Separate ministry to safeguard environment urged

Updated 18 April 2013

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.

EXCLUSIVE: Saudi singer-songwriter Tamtam releases music video ahead of historic end to driving ban

Updated 12 min 32 sec ago

EXCLUSIVE: Saudi singer-songwriter Tamtam releases music video ahead of historic end to driving ban

  • Singer-songwriter Tamtam has released a music video to coincide with the day her fellow countrywomen make history
  • In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the LA-based musician said she hopes the song inspires women to see that with patience and perseverance anything can happen. 

JEDDAH: With the long-awaited day when Saudi women can finally drive drawing near, a Saudi singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles has written a song to mark the historic occasion.

Called simply “Drive,” Tamtam’s take on the breakthrough reform covers a range of emotions: Happiness, pride and even surprise.

Millions around the world shared the news that Saudi women would be allowed to drive when it was announced last fall, and with all the preparations taking place, the singer wanted to take part in the best way she could. So she wrote the lyrics to a song that mirrored the exciting events ahead.

Tamtam’s release focuses on the themes of freedom, equality and empowerment that she has explored in her music since the start of her career in 2012.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the LA-based musician said she hopes the song inspires women to see that with patience and perseverance anything can happen. 

“If I had to use one word to describe the feeling, it would be hope. Women in Saudi are ready to have a bigger voice and become more independent.

“This is a huge step forward for all of us. The country is showing us that they know we are ready, and they are here to support us and help launch us forward,” said Tamtam. 

Her song’s lyrics include the words: “We know what we want, we know it’s our time, let go of past perceptions, tomorrow is mine, we got drive” — suggesting that it’s time to look forward and stop looking back at what once was.

The verse mirrors the narrative many Saudis are sharing with the world, empowered by the dramatic changes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accomplishing with Vision 2030 and beyond. 

Tamtam, inspired by the late Michael Jackson, started singing aged 15. She wrote her first single, “Little Girl,” while attending high school in California after her family moved to the US from Riyadh. Her singing and songwriting have been influenced by events around her, always related to current issues with a twist of optimism. 

Whether it’s her strong vocals or hauntingly beautiful voice, Tamtam’s music transcends expectations. This young Saudi is singing and making a name for herself in the City of Angels, and her positive energy is reflected in her music.

As Saudis embrace a host of reforms, Tamtam believes many Westerners are shocked by the news. Yet people forget that Saudi is a relatively young country and more good changes will come, she said. 

“With hope comes more aspirations, dreams, new achievements and positive energy.”

The “Drive” video is uplifting, with playful, artistic imagery, and soulful and empowering vocals. The singer and her friends wear white, representing peace and femininity, and drive a yellow Ford Mustang convertible (Tamtam’s dream car). 

“Whenever I’m in a car, especially if there is traffic or it’s a long drive, I always turn on music to put me in a better mood. Driving is so much more enjoyable with music,” said Tamtam. “I hope that this song will be blasting through car speakers everywhere.” 

So the question is: Will Tamtam get her Saudi license, too?

“Yes, I can’t wait,” is the answer, obviously.