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.


Makkah all set for its first flower festival

Sea of flowers at Muzdalifah district in Makkah. (AN Photo by Abdulmohsen Doman)
Updated 3 min 7 sec ago
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Makkah all set for its first flower festival

  • A symposium on environmental planning, and the design of green spaces such as parks, gardens and squares will also be held
  • The flower festival continues until March 23

MAKKAH: A carpet of flowers featuring 1 million blooms will be one of the main attractions as Makkah hosts its first flower festival.

The event, which begins on Tuesday at Muzdalifah, has been organized by the city’s municipality in cooperation with the Arab Urban Development Institute and King Saud University. It will be officially opened by Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal.

Raed Samarqandi, the director of the municipality’s department of media and publications, said that the festival is unique and has serious objectives.

“It aims to improve the environment, fight pollution and show an image that suits the value of the city and its holy sites,” he explained. “The festival will coincide with the 20th symposium on afforestation, titled “Suitable afforestation for the environmental conditions of Makkah — the central region and holy sites,” on March 19 and 20.

The symposium will feature representatives of governmental sectors and scientific bodies and include discussion of papers addressing many the issues in the city, such as the state of afforestation in Makkah, the latest techniques in environmental planning, and the design of green spaces such as parks, gardens and squares.

Makkah Mayor Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Quwaihes has invited speakers from the private sector, universities, research centers, and agricultural and afforestation companies to contribute and help raise awareness of these local issues.

The flower festival continues until March 23.