Environmental Initiatives in Middle East – Challenges and Remedies

Environmental protection has become an increasingly important item on the social and economic policy agenda of Middle East nations. As I read last week’s piece titled “Environmental Impacts of Plastic Bags” I was struck by the succinct summary of the main problems with the ongoing use of plastic bags and how their effects can be felt in many ways, some widely publicized and others not. The article prompted a series of reflections upon other environmental initiatives emerging in the Middle East and North Africa, especially in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. In this article, I wish to share my … Continue reading

Why Cities in the Middle East Need More Trees?

In 2016, The Nature Conservancy, one of the largest environmental NGOs in the United States, released a report entitled “Planting Healthy Air” that examines the role planting trees in urban areas plays in reducing pollution and extreme heat. As the report indicates, the population of city dwellers globally is increasing, as is the number of deaths associated with exposure to pollution and intense heat waves. The authors of the report argue that urban forestation projects are one of the most cost effective means to reduce particulate matter in the air and cool temperatures in the world’s largest cities. Urban forestation … Continue reading

Everything You Need to Know About Jatropha

Jatropha is a genus of nearly 175 species of shrubs, low-growing plants, and trees.  However, discussions of Jatropha as a biodiesel feedstock 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. What is Jatropha? 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 … Continue reading

The Power of Cities to Shape a Greener Future

The current rate of urbanization is one of the global megatrends, which will manifest itself in many of the challenges faced in the upcoming decades. UN reports estimate that nearly 70% of the world’s population will be urban by 2050. The way in which cities deal with this rapid rate of urbanization will determine whether international objectives such as Sustainable Development Goal 11, aimed at making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable, will be achieved. Urbanization has further impacts on many more of the goals defined in the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. Achieving these goals … Continue reading

Dake Rechsand’s ‘Magic Sand’ Aims to End UAE’s Food and Water Deficit Within 5 Years

Addressing the UAE and larger MENA regions’ sustainability challenges of water conservation, green cover and food security, Dake Rechsands’ breakthrough sand technology can harvest and store rainwater to create a new water source for the region as well as transform deserts into lush tropical forests and organic farms. Dake Rechsand, a collaboration between South Africa’s Dake Group and the Rechsand Technology Group from Beijing, today announced the launch of their revolutionary ‘magic sand’ technology and its affiliated sand-made product range in the Middle East region. The joint venture is the result of their mission to take these innovative technologies to … Continue reading

Vanishing Aquifers in MENA

Aquifers 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 … Continue reading

Desertec: What Went Wrong?

A plan to power Europe from solar power plants in Sahara desert, popularly known as Desertec, seems to have stalled, but several large North African solar projects are still going ahead despite local concerns. Where did the Desertec project go wrong, and can desert solar power yet play a role in a democratic and sustainable future? If you use social media, you may well have seen a graphic going around, showing a tiny square in the Sahara desert with the caption: ‘This much solar power in the Sahara would provide enough energy for the whole world!’ Can this really be true? It is … Continue reading

Biomass Energy in Middle East

The major biomass producing countries in the Middle East are Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Jordan. Traditionally, biomass energy has been widely used in rural areas for domestic energy purposes in the Middle East region, especially in Egypt, Yemen and Jordan. Since most of the region is arid or semi-arid, the biomass energy potential is mainly contributed by municipal solid wastes, agricultural residues and industrial wastes. According to conservative estimates, the potential of biomass energy in the MENA region is about 400TWh per year. Municipal solid wastes represent the best source of biomass in Middle East countries. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, … Continue reading

#InspireMENA – Storytelling on Sustainable Development in MENA

Over 350 million people live in MENA and share Arabic as a common language. To date, there is very little literature in Arabic about sustainable development in general and specifically on the United Nation’s new global goals and the associated agencies and initiatives. More than half of that population is below 25 and is currently going through a lot in terms of political, economic, and social change. Despite all of this, those young people are innovating and making positive change in their communities. It is of utmost importance to support such impact with credible information, more visibility for success stories, … Continue reading

Water Stress in the Mediterranean

For many years now, the Mediterranean has been facing problems leading to a situation of serious environmental degradation. An increase in the temperature and salinity levels has been recorded during the second half of the 20th century in the Mediterranean Sea. However, this increase does not follow progressive trend and periods of temperature alternation have been observed. Following several climate change scientific reports, sea level trend at the global scale is higher than at the regional scales. Furthermore, in the regional scale there are other influence factors such the atmospheric pressure and the wind. In addition, the small rises in temperature … Continue reading

Solar Energy in Morocco

Morocco, being the largest energy importer in North Africa, is making concerted efforts to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels. Renewable energy is an attractive proposition as Morocco has almost complete dependence on imported energy carriers. Morocco is already spending over USD 3billion a year on fuel and electricity imports and is experiencing power demand growth of 6.5 per cent a year. The National Energy and Energy Efficiency Plan was launched in 2008 which aims to develop renewable energy to meet 15 percent of the country’s energy demand and to increase the use of energy-saving methods.  According to the Moroccan Ministry … Continue reading

Green Buildings Certification in MENA – Issues and Challenges

Green building rating systems are increasingly gaining attention in the building industry in the MENA region. During the last 15 years, there has been a regional trend in developing and applying green building ratings systems. In several countries such systems have been developed in an attempt to follow the international green movement. For example, the Pearl Building Rating System (PBRS) was founded in UAE in 2007, the Green Pyramid (GPRS) and ARZ Building Rating System in Egypt and Lebanon respectively were founded in 2008, the Edama was proposed in Jordan in 2009 and Qatar Sustainability Assessment System (QSAS) was founded in 2010.  … Continue reading