders, especially the city dwellers.

Aside from the current usage of the public transport system, a lot more can be done to promote and encourage modes of public transport, as well as other initiatives to ‘nudge’ the urban population to reduce the number of personal cars in cities. One such initiative could be, ‘Use Public Transport Day’ or ‘Car-pool Day’. Another approach to ‘nudging’ urban residents to reduce the need for cars, can be through the installation of pedestrian zones or pathways,where the entire roadway of a certain part of the city is free of cars, allowing for a better flow of pedestrian traffic. These along with many more examples, can be found in case studies on cities like Mexico City, Copenhagen, Malmo, Curitiba and Vancouver.

Conclusion

Prioritising and revitalising urban transport in Saudi Arabia is indeed a requirement as the urban population increases. It is encouraging to see Saudi Arabia taking strides to increase modes of urban transport for cities. However, the Kingdom needs to implement short and medium term strategies that will get the urban population to begin transitioning from conventional modes to environmentally-sustainable modes of transport. The needs of future urban populations are what should be considered by traffic and transportation planners, not future projections of the number of cars. We must begin to think of the future needs of the population, in particular the urban population, for more proactive solutions to emerge in the transportation sector in Saudi Arabia, escially in big cities like Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. 

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Food Security in the Middle East

Despite the fact that the Middle East is blessed with a rich geological inheritance of hydrocarbons and mineral resources, it is a water-scarce and arid region that has its share of demographic and socio-economic problems. It is difficult to grow food crops in the Middle East due to scarcity of water supply and limited availability of arable land. The region is highly vulnerable to fluctuations in international commodity markets because of heavy dependence on imported grains and food items.

According to a report issued in 2009 by the World Bank, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, “Arab countries are the largest importers of cereal in the world. Most import at least 50% of the food calories they consume.” Countries like Egypt, Syria, or Iraq used to be breadbaskets in the recent past but their agricultural sectors have suffered a lot due to government mismanagement, price ceilings, and underinvestment. Infact, all Arab countries are net importers of grains, with small GCC countries like Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, and Oman almost completely dependent on imports for grains.

The Middle East nations are encountering price spikes on world food markets. This is due to competition for the same food products (wheat, corn, soybeans, animal protein, etc.) from other areas of the world, especially Asia, where incomes are rising and demand for more and better calories is exploding. Besides threatening the well-being of those already living on meagre resources, the price hikes have increased the number of poverty-stricken by millions in less-affluent Middle East nations.

To make matters worse for the food supply problem, world markets have experienced severe disruptions in the past several years from distant storms, floods and droughts — from Russia to Argentina to Australia. These natural phenomena have disrupted the fabric of global market mechanisms that underlies the international food trade. Prices for basic food staples are already at socially dangerous levels, approaching or exceeding their 2008 peaks.

Of all the Middle Eastern countries facing the current food crisis, Yemen is in the worst shape. A United Nations’ World Food Programme report states that seven million of Yemen’s 21 million people are “acutely hungry”, making Yemen the 11th most insecure food country in the world. Aquifers are being pumped well beyond the rate of recharge, and the deeper fossil aquifers are also being rapidly depleted. As a result, water tables are falling throughout Yemen by some 2 meters per year. With water tables falling, the grain harvest has shrunk by one third over the last 40 years, while demand has continued to rise. As a result, Yemenis now import more than 80 percent of their grain.

In Saudi Arabia there is little farming without irrigation, which depends almost entirely on fossil aquifers. The desalted seawater used by Saudi Arabia to meet the ever-increasing water demand in cities is too costly for irrigation use. Saudi Arabia’s growing food insecurity has led it to buy or lease arable land in different countries, including world’s hungriest nations Ethiopia and Sudan. Infact, the Saudis are planning to produce food for themselves with the land and water resources of other countries to meet rising food demand of its rapidly growing population. Unfortunately, transferring agricultural land from subsistence farming to export crops has led to even more food shortages. By attempting to ensure their own food security by acquiring foreign farm holdings, affluent nations are creating new food shortages in other parts of the world.

Due to reduced flows of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, Iraq and Syria’s grain harvests have been hit badly. Given the future uncertainty of river water supplies, farmers in both countries are drilling and over-pumping more wells for irrigation. Syria’s grain harvest has fallen by one fifth since peaking at roughly 7 million tons in 2001. In Iraq, the grain harvest has fallen by one fourth since peaking at 4.5 million tons in 2002. Jordan, with 6 million people, is skating on thin ice agriculturally. Forty or so years ago, it was producing over 300,000 tons of grain per year. Today it produces only 60,000 tons and thus must import over 90 percent of its grain.

With fast growing populations and an ever increasing pressure on water resources, governments must act urgently to prevent the looming food crisis.  A recent World Bank report found great inefficiencies in many Arab ports and the ways that Arab countries store grain compared with other large wheat importers, such as the Netherlands and South Korea. Port facilities, slow customs service and inefficient transportation from the ports to the mills all contribute to the worsening food situation. Arab countries are going to be huge importers of food no matter what; therefore they should improve their port and storage facilities and manage import risks.

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Understanding Sand and Dust Storms

Sand and dust storms are regular occurrences around the world and more common in arid and semi-arid regions, such as the Middle East. Dust storms play an important role in global dust cycle, and can alter the radiative balance. It can damage agricultural crops and retard plant growth and alter the life cycle of the marine benthic organisms due to less sun light penetration into the sea floor. Dust storms can cause social disruption, economic loss and adverse impact on human health.

When the visibility is below 1000 meters on a dusty day, it is considered that dust storm is occurring. Sand and dust storms should not be confused with other types of dusts such as rising dust, suspended dust and haze. The former are mostly associated with dry and hot northerly and north-westerly winds locally whereas the latter are mostly caused by human activities. Many studies have shown that dust oscillation at local level is associated with strengthening and weakening of low level tropospheric wind. The dust storm occurs at any place when there is an interaction of weather event with soil and land management such as soil structure and vegetation cover.

Sand and Dust Storms in Arid Countries

The major source of sand storm in arid countries are the presence of desert itself. The Sahara Desert itself accounts for 25% of the suspended micro particles in the atmosphere. The total worldwide annual production of dust by deflation of soils and sediments was estimated to be 61 to 366 million tonnes. From Africa alone it is estimated that more than 100 million tonnes of dust per annum is blown westward over the Atlantic. Arabian Peninsula is also recognised as one of the major dust sources of the world.

The major source of present day sand and dust storms are the subtropical desert regions and the semi-arid and sub-humid regions, where dry exposed soil is subject to severe winds at the dry period of the year, i.e. the summer time. In the Gulf region, the regional sources of dust and sand are alluvial plains of southern Mesopotamia, Syrian Desert, Jordan and North Saudi Arabia. The dust storms in the region are dominated by Shamal winds, which is the local name for the northerly and north-westerly winds.

In the desert regions, there are two main factors that have been identified as causing sand and dust storms. These are geographic condition and climatic conditions. Some of the components of these two conditions are;

  • Loose and dry sand, dirt, lack of vegetation or land cover
  • strong seasonal wind speed on the ground
  • Surface air turbulence due to huge amounts of radiation in the region
  • Vertical and unstable weather conditions,
  • Dry surfaces due to lack of rain.
  • Decrease in soil moisture and the soil/ sand binding capacity due to reduced or lack of rainfall
  • Anthropogenic factors such as land clearing and desertification

The frequency of dust storms during the summer time are more as it provides the most favourable climatic conditions for the same. Human induced changes are also considered as significant factors in increase in occurrences of dust storms in some non-arid regions.

Local and Global Impact of Dust Storm on Climate

Dust particles in the air, also known as dust aerosols, cause a shielding effect similar to rain cloud. Hence, dust aerosols can alter the climate by intercepting incoming radiation from the sunlight, reducing the net radiation at the surface during its occurrence.  Net radiation is equal to absorbed sunlight minus thermal radiation emitted by the surface back to the atmosphere. This causes a local cooling effect for a temporary period of time. The temperature can reduce by 10C due to diminished sunlight falling onto the surface. However, dust aerosols differ from sulphate aerosols emitted from volcanic eruption activities.

Sulphate aerosols are lofted into the stratosphere following the eruption. They reflect sunlight back into space and reduce the amount of radiative heating both within the atmosphere and at the surface. However, the displacement of solar heat away from surface at local level due to dust aerosol alters the Earth’s climate. The cooling effect can only remain for a short period of time as heat from surrounding warmer region gets transferred to the dust affected region to bring an equilibriumin temperature distribution and hence offsetting the cooing effect. Therefore, the local temperature returns to normal after a short period of time.

Cooling effect of Arabian dust cloud can sometimes be extended from northern Asia to the Pacific and North America when the atmospheric circulation that connects the regions downwind to beneath the dust cloud.

Effect on Sustainability

Sand and dust storm can cause negative impacts on three pillars of sustainability; society, economy and environment. As the dust cloud rises, it reduces the horizontal visibility. Low visibility can affect human life in many ways. The fine suspended particles also contain contaminants, bacteria, pollens, which cause negative health impacts such as allergies and respiratory diseases. Dust also carries air borne pollutants such as toxins, heavy metals, salt, sulphur, pesticides etc. They cause significant health impacts when people inhale the contaminated dust.  Dusts can corrode buildings and other built infrastructure since it is contains high level of salts particularly in the dust storms of deserted gulf region. 

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Jatropha’s Relevance for MENA

Jatropha is a genus of nearly 175 species of shrubs, low-growing plants, and trees.  However, discussions of Jatropha as a biodiesel are actually means a particular species of the plant, Jatropha curcas. The plant is indigenous to parts of Central America, however it has spread to other tropical and subtropical regions in Africa and Asia.

Jatropha curcas is a perennial shrub that, on average, grows approximately three to five meters in height. It has smooth grey bark with large and pale green leaves. The plant produces flowers and fruits are produced in winter or throughout the year depending on temperature and soil moisture. The curcas fruit contains 37.5 percent shell and 62.5 percent seed.  Jatropha curcas can be grown from either seed or cutting.

By virtue of being a member of the Euphorbiaceae family, Jatropha has a high adaptability for thriving under a wide range of physiographic and climatic conditions. It is found to grow in all most all parts of the country up to an elevation 3000 feet. Jatropha is suitable for all soils including degraded and barren lands, and is a perennial occupying limited space and highly suitable for intercropping.

Extensive research has shown that Jatropha requires low water and fertilizer for cultivation, is not grazed by cattle or sheep, is pest resistant, is easily propagated, has a low gestation period, and has a high seed yield and oil content, and produces high protein manure. Sewage effluents provide a good source of water and nutrients for cultivating Jatropha, though there are some risk of salinization in arid regions.

Pongamia pinnata or Karanj is another promising non-edible oil seed plant that can be utilized for oil extraction for biofuels. The plant is a native of India and grows in dry places far in the interior and up to an elevation of 1000 meters. Pongamia plantation is not much known as like Jatropha, but the cost effectiveness of this plant makes it more preferred than other feedstock. Pongamia requires about four to five times lesser inputs and giver two to three times more yield than Jatropha which makes it quite suitable for small farmers. However, Pongamia seeds have about 5-10 percent less oil content than Jatropha and the plant requires longer period to grow as the gestation period is about 6-8 years for Pongamia against 3-5 years in Jatropha

To conclude, Jatropha can be successfully grown in arid regions of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) for biodiesel production. These energy crops are highly useful in preventing soil erosion and shifting of sand-dunes. The production of sewage-irrigated energy crops has good potential to secure additional water treatment and thus reduce adverse environmental impacts of sewage disposal. Countries in the Middle East, like Eqypt, Libya, Sudan, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, are well-suited to the growth of Jatropha plantations. Infact, Jatropha is already grown at limited scale in some Middle East countries, especially Egypt,  and tremendous potential exists for its commercial exploitation.

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