Saudi forests dwindling at alarming rate

Updated 21 March 2014
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Saudi forests dwindling at alarming rate

Forests in Saudi Arabia cover only 1.3 percent of the country’s total area. Unfortunately, the forests in Saudi Arabia are dwindling and witnessing degradation at an alarming rate, according to an environmental advocate at King Saud University (KSU).
Prof. Mirza Baig, a Canadian professor, made his observation on the occasion of the International Day of Forest (IDF) celebrated globally every March 21, by the decision of the United Nations General Assembly uniting the two international commemorations; the World Forestry Day and Forest Day.
Baig, at KSU’s Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Society told Arab News that Saudi Arabia’s forest degradation is because of the natural factors and anthropogenic features like very low and variable rainfall, high temperatures, low humidity, lack of rivers and scarcity of underground water.
“All these factors hamper the natural growth of forests making tree planting programs very expensive,” he noted adding, “The excessive cutting of trees, overgrazing, deforestation, deterioration of natural pastures and expansion of agricultural lands are considered among the main challenges for sustainable development of the forests in Saudi Arabia.
According to him, several projects were initiated with the objective to grow more trees, re-plant forests and to realize more wood from the existing forests in the Kingdom. However such initiatives would not be successful without the involvement of the native people. He added that several studies conducted by Dr. Faisal Sultan Al-Subaiee, vice dean at the KSU, revealed that Saudis have a lot of appreciation and liking for forests attaching great importance to them.
“They seem more than willing to assist the Kingdom and participate in the initiatives aimed at managing and protecting the forests to keep them productive and protected for their future generations,” he said.
The series of studies conducted in the last decade by Dr. Al-Subaiee further revealed that regardless of the economic and literary status of Saudis, they were quite eager to be a part of the initiatives that could protect their natural heritage and the precious natural resource.
“Surprisingly, people living near the forests were quite aware of the potential environmental, ecological and economic benefits of the forests. They were eager to learn more scientific and technical advanced techniques needed for the better management of the forests from all the stake-holders,” the study said.
The professor continued, “World forestry day celebrations provide an opportunity to all the stake-holders to learn more from each other about the potential benefits of the forests toward maintaining people’s well-being.”
Appreciating the initiative taken by the UN, Saudi Arabia facilitates the implementation of the International Day in collaboration with FAO, collaborative partnerships on forests and international and regional organizations, as well as relevant stakeholders, including civil society.
Around 1.6 billion people — including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures — make their living from forests, which covers roughly one-third of the earth’s land mass.


Huge expectations from Saudi crown prince’s Korea visit

Updated 10 min 29 sec ago
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Huge expectations from Saudi crown prince’s Korea visit

  • The export of South Korea’s APR-1400 nuclear reactor technology to Saudi Arabia is high on the agenda

SEOUL: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is due to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday to discuss wider economic ties between the two countries, according to the presidential office.
The crown prince’s visit to South Korea is the first by an heir to the throne of the world’s largest oil exporter since then-Crown Prince Abdullah’s tour in 1998. The crown prince will also attend the G20 Summit next week in Osaka, Japan.
The two-day visit is expected to deliver key agreements with South Korea in a variety of industrial fields, including cooperation on nuclear reactor and defense technologies.
“Saudi Arabia, a key ally of South Korea, is the biggest oil supplier to our government and the largest economic partner among the Middle Eastern countries,” presidential spokeswoman Koh Min-jung told reporters.
“Both leaders are expected to discuss detailed measures to expand bilateral cooperation beyond the traditional areas of construction and energy to the sectors of information and technology, nuclear energy, green cars, health, public service and exchange of human resources.”
The crown prince and his economic advisers are scheduled to have luncheon with South Korean business leaders after his summit with President Moon, she said.
Business leaders attending the luncheon will include Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics; Chung Eui-sun, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor Group; Chey Tae-won, chairman of SK Group, and Koo Kwang-mo, chairman of LG Group.
A Samsung spokesman, who declined to be named, told Arab News that his company has a package of business proposals to present to Saudi Arabia.
“We’re not sure at the moment what business elements the Kingdom wants, but we have a variety of business packages that can meet the Saudi Vision 2030 requirements, ranging from engineering, procurement and construction to information and communications technology, and artificial intelligence,” the spokesman said.
Hyundai Motor Group was cautious about revealing potential business projects with Riyadh.
“We’ll see what’s happening. We have high expectations about potential business cooperation with Saudi Arabia,” a Hyundai Motor spokesman said, while asking not to be named.
The export of South Korea’s APR-1400 nuclear reactor technology to Saudi Arabia is high on the agenda.
Team Korea, led by the Korea Electric Power Corp., was shortlisted last year for a nuclear power plant construction project in Saudi Arabia, along with the US, China, France and Russia. The project by the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy is aimed at building two nuclear power plants by 2030.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Different South Korean companies are reportedly keen to invest in Saudi Arabia and become part of Vision 2030’s success.

• The Saudi leader is also expected to attend a ceremony celebrating the completion of Saudi-owned S-Oil’s residue upgrading facility.

• Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will also attend the G20 Summit next week in Osaka, Japan.

With Riyadh reportedly leaning toward the US bidder, Team Korea is considering forming a strategic consortium with the US side, according to government sources.
“The possibility of the Korea-US consortium for the Saudi project is a feasible option,” said Huh Min-ho, a researcher of Shinhan Invest Corp., referring to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of the technical design of South Korea’s APR-1400 reactors.
“For South Korea, joining hands with the US is a feasible option to win the Saudi nuclear reactor contract, though the total order amount would be reduced,” the analyst said. “Once the Saudi project is won, more orders are expected to come from other countries such as the UK, the Czech Republic and Poland.”
South Korea already has a nuclear power footprint in in the Middle East after its construction of the Barakah nuclear power plant in the UAE. The country recently won a five-year maintenance deal for the nuclear plant with Nawah Energy Co., the operator of the plant.
The Saudi crown prince is also interested in South Korea’s weapons development technology, according to defense sources, and is scheduled to visit the Agency for Defense Development, South Korea’s only weapons developing agency, during his stay.
“We heard the crown prince is interested in the transfer of weapons technology when his country imports foreign weapons systems,” a Defense Ministry official told Arab News.
The Saudi leader is also expected to attend a ceremony celebrating the completion of Saudi-owned S-Oil’s residue upgrading facility. S-Oil, which is wholly owned by state-run Saudi Aramco, is third-largest oil refiner in South Korea.