Water Conservation Strategies for Middle East

To deal with freshwater management challenges in the Middle East, it is important to bring a balance between both water supply and demand side. This can be done by employing strategies to increase water efficiency and conservation. Water conservation strategies for the Middle East include reducing the use of potable water where possible, find alternative source of water for various water usage and increase the water efficiency of fixtures and equipments. 

Efficient strategies along with water monitoring that tracks water consumption and identifies problems can significantly reduce both indoor and outdoor water consumption in water-scarce GCC countries like UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Most of the water conservation strategies have no additional cost implication and/or provide rapid payback while other strategies such as wastewater treatment systems and graywater plumbing system often require substantial investment. 

Reduce Indoor Potable Water Consumption

Consumption of potable water  in indoor uses can be reduced by installing water-efficient low flow fixtures for water closets, urinals, lavatories, showers, kitchen sinks and by using non potable water for flush functions. The sources of non-potable water are mainly captured rain water, gray water, municipal treated sewerage effluent (TSE) or reclaimed water. Waterless urinals are available in the market, which can be used in commercial buildings. Flow restrictors, electronic controls and compositing toilets can also help in achieving indoor water reduction targets.

Reduce Outdoor Potable Water Use

Landscape irrigation consumes huge amount of potable water. The water use for outdoor landscaping can be reduced significantly through an integrated approach. This includes employing combination of water-efficient irrigation technology, mulching, reduced turf or no turf grasses, using non-potable or recycled water, installing sub-meters to track and log irrigation trend and choosing native and adapted plant species in landscape design and using xeriscaping methods. High performance water efficient irrigation systems such as drip irrigation, bubbler distribution systems, scheduled irrigation and weather-based irrigation controlled can be used to increase the water efficiency.  

Reduction in Process Water Use

The typical building systems that use process water include cooling towers, boilers, chillers, dishwashers and washing machines. The volumes of water used in these systems are quite significant. The strategies to reduce process water use include; use of non-potable water such as rainwater, graywater or TSE in building processes and systems such as cooling towers. Metering of process water system can be done to collect information on water consumption and to identify leaks.

Recovery and Reuse of Condensate Water

Condensate produced from air conditioning equipment can be recovered and reused within the building. The condensate can be collected by installing a collection pan and then transferred to different systems through drainage pipes for various reuse purposes such as irrigation, toilet flushing, or other onsite purposes where it will not come in contact with the human body. For buildings with a cooling load equal to or greater than 350 kilowatt, a large volume of condensate can be recovered and reused.

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Introduction to Solar Pond

A solar pond is a three-dimensional, open-air pit, filled with water endowed with special properties. It receives solar energy through insulation, then the trapped heat is extracted from it from the water lying at the bottom of the pond. When solar energy falls onto the pond, it heats the water, splitting it into three sections: the first section is the uppermost layer, or Surface Zone, containing fresh water with a low level of salinity. This owes to the fact that salts gather at the bottom.

The second layer is the middle layer, called the insulating layer or Insulation Zone, whose salinity is greater than that of the surface level. The most important layer, though, is the bottom or lowest layer, known as the Storage Zone. This is the layer which retains solar energy and at which the extraction of energy is possible. This saturated layer is between approximately one and two metres thick, whereas the pond is generally two or more metres deep.

When the water of any Solar Pond gathers heat, it expands, becomes less dense, and rises. As soon as it reaches the pond’s surface, is loses its heat to the air as water vapour or by convection currents. The coolest water, which is considered the densest and heaviest, changes places with warm water which has risen to the surface, thus creating a natural carrying movement which mixes up the water and disperses the heat energy.

Solar Pond in the Dead Sea

In order to extract heat from the water of the Dead Sea, a small, square Solar Pond, 1.25 metres deep and 2.0 metres wide was designed as a test by Hashem al-Balawneh, an engineering student from Jordan, under the guidance of Dr. Khaldun al-Wahoosh. This solar pond was constructed in the Dead Sea region, at the coordinates 0 20 30 N, 0 30 35 E. Heat is prevented from escaping via convection by the Dead Sea water’s specific salinity, as well as by the addition of a group of Sodium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride and Sodium Bicarbonate salts (NaCl, MgCl₂ and NaHCO₃), which are also extracted from the Dead Sea.

Solar Ponds in the Dead Sea have a certain characteristic which allows them to keep heat energy, and that is the increase in salinity with increased depth. Accordingly, density also increases with depth, forcing the warm water to stay lower down because of the salts. Next, the heat which the water has absorbed in the last, salt-saturated layer whose temperature can reach between 85-90°C – moves turbines, thus generating clean, renewable, environmentally-friendly electrical energy.

Importance of Solar Ponds

Solar Ponds provide the simplest technique for transforming the sun’s energy into solar power, which can be extracted for different purposes. Solar Ponds are unique in their ability to gather and store energy simultaneously. It is known that the cost of Solar Ponds per unit area are less than any other current popular solar energy collector, as well as the fact that the continuous fluctuations in oil prices in recent times have pushed many individuals and organisations to look for other, cheaper, renewable sources of energy.

Similarly, the warm water which we get after extracting the pond’s heat can then be put to multiple industrial uses and to heating greenhouses in or around the Dead Sea region when the winter frosts set in. Solar Ponds can be used in all climates, as long as there is lots of sun, and even if the pond froze over, it would still be able to generate energy as it is saturated with salts. For an efficient, energy-generating Solar Pond to be set up, the following are needed: a relatively large area of low-cost land, water with high salinity and lots of sunshine. All these prerequisites are abundant in the Dead Sea region, which is the lowest and saltiest body of water in the world. Solar Pond system in the Dead Sea will help in large-scale energy storage and should be seen as an innovative step in the field of energy production and development in Jordan.

 

Translated by Katie Holland

Katie Holland graduated from Durham University in 2015 with a degree in Arabic and French, having also studied Persian. Currently working in London, she hopes to develop a career that uses her knowledge of Arabic and the Middle East, alongside pursuing her various interests in the arts. 

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Tips for Hot Water Conservation in Households

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Make an Environmentally-Conscious Person

The public discourse on industrial pollution, climate change, global warming and sustainable development has made environmental protection a top priority for one and all.  Concerted efforts are underway from governments, businesses and individuals to make Earth a clean and green planet.  When it comes to sustainability, everyone has a role to play. We can contribute to the global environmental movement by adopting changes that are within easy reach.

Here are some tips to prove that you are an environmentally-conscious person:

Use Solar Power

Solar power is the most popular form of alternative energy. Worldwide, millions of businesses and households are powered by solar energy systems. A potential way to harness solar power is to install solar panels on your roof which will not only provide energy independence but also generate attractive revenues through sale of surplus power. Another interesting way to tap sun’s energy is use solar-powered lights for illuminating streets, boundary walls, gardens and other public spaces. Solar-powered lights by Deelat Industrial provide a reliable and cheap source of energy in rural and isolated areas.

Recycle Stuff

Recycling keeps waste out of landfills, thus conserving natural resources. The first step in recycling is to buy a multi-compartment recycling bin for separate collection of paper, plastics, food waste and metal. Paper, plastics and metals can be recycled and reused while food waste can be composted or anaerobically digested to produce biogas and nutrient-rich fertilizer.

Switch to Efficient Bulbs

The traditional incandescent light bulb consumes lot of electricity, and a better alternative is an LED light. LEDs are important because due to their efficiency and low energy, they are beginning to replace most conventional light sources. A LED reduces pollution by a ton per light per year, with almost 80 percent reduction in energy consumption. Although the price of such a bulb is higher, it will surely cover expenses through energy savings.

Unplug Gadgets

A simple method to protect the environment is to remove the power source when you turn off the gadgets. Putting gadgets (or appliances) on stand-by mode consume a lot of power and substantial cost savings can be made by stopping this practice. Prevent energy wastage by unplugging any gadgets not in use or that are fully charged. You may also use smart power strips that cut the power supply to devices that no longer need it. 

Pull that plug!

Use Filtered Water

Buying packaged water is good for your health but this does create a problem. Plastic waste is something that everyone should worry about. At the same time the water you buy will be transported for a long distance until it reaches the supermarket. This means that precious fossil fuel is used in its transportation. An alternative that reduces its environmental impact is to filter your own water and use a refillable water container. Tap water is good for consumption and you can always use filtration systems to increase water quality.

Climate Change Impacts in the Levant

Many countries in the Levant — such as Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria — are afflicted by water scarcity, weak institutional and governmental resource management, high food import dependency and fragile economies –  all coupled with increasing populations and demand. According to the recent reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the Arab World will be witnessing hotter and drier conditions with extensive droughts causing severe water shortages that will have dire impacts on agriculture and livelihood. Farmers in the Arab world for centuries have been addressing adaptation and resilience issues through farming, water management and environmental degradation. Global climate change is foreseen to increase the severity of climatic conditions and increase the vulnerability of resource dependent countries and communities.

Water Scarcity

Water scarcity is one of the issues expected to increase with climate change. This will adversely affect livelihoods and sectors like agriculture, which is the largest water user in the country. The Levant region is projected to be one of the most severely impacted region in the world as per most general circulation models (GCMs) due to the expectation of severe water scarcity which will in turn impact its socio-economic development (Assaf, 2009). The Levant states’ engagement in the UNFCCC process is vital since major regional studies conducted by the Arab Development and Environment Forum forecasts alarming impacts part of which suggests that increasingly scarce water resources will be further reduced between 15-50% in all four countries.

Moreover, due to water loss and land degradation agricultural self-sufficiency is dismal, especially when considering inefficient irrigation techniques that are more suitable to other areas instead of the Levant region, e.g. severe land degradation in the Euphrates Valley of Syria (Nasr, 2009). This in turn will result and influence the whole issue of food security leading to widespread poverty in the region. The situation may be exacerbated due to current political instability and conflict in the area — noting that Syria is heavily dependent on water resources outside its borders, while Jordon already consumes more than 100% of their available water (Nasr, 2009; Tolba and Saab, 2009). Jordon, ranked as the fourth most water insecure country in the world, has already identified four critical sectors – water, energy, agriculture and food security – in addition to waste reduction and management.

Agriculture

Increase in temperatures and decrease in rainfall also characterizes the main climatic changes facing Levant countries such as Lebanon. Agricultural sector in Levant is expected to experience minimal impact of climate change. However, a reduced amount of agricultural land will be available due to desertification and urban expansion. This means that agriculture will be affected and the price of vegetables, fruits, and other agricultural products will rise as well, bringing about negative impacts on marginalized communities.

Increase in Sea Level

An additional factor is the expected rise in sea level that could further contaminate the nearby aquifers such as the coastal aquifer of Gaza that should provide water to impoverished Palestinians. The annual decrease in precipitation has led to less freshwater availability for surface or ground water. It is being projected that a one meter rise in 50 years will cause salt intrusions in Iraq well into the north beyond Basra and intrude into water aquifers in Lebanon, as far as downtown Beirut and Dbayyeh areas (Nasr, 2009).

Political Vulnerability

With stringent Israeli control on natural resources use and management, the Palestinian Authority lacks the capacity to enforce regulations and mechanisms to ensure the integ1ration of climate change impacts into development planning in the country. This ultimately increases the vulnerability of governmental and nongovernmental institutions and further intensifies the vulnerability and exposure of communities to the effects of climate change. Nevertheless, climate change adaptation planning is supported by governmental institutions like the Ministry of Environmental Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture and the Water Authority in addition to environmental NGOs and engaged stakeholders. Similar to Jordan, Palestine climate projections clearly state that water shortages will increase, increasing the water asymmetry already existing due to the unequal use of water between Israel and Palestinian areas.

Economic Considerations

In the Levant region, the water sector currently undergoes several environmental stresses resulting from different socio- economic activities and practices, including agriculture, energy, and transport. The potential impacts of climate change on the coastal zone include losses in coastal and marine economic activities such as tourism, agriculture, fisheries, transportation and other essential services. Coastal communities relying on ecosystem services, such as fishing for livelihoods will bear the impacts of increase in sea water temperature as the marine fish stock might decrease and marine biodiversity miay change or decline.

In countries such as Lebanon, the coastal zone has very high population density (estimated at around 594 inhabitants per km2) and is characterized by a concentration of Lebanon’s main economic activity. In fact, the largest Lebanese cities (Beirut, Saida, Tripoli and Tyre) are located along the coast, and contribute to more than 74% of Lebanon’s GDP through commercial and financial activities, large industrial zones, important agricultural lands as well as fishing and tourism.

In addition to organizational and technical constrains similarly faced by other Levant countries, Palestine is also experiencing political constrains due to the Israeli situation. The shared trans-boundary groundwater is unequally distributed  with Israel using more than 80% of Palestinian water resources.

Research Gap

Due to economic growth and increasing population, energy demand is expected to rise by at least 50 percent in some countries over the next 20 years. The provision of reliable energy supply at reasonable cost is thus a crucial element of economic reform and sustainable development. Transportation sector is of crucial importance for the regions further economic development. In general terms, lack of and access to data are the main barriers that proved to be the most hindering. The lack of statistics particularly affects the assessment of GHG emissions and economic development scenarios. In turn, governments have blamed the weak economic base for the inability to support research. The absence of scientific assessments and research in terms of assessing e.g. economic impacts of climate change, the ecological impacts of global warming and the degree of resilience of the different systems are hindering the prioritization of adaptation strategies in the decision-making process.

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أزمه المياه في مصر

تعاني مصر في السنوات الاخيرة من شح شديد في المياه و يعد توزيع المياه غير المتكافئ و اساءه استخدام موارد المياه وتقنيات الري غير الفعاله بعض العوامل الرئيسيه التي تلعب دورا مدمرا للأمن المائي فيالبلاد.

يعد نهر النيل شريان الحياة في مصر حيث  يغطي متطلبا ت الزراعة و الصناعه و هو المصدر الرئيسيلمياه الشرب للسكان. ان ارتفاع معدلات النمو السكاني و التنمية الاقتصادية السريعة  في دول حوض النيل  بالإضافة الى التلوث و التدهور  البيئي آخذُ باستنزاف الموارد المائية في مصر.

 و تواجه مصر   عجزا مائيا يقدر  بسبع بليون متر مكعب سنويا .وفي حقيقة الامر فإن الامم المتحدة قد حذرت من نفاذ المياه في مصر بحلول عام 2025.

دعونا نلقي نظره فاحصه على العوامل الرئيسيه التي تؤثر على الامن المائي في مصر.

الانفجار السكاني

ان العدد السكاني في مصر اّخذ بالتكاثر بمعدل ينذر بالخطر , ولقد زاد بنسبه 41 بالمئه منذ بداية التسعينيات. تشير التقارير الاخيرة من قبل الحكومة الى ان حوالي 4,700   حديثي الولادة تضاف الى عدد السكان كل أسبوع و تشير التوقعات المستقبليه  الى ان عدد السكان سيرتفع من 80 مليون الى 98.7 مليون بحلول عام 2025.

ان الزيادة السكانية السريعة من شأنها ان تضاعف الضغط على الامداد المائي من خلال زيادة الاحتياجات المائية  للاستهلاك المحلي و زيادة استخدام مياه الري  لتلبيه الطلب على الغذاء.

الري غير الفعال

تحصل مصر على نسبه اقل من 80 ملم من الهطول المطري سنويا,وتعد ما نسبته 6 بالمئه من اراضيها فقط صالحا للزراعة وما تبقى فهو صحراء.وهذا بدوره  يؤدي الى الافراط في الري واستخدام تقنيات الري المسرف كالري السطحي ( الري بالغمر) و هي طريقه قديمه للري حيث يتم اغراق القطعة الزراعيه بالمياه.

في الوقت الحالي,فان شبكة الري تستمد بالكامل من سد اسوان العالي و هذا بدوره ينظم اكثر من 18,000 ميل من القنوات الرئيسية و القنوات الفرعيه التي تروي الاراضي الزراعيه المجاوره للنهر. يعد هذا النظام غير فعال , حيث يقدر معدل الفاقد من مياه النيل بفعل التبخر 3 مليارات متر مكعب سنويا . ان من شأن  انخفاض الامداد المائي  ان يقود الى انخفاض الاراضي الصالحة للزراعة و حيث ان قطاع الزراعه يشكل اكبر رب عمل للشباب فان شح المياه يمكن ان يقود الى زيادة معدلات البطالة.

التلوث

 اصبحت المخلفات الزراعية والنفايات الصناعية السائلة  و مياه الصرف الصحي ُتلقى بغير اهتمام في نهر النيل مما يجعلها تدريجيا غير صالحة للاستهلاك البشري. اضف الى ذلك فإن مياه الصرف الصحي القادمة من الاحياء الفقيرة ومناطق عديدة في القاهره اضحت تفرغ في نهر النيل وذلك لنقص  المحطات المعالجة لتلك المياه.

 تلك المخلفات الزراعية عاده ما تحتوي على ملوثات من مبيدات الحشرات و الاعشاب مما يؤثر سلبا على مياه النهر. كذلك النفايات الصناعية السائله غالبا ما تكون شديدة السميه وتحتوي على معادن ثقيلة و التي يمكن ان تتحد مع المواد الصلبه العالقة في مياه الصرف الصحي لتشكل الوحل. كل هذه العوامل مجتمعه معا من شأنها ان تلوث نهر النيل و تنذر بشؤم للأجيال القادمة.

الاضطرابات الاقليميه

تسيطر مصر على غالبيه الموارد المائية المستخرجه من نهر النيل بمقتضى معاهدة الحقبه الاستعمارية التي تضمن حصة  ما نسبته 90 بالمئه من نهر النيل و تمنع الدول المجاوره لها من الحصول ولو على قطره واحده من النيل من دون الحصول على إذنها .وعلى الرغم من ذلك فان هذا لا يمنع  البلدان الواقعه على نهر النيل  مثل بوروندي و اثيوبيا من استغلال الاضطرابات السياسيه التي تعصف بمصر وكسب المزيد من السيطرة على حقوق  النيل. ورغم ان نهر النيل يزود مصر بما نسبته 95 بالمئه من المياه العذبة   فإن فقدان بعض الامدادات المائية يمكن ان يشكل متاعب إضافيه لمصر.

الختام

إن قضيه المياه في مصر تتصاعد بنسبه مثيره للقلق. بحلول عام 2020 ,سوف تستهلك مصر بما يقدَر 20 بالمئه اكثر  من المياه مما كانت عليه. مع فقدان قبضتها على النيل  فان شح المياه في مصر  من شأنه ان يهدد استقرار البلاد و الهيمنة الاقليميه. و هذا يحتم على الحكومة المصريه و جميع السكان التحرك بسرعة وبشكل حاسم للتخفيف من شح المياه  وتطبيق اساليب و تقنيات اكثر فاعليه للمحافظة على المياه و منع تلوثها  ووضع وتطوير خطط من شأنها السيطرة على تلوث المياه وجعل تقنيات الري اكثر فاعليه و كفاءة و ذلك لتجنب وقوع كارثة.

ترجمة

سلام عبدالكريم عبابنه

مهندسه مدنية في شركة المسار المتحده للمقاولات – مهتمه في مجال البيئه و الطاقة المتجدده

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The Menace of Single-Use Plastic Bags

Single-use plastic bags are one of the most objectionable types of litter in urban areas. The sheer volume of plastic waste generated coupled with energy and material resources required for production, as well as emissions resulting from these processes paint a grim picture of the environmental havoc created by plastic bags. Single-use plastic bags are a huge threat to the environment as an estimated 1 trillion such bags are consumed worldwide every year. In the United Arab Emirates alone, nearly 12 billion plastic bags are used annually.

Major Hazards

Single-use plastic bags are notorious for their interference in natural ecosystems and for causing the death of aquatic organisms, animals and birds. In 2006, The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimated that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating in every square mile of ocean and upto 80 percent of marine debris worldwide is plastic which are responsible for the death of a more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals each year from starvation, choking or entanglement. Infact, there is a huge floating dump in the Pacific Ocean called the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" which is hundreds of miles wide and consists mostly of plastic debris caught  in the ocean's currents. 

Plastic bags are mistakenly ingested by animals, like cows and camels, clogging their intestines which results in death by starvation. In addition, plastic bags clog urban drainage systems and contribute to flooding, as witnessed in Mumbai, Dhaka and Manila in recent decades. Moreover, toxic chemicals from single-use bags can enter the food chain when they are ingested by animals and birds.

Unfortunately only a small percentage of these bags are recycled each year, and most float about the landscape and create a tremendous expense in clean-up costs. Several countries, regions, and cities have enacted legislation to ban or severely reduce the use of disposable plastic shopping bags. Plastic bags litter serves as a floating transportation agent that enables alien species to move to new parts of the world thus threatening biodiversity.

Plausible Solutions

The hazards of single-use plastic bag can be mitigated by raising environmental awareness among communities. Many municipalities in the Gulf region are targeting shopping malls and grocery stores to reduce dependence on single-use plastic bags. Environmental education at workplaces, schools and residential areas is a vital tool in the fight against plastic bags. Empowering people to take proactive actions and encouraging them to be a part of the solution can also be helpful in reducing the reliance on single-use plastic bags.

Municipalities can make use of 5Rs of waste management – Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover – to encourage safe disposal of plastic bags which may be facilitated by mass deployment of plastic bag collection systems and recycling facilities at strategic locations. Some of the alternatives are cloth-based bags, such as jute and cotton, which biodegradable as well as reusable. Infact, the range of durable fabric shopping bags is growing each year in the Western countries, including those that can be conveniently folded up into a pocket.

The introduction of ‘plastic bags tax’ can also be a handy weapon in restricting use of single-use plastic bags in the Middle East. For example, Ireland introduced a plastic bag charge called PlasTax ten years ago which has virtually eliminated plastic bags in the country. 

Regional Initiatives

The Middle East region has been slow in gearing up to the challenges posed by single-use plastic bags, though governments have been trying to raise public awareness aimed at behavioral change. The Ministry of Environment and Water in UAE launched an initiative called “UAE free of plastic bags” in 2009 to maintain the health of the natural habitat and enhance the environmental standards of the state. The Dubai Municipality has also launched an ambitious “No to Plastic Bags” campaign to slash 500 million plastic bags. There are similar efforts, but small-scale, efforts in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait to encourage clean-up campaigns in seas, deserts and citites. In Egypt, the Red Sea (Hurghada) is the first plastic bag free governorate having introduced a ban in 2009 which generated employment opportunities for women who have been charged with creating cloth bags in the place of plastic bags.

 

About the Authors

Eaman Abdullah Aman is MRLS graduate in Environmental and Natural Resources Law and Policy with a specialization certificate in Energy Law and Policy from Denver University, USA. Her expertise encompasses international petroleum transactions, petroleum contracts and agreements, international petroleum investment operations, energy policy and economics of natural resources law and policy. She has rich knowledge on issues related to climate change mitigation, environmental law and policy, environmental ethics, energy security, sustainable development etc.

Salman Zafar is the Founder of EcoMENA and a renowned expert in waste management, renewable energy, environment protection and sustainability. He is widely acknowledged as an authority on environment and sustainability sector in the Middle East and proactively engaged in creating mass awareness on clean energy, environment and sustainability through his websites, blogs, articles and projects. Salman can be contacted on salman@ecomena.org.

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Sustainability Perspectives for Amman

amman-sustainabilityIs Amman a sustainable city? No, it is not. That isn't a very surprising statement if you've ever lived in or visited Amman. By all means, it's a beautiful city, with plenty to offer visitors and residents alike. It is a diverse city with a wide range of experiences to offer between East and West Amman or Downtown to Abdoun.

The fact remains however that it is not a very sustainable city. We as residents are not being kind to the city we call home. When I look at Amman I happen to see all the things I like, but also all the potential our city has to improve.

Below I examine only a few factors that contribute to the unsustainability of Amman. These are not the only issues we are facing as Ammanis but they are some of the factors affected by high level policy making in Greater Amman Municipality.

Transportation in Amman
"Amman is a city that is built for the convenience of cars and drivers". This is a statement I heard from a TEDxAmman speaker just weeks after I moved back to Jordan from abroad, and it was a shock to hear it phrased in that way. Although I was aware of the obvious lack of public transport and alternative means of getting around the city, I had never realized the extent of how true that statement is.

Any investment in the city’s transport infrastructure goes to build and improve the quality of our roads, bridges and tunnels with no consideration of public transport investment. The one time that Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) attempted to invest in a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, it turned into a very controversial topic, with accusations of corruption and mismanagement of resources all around with the project still not close to being completed.

Amman is also not a very pedestrian friendly city, with virtually no sidewalks found on the streets. Or even worse, the sidewalks we do have are in fact pots to plant trees which makes it very difficult for pedestrians to use it for what it's meant for; to walk. Additionally, there are barely any pedestrian crossings.

Amman is indeed a city built for the convenience of cars and their owners, with almost a 10% increase in car ownership annually in the city, even in low income families. 

Historically speaking, our current transportation system worked well up until the mid-1900s when the population of the city grew from a few hundred thousand people to 2 million. Recently the city has reached a little under 3 million inhabitants with the same road infrastructure minus a few improvements here and there. 

This is obviously a challenge that our 3 million Jordanians have to endure on a daily basis, whether it is by fighting traffic every day or by long waits on the very little number of buses that we have. 

Even less obvious is the environmental impact of such transport habits, with one estimate being that for each passenger in the city we need to plant 17 trees every year to cover our annual CO2 emissions of 1,464.4kgs. 51 million trees need to be planted every year in Amman to cover our transport emissions!

Waste Management in Amman

"Out of sight, out of mind" is probably best applied to our waste in Amman, or indeed in all of Jordan. We all know that we have garbage trucks passing around the neighborhoods collecting garbage once or twice a week. And we all remember the garbage collecting "crisis" Amman went through in 2012 when garbage was piling up and the out of maintenance trucks couldn't collect it all. 

However what we forget is what happens to all our waste once it's collected. If we had a developed recycling system, we could slightly reduce the amount of waste produced by residents of Amman. Since recycling is not an option we cannot ignore the 1,400 tons of waste produced every year by Ammanis. This translates to more than half of the waste produced in the country – the remaining cities across Jordan only produce 1.1 tons of waste.

This means that 1,400 tons of waste is transported to landfills outside of Amman, but very close to residents of other cities. Once the garbage in those landfills becomes too much to handle, they burn it to empty up space for even more trash. If you've ever been to Zarqa, you are very well aware of the smell from the burning garbage in the landfill along the way.

Urban Sprawl
In my opinion, urban sprawl in Amman is the most important issue Amman is facing. It is also an issue largely ignored by our officials and citizens alike. It has reached a very critical condition because large areas of previously agriculture land is now all converted to residential areas and the very little agricultural land we have left is under immediate threat to be converted to residential neighborhoods. 

I was actually very surprised to find out that areas such as Sweileh, Wadi Alseer, and Al Jubayha were separate towns in the early 1900s and not a part of Amman. Now however they're so urbanized that they're considered another district in the city.

There were actually some recommendations in the 1950s by a group of international experts to separate Amman from these towns by designating green belts around them to limit construction in those areas. All their recommendations were of course ignored. Now other areas are under the same threat of urbanization and loss of agricultural land especially on the road between 7th circle and the Airport.

Of course, till now GAM is licensing agricultural land around Amman for construction of residential areas with no consideration to its importance to our agriculture which is already suffering greatly. 

Ingredient of a Sustainable City

There are quite a few factors combined that affect the sustainability of a city, or lack thereof.  Based on the broad definition of Sustainability (meeting present needs while ensuring that resources are available to meet future needs), the definition of sustainable cities broadly would be cities that ensure that the current needs of its residents are meet without compromising on the needs of its future inhabitants.

Some of the criteria that help create sustainable cities are the following:

  • Resource recovery and waste management – collection and disposal of non-recyclable materials, frequent and adequate collection of bins as well as creating a broader waste management strategy
  • Litter prevention  – well placed litter bins in public areas and city centers, litter education and awareness programs and integration of litter management with a broader waste management strategy
  • Environmental innovation and protection – establishing partnerships between community, government and industry to protect environmental resources, establishing local conservation groups, develop and implement public/open space plans for local community, among many others.
  • Water Conservation – innovative water conservation and re-use initiatives. 
  • Energy Innovation – innovative energy efficiency measures, renewable energy, and addressing climate change issues.

How Can Amman Actually Become Sustainable?
Obviously there is quite a journey ahead of Amman, and Jordan as a whole in fact, in becoming sustainable. While GAM is the main entity able to create the needed environmental regulations, channel investments into sustainable public transport, allow innovations in renewable energy,  and guide the many other initiatives we cannot ignore the role of individual citizens. 

In a micro level, each individuals behavior, regardless of how insignificant it may seem to them does indeed influence the overall sustainability of the city. Enumerating the various water conservation, energy efficiency, or waste management methods would probably be repetitive however one request I make of myself and other Ammanis is to be constantly thoughtful of our impact and try to reduce it as much as possible.

One way to remain thoughtful is to remain informed. We should all be aware what the impact of our actions is. Whether it pertain to CO2 emissions of our cars, or the lack of actual waste management. 

We should be informed to be able to influence decision making as well. There will come a day when we have proper communication channels with GAM and other government officials and we will be able to shape the decisions that will make our city more sustainable.

Till that day comes, don't ignore your responsibility as an aware, thoughtful citizen of our beautiful city.

References

  1. The Road Not Taken, Jordan Business, Hazem Zureiqat 
  2. Traffic in Amman, Jordan, Numbeo.com
  3. Municipal Solid Waste Landfills in Jordan – Current Conditions and Perspective Future, Mohammad Al Jaradin & Kenneth Persson
  4. Urban Sprawl, Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE), Mohammad Al Asad
  5. Sustainable City Criteria, 2012

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Guide to Green Hajj

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is an annual pilgrimage to Makkah. It is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims which must be carried out at least once in lifetime by every adult Muslim who is physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey. The Hajj gathering is considered to be the largest gathering of people in the world whereby Muslims from many countries converge to do the religious rites.  Nearly three million Muslims perform Hajj each year. Making necessary arrangements each year for the growing number of pilgrims poses a gigantic logistic challenge for the Saudi Government and respective Authorities, as housing, transportation, sanitation, food and health care needs are to be provided to the pilgrims.

Environmental Footprint

The Hajj has an enormous environmental footprint. During Hajj, huge quantities of wastes are generated which needs to be appropriately collected, handled and managed. Other impacts are of water use and wastewater generation and treatment, transporting vehicles causing terrible air pollution damaging the health of the pilgrims, littering causing choking of public infrastructures, plastic bottles, used diapers, food packaging etc. are an eyesore. The problem is compounded due to ignorance, over enthusiasm, illiteracy of pilgrims and lack of commitment to handle the environmental resources.

Unfortunately, majority of the pilgrims are not aware of the innate nature of environmentalism within Islam and obligations of protecting the environment. According to the Quran, humans are entrusted to be the maintainers of the earth, its ecology and environment.The Hajj can be sustainable if the pilgrims behave in an environmental friendly manner and avoid different types of pollution.

A vast majority of Hajj pilgrims are not aware of the innate nature of environmentalism within Islam.

A vast majority of Hajj pilgrims are not aware of the innate nature of environmentalism within Islam.

Towards a Green Hajj

We need to understand that the respective authorities plan, spend and provide facilities to match with the number of pilgrims, but the irresponsible attitude of many people jeopardize the environmental resources. Following aspects will help the pilgrims in making their Hajj greener and help in conservation of resources:

  • Green purchasing, buy what is required and only environmentally–friendly products
  • Using minimum quantity of water for ablution, bath and personal use. Opening water gadgets and tap to allow limited flow. Washing clothes with minimum water.
  • Reporting any water leakages to the Authority.
  • Re-filling and reusing water bottles.
  • Buying food only what you can eat, surplus food should be avoided.
  • Avoiding food packaging.
  • Avoid disposable cutlery, plates, glasses etc.
  • Avoid littering, collecting all waste and disposing it at designated locations. 
  • Avoid using plastic shopping bags.
  • Moving and using group transport facilities.
  • Minimize electricity usage.
  • Avoid leaving lights on in empty rooms.
  • Switching off the chargers, once used.
  • Purchase energy efficient appliances, if required.
  • Avoid using electrical appliances on standby.

The recent Islamic declaration on climate change exhorts us to work steadfastly to minimize our ecological footrpint and make individual pledges to help our planet. Environment is Allah’s creation and has to be respected. Let us make our contribution to the Green Hajj and make a profound impact on the ecosystem, making it more sustainable and manageable and show that Islam is the ideal platform for ecological and environmental preservation.

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CSP-Powered Desalination Prospects in MENA

Conventional large-scale desalination is cost-prohibitive and energy-intensive, and not viable for poor countries in the MENA region due to increasing costs of fossil fuels. In addition, the environmental impacts of desalination are considered critical on account of GHG emissions from energy consumption and discharge of brine into the sea. The negative effects of desalination can be minimized, to some extent, by using renewable energy to power the plants.

What is Concentrated Solar Power

The core element of Concentrated Solar Power Plant is a field of large mirrors reflecting captured rays of sun to a small receiver element, thus concentrating the solar radiation intensity by several 100 times and generating very high temperature (more than 1000 °C). This resultant heat can be either used directly in a thermal power cycle based on steam turbines, gas turbines or Stirling engines, or stored in molten salt, concrete or phase-change material to be delivered later to the power cycle for night-time operation. CSP plants also have the capability alternative hybrid operation with fossil fuels, allowing them to provide firm power capacity on demand. The capacity of CSP plants can range from 5 MW to several hundred MW.

Three types of solar collectors are utilized for large-scale CSP power generation – Parabolic Trough, Fresnel and Central Receiver Systems. Parabolic trough systems use parabolic mirrors to concentrate solar radiation on linear receivers which moves with the parabolic mirror to track the sun from east to west. In a Fresnel system, the parabolic shape of the trough is split into several smaller, relatively flat mirror segments which are connected at different angles to a rod-bar that moves them simultaneously to track the sun. Central Receiver Systems consists of two-axis tracking mirrors, or heliostats, which reflect direct solar radiation onto a receiver located at the top of a tower.

Theoretically, all CSP systems can be used to generate electricity and heat.  All are suited to be combined with membrane and thermal desalination systems. However, the only commercially available CSP plants today are linear concentrating parabolic trough systems because of lower cost, simple construction, and high efficiency

CSP-Powered Desalination Prospects in MENA

A recent study by International Energy Agency found that the six biggest users of desalination in MENA––Algeria, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates––use approximately 10 percent of the primary energy for desalination. Infact, desalination accounted for more than 4 percent of the total electricity generated in the MENA region in 2010. With growing desalination demand, the major impact will be on those countries that currently use only a small proportion of their energy for desalination, such as Jordan and Algeria.

The MENA region has tremendous wind and solar energy potential which can be effectively utilized in desalination processes. Concentrating solar power (CSP) offers an attractive option to power industrial-scale desalination plants that require both high temperature fluids and electricity.  CSP can provide stable energy supply for continuous operation of desalination plants based on thermal or membrane processes. Infact, several countries in the region, such as Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco are already developing large CSP solar power projects.

Concentrating solar power offers an attractive option to run industrial-scale desalination plants that require both high temperature fluids and electricity.  Such plants can provide stable energy supply for continuous operation of desalination plants based on thermal or membrane processes. The MENA region has tremendous solar energy potential that can facilitate generation of energy required to offset the alarming freshwater deficit. The virtually unlimited solar irradiance in the region will ensure large-scale deployment of eco-friendly desalination systems, thereby saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

Several countries in the MENA region – Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia – have joined together to expedite the deployment of concentrated solar power (CSP) and exploit the region's vast solar energy resources. One of those projects is a series of massive solar farms spanning the Middle East and North Africa. Two projects under this Desertec umbrella are Morocco’s Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power plant, which was approved in late 2011, and Tunisia’s TuNur Concentrated Solar Power Plant, which was approved in January 2012. The Moroccan plant will have a 500-MW capacity, while the Tunisia plant will have a 2 GW capacity. Jordan is also making rapid strides with several mega CSP projects under development in Maa’n Development Area. 

Conclusions

Seawater desalination powered by concentrated solar power offers an attractive opportunity for MENA countries to ensure affordable, sustainable and secure freshwater supply. The growing water deficit in the MENA region is fuelling regional conflicts, political instability and environmental degradation. It is expected that the energy demand for seawater desalination for urban centres and mega-cities will be met by ensuring mass deployment of CSP-powered systems across the region. Considering the severe consequence of looming water crisis in the MENA region it is responsibility of all regional governments to devise a forward-looking regional water policy to facilitate rapid deployment and expansion of CSP and other clean energy resources for seawater desalination.

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Vanishing Aquifers in MENA

aquifer-menaAquifers are of tremendous importance for the MENA as world's most water-stressed countries are located in the region, including Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iran, Lebanon and Yemen. However, aquifers in MENA are coming under increasing strain and are in real danger of extinction. Eight aquifers systems, including those in MENA, are categorized as ‘over stressed’ aquifers with hardly any natural recharge to offset the water consumed.

Aquifers in MENA

Aquifers stretched beneath Saudi Arabia and Yemen ranks first among ‘overstressed’ aquifers followed by Indus Basin of northwestern India-Pakistan and then by Murzuk-Djado Basin in North Africa. The Nubian Sandstone Aquifer in the Eastern end of Sahara deserts (parts of Sudan, Chad, Libya and most of Egypt) is the world’s largest known ‘fossil’ aquifer system and Bas Sahara basin (most of Algeria-Tunisian Sahara, Morocco and Libya) encloses whole of the Grand Erg Oriental. The non-renewable aquifers in the Middle East are the Arabian Aquifer and The Mountain Aquifer between Israel and Palestine. Some parts in MENA like Egypt and Iraq rely on major rivers (Nile, Tigris and Euphrates) but these surface water flows does not reach the ocean now. Needless to say, water demand in arid and dry MENA countries is met primarily by aquifers and seawater desalination.

MENA region is the most water-scarce region of the world. The region is home to 6.3 percent of world’s population but has access to measly 1.4 percent of the world’s renewable fresh water. The average water availability per person in other geographical regions is about 7,000 m3/year, whereas water availability is merely 1,200 m3/person/year in the MENA region. The region has the highest per capita rates of freshwater extraction in the world (804 m3/year) and currently exploits over 75 percent of its renewable water resources.

Primarily global exploitation of groundwater is for agricultural irrigation. In Saudi Arabia, during 1970’s, landowners were given free subsidies to pump the aquifers for improvisation of agricultural sectors. Soon the country turned out to be world’s premium wheat exporters. But as years passed, water consumption was high in such a rate that the aquifers approached total depletion. Government announced peoples demand to be met by desalination, which is an expensive approach to meet agricultural sector requirement. By end of 1990’s agricultural land declined to less than half of the country’s farm land. Saudi Arabia is no more a wheat exporter rather relies almost entirely on imported crop from other countries. Unfortunately, country has exploited nonrenewable and ancient ‘fossil’ aquifers which could not be recharged by any form of precipitation.

Key Issues

Stress on a country’s agricultural and water resources majorly cause problems in human health as well as instability and conflicts over shared resources. Climate change has also exacerbated water availability in the Middle East. Infact, water stresses has triggered brutal civil war in Syria and worsened the Palestine-Israel conflicts over sharing aquifers. The key issues, according to World Bank, in water utilization in MENA are as follows:

  • Unsustainable and inefficient use: Middle East countries have the highest per capita consumption of domestic water in the world with 40-50% leakage in the urban systems. And 50% water withdrawn for agriculture does not reach as intended.
  • Ineffective policies: the countries diverts 85% of water to grow crops which would be better importing.
  • Deteriorating water quality: contaminated water systems due to insufficient sanitation infrastructure has caused negative impacts on environment and health issues. Like, in Iran where issues associated with inadequate waste water collection and treatment cost estimated 2.2% of GDP.
  • Excessive reliance on the public investment on water accounts for 1-5 percent of GDP.

In MENA an unexpected climate change is likely to bring 20% rainfall reduction and high rate of evaporation which intensifies water stress. And proportionate climate initiated human behavior, more it gets dry, less water in the river, more tendencies to substitute by groundwater. Also depletion of water below the ground will rise to other disasters like sea water intrusion, land subsidence, especially in Arabian Peninsula, in turn destroys the constructions, infrastructures and developments of the country made-up till date.

Tips to Save Aquifers

We do not know how much water is remaining beneath, but we must understand it is vanishing at a very high rate. MENA must treasure aquifers and natural water resource as same as oil reserves are valued. Individual can play a significant role in saving aquifers in MENA by adopting these simple water conservation guidelines

  • Do not drain cooking oil or grease into sink; use adequate amount, reuse like as a shovel cleaner, polish or donate to machinery shops.
  • Effective use of tap; do not run water while brushing. During winters, store the initial cold water that runs out of the tap prior to the hot water from heater. And also know the convenient tap adjustments.
  • Maintain healthy, hygienic and sanitation practices.
  • Replace conventional water pumps and home appliances with advanced water conservative ones.
  • Avoid unnecessary products, food materials and reduce wastage; water consumed in a diet account’s 92% of water footprint of an individual.
  • Avoid sprinklers for irrigation and in garden use to avoid water loss by evaporation and substitute with efficient water distribution system.

By nature, water is definite in this ‘blue planet’. But when there is no right quantity of water at right quality and time it is called ‘Crisis’.

 

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Leakage Control: Effective Tool for Water Conservation

water-leakageWater is a basic need of our life and is amply provided by the Governmental agencies. However, we as consumers do not prioritize on water wastage and leakages issue due to the subsidized water cost. The leakages from taps, valves and appurtenant are often noticed but the invisible leakages under the sink often goes un-noticed and drips occurring are not taken seriously and addressed till the leakage get larger and leak get worse.

The Menace of Water Leaks

Water leaks from pipes, plumbing fixtures, faucets, valves and fittings are a common sight in buildings and structures and is a significant source of water wastage.  Only a small drip from a worn faucet washer can waste around 75 liters of water per day. Thus, we need to check all the water pipes and fittings regularly to assess their operational status and any leak occurring should be urgently repaired or replaced.

Leaks from pipes, plumbing fixtures and fittings are a significant source of water wastage for many households.  Research has shown that the typical home can lose 7.6 m3 to 76 m3 of water per year due to leaks. Some leaks are obvious, such as dripping faucets and leaking water heaters. Unfortunately, many leaks go undetected for years because the source of the leak is not visible. Faucet leaks are a common occurrence and usually simple to repair.  A faucet dripping slowly at only one drop every two seconds will waste more than 1,000 gallons or 3.7 m3 per year.   

Toilets are another common source of leaks in the home, and usually go unnoticed because the leaks are often silent and out of view.  Several research studies have found 20% to 35% of all residential toilets leak to some degree. Large toilet leaks can be detected when the valve constantly emits a hissing or gurgling sound when the toilet is not in use.

Detection of Water Leakages

We frequently see dripping and leaking water gadgets, pipes and toilets but do not take any action for its correction, mainly because of our attitude and lack of awareness. It is now important to inspect our water gadgets, pipes and fittings in our home, dwelling and place of work or study and take corrective actions. For checking the water leakages, first note water meter reading. Re-check again after two hours with all water gadgets are shut. If the meter does not read exactly the same, you probably have a leak in the system whereby water is being wasted for which you have to pay the cost which will be increasing with time. 

If your toilet is leaking, the cause is often an old, faulty rubber packing/ washer which decay with number of uses or minerals build up on it. Replacing the damaged rubber packing is inexpensive and can be done easily. Another way to find out if you have a toilet leak is to place a drop of color dye in the toilet tank. If the color shows up in the bowl within 15 minutes without flushing, you have a leak. Make sure to flush water immediately after this experiment to avoid staining the tank and toilet.

Conclusion

Potable water is supplied to our homes, offices and institutions after abstraction, treatment and through long distribution and pumping network and entails huge cost which is heavily subsidized by the Government. It is high time that we consider water conservation as a priority step and avoid any water wastage and leakages at home, offices and institutions.  

The time is now to deal with our water leaks promptly and giving it a priority. Remember- fixing leaks will save money, is good for the environment and will save our limited water resources.  

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