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Saudi Arabia

Separate ministry to safeguard environment urged

Eighty percent of the pollution in the Kingdom is being caused by government agencies, according to local media reports that quoted the Presidency of Meteorology and Environmental Protection (PME).
The situation has been worsened by a growing population, rising industrial activity and overlapping efforts of government environmental agencies, according to experts.
Some experts have urged the government to set up a separate ministry of environment to tackle the situation, which they say has already caused widespread air and food pollution and resulted in the spread of chronic diseases.
There are many government departments and agencies dealing with environmental issues including the Ministry of Agriculture, the PME, the Wildlife Protection Agency and the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs.
Ali Ishqi, an ecologist and professor at King Abdulaziz University, said the creation of a ministry would unify efforts and put an end to the excesses of government agencies, which are mostly to blame for harming the environment. He said most government departments do not have environmental protection programs for their projects.
Local and global regulations will ensure the proposed ministry of environment becomes the first line of defense for the people in the Kingdom, he said.
Ishqi said the Kingdom has already incurred heavy losses because of poorly managed projects. It recently had to spend SR 1.2 billion to tackle dengue fever in the country.
Yahya Al-Zahrani, professor at Naif Arab University for Security Sciences (NAUSS), said a national strategy for the environment and sustainable development in the Kingdom has to be produced.
Sulaiman Al-Bathi, environmental adviser, said the creation of a ministry would help unify the efforts of various government agencies and produce appropriate legislation to protect the Kingdom’s resources and ensure sustainable development for future generations.
Mohammed Rida Nasrullah, a Shoura Council member, said he plans to propose that the government set up a ministry of environment. He said laws are needed to curb people from harming the environment.
He said environmental pollution is causing cancer, kidney failure, respiratory disease, liver damage and other incurable diseases, which is costing the Kingdom lots of money.

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