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 healthcare needs are to be provided to the pilgrims.
Environmental Footprint of Hajj
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 environmentally friendly manner and avoid different types of pollution.
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 the 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 authorities.
- 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 carbon footprint 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 Eco-friendly 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.