In Morocco, a blue tourist town is turning green
In Morocco, a blue tourist town is turning green
Chefchaouen — known locally as Chaouen — wants to become a model for sustainable development at a time when the northwest African kingdom has shone a spotlight onto its commitment to the environment and a greener future.
Take Aziz, a local council employee in his forties. He whizzes silently around town on an electric bicycle doing his job as an inspector of building sites. “It’s a practical and eco-friendly way of getting around!” he said.
“It respects the environment and allows us to get around easily without using polluting modes of transport,” Aziz says, wearing a fluorescent safety vest and with a helmet firmly on his head.
Mohamed Sefiani, mayor of the town of some 45,000 residents where visitors come to admire hundreds of hues of blue, said Chefchaouen began to go green more than seven years ago.
“In April 2010, the municipal council took a unanimous decision aimed at transforming Chaouen into an ecologically sustainable town,” he said.
Local political commitment to the project is strong, the mayor said, but much still needs to be done. “Chefchaouen isn’t an ecological town yet, but it certainly has the will to become one,” said a smiling Sefiani. “We are in a transition phase. At a Moroccan and African level, we’re among the most advanced towns in this respect.”
A newly inaugurated municipal swimming pool equipped with solar energy is near an “ecology center” built from recycled containers where the town’s green projects, funded mainly by the EU and backed by several NGOs, are highlighted.
France’s GERES — Group for the Environment, Renewable Energy and Solidarity — was asked to help transform Chefchaouen.
“It was at the town’s request that we came here to support its energy and climatic transition,” said the NGO’s Virginie Guy, who is coordinating the project.
Among the initiatives is an “info-energy” center to raise awareness about energy savings, photovoltaic panels at several sites, such as the municipal library, that contribute to electricity production, and an environmentally oriented museum is also nearly complete.
The info-energy center’s Houda Hadji explains the basics of eco-construction, energy efficiency and the benefits of energy-saving light bulbs, among other green topics.
“There’s very strong interest” from visitors to the center, said the young guide, her hair concealed under an elegant veil. “This is the first initiative in Morocco working on energy upgrading in buildings, and providing information about savings, targeting both businesses and individuals,” she added.
Chefchaouen is one of 12 southern Mediterranean locations to benefit from a European program that has granted it around 10 million dirhams ($1 million) and declared the town “a model and initiator of change in sustainable energy management.”
But not everything is green yet in the little blue town.
“The public dump is not yet up to standard,” Mayor Sefiani conceded.
“We’re working on a landfill and recovery center, and I think that by 2021, we will have ironed out all the problems.”
With “green” mosques, solar and wind farms, electric buses and a ban on plastic bags, Morocco has been forging ahead with environment-friendly policies over the past few years.
It regularly trumpets its proactive strategy in terms of green energy, instigated by King Mohammed VI.
Late last year, in the southern city of Marrakesh, the country hosted the COP22 international climate conference, and has begun an ambitious plan to develop renewable energy.
In a country devoid of hydrocarbon resources, the aim is to increase the share of renewable energies nationally to 52 percent by 2030 (20 percent solar, 20 percent wind, 12 percent hydro).
A massive flagship project was inaugurated by the king in February last year. The Noor solar power plant is on the edge of the Sahara desert, some 20 km outside Ouarzazate.
Spread over an area equivalent to more than 600 football pitches, the plant’s half a million metal mirrors follow the sun as it moves across the sky and store the energy collected from its rays.
Despite pushing its green credentials, Morocco still has many environmental hurdles to clear on its way to cleaner horizons.
A recent World Bank report covered by Moroccan media spoke of “alarming” peaks of atmospheric pollution in the country’s major cities.
And a number of eco projects announced to great fanfare during the 2016 COP22 conference remain just that — announcements.
Turkey, Russia discussing Idlib airspace control: Sources
- Turkey has set up observation posts in Idlib in a bid to prevent clashes between rebels and government forces
- After a meeting on Sept. 17 between Putin and Erdogan, agreed to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15
ANKARA: The partial transfer of control of the airspace over the de-escalation zone in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib from Moscow to Ankara is being discussed by the two sides, Russian sources said.
The aim is to enable Turkey to conduct an aerial campaign against Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which Ankara recently designated a terrorist organization.
A former Al-Qaeda affiliate, HTS is the strongest armed group in Idlib, the last stronghold of Syrian anti-government rebels.
In February, HTS claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian warplane in Idlib using a surface-to-air missile.
Russia, Turkey and Iran are monitoring the de-escalation zone in the province as part of a trilateral agreement.
Turkey has set up observation posts in Idlib in a bid to prevent clashes between rebels and government forces.
“Discussions are ongoing about the details of this transfer (of airspace control). I guess it will be limited to the buffer zone in Idlib for now,” Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, told Arab News.
“If Russia is taking steps to allow Turkey to use Idlib’s airspace, it will give Turkey more room for maneuver in the region.”
But airstrikes by Ankara against HTS might create another refugee influx into Turkey, which already hosts more than 3 million Syrian refugees, Barmin said.
Idlib is home to more than 1 million displaced Syrians, and its population exceeds 3 million. Turkey is concerned that the creation of a humanitarian crisis near its border would further swell its own refugee population.
After a meeting on Sept. 17 between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the two countries agreed to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15.
The deal requires that all radical groups, including HTS, withdraw from the area and that all heavy weapons be removed.
Russian and Turkish troops will conduct coordinated patrols to ensure that all armed groups respect the deal.
Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst at Marmara University in Istanbul, said a transfer of airspace control would mean that Ankara and Moscow are determined to implement their latest agreement regarding Idlib.
“Until now, Idlib’s airspace has been fully controlled by Russia, which weakened Turkey’s hand in trying to convince rebel groups in the region to abandon their arms,” he told Arab News.
Transferring airspace control “would give Ankara additional diplomatic leverage in its dealings with HTS,” he said.
“If Ankara fails to persuade HTS to comply with the Putin-Erdogan deal regarding Idlib, it’s almost certain that Russia and Syrian government forces will start a military operation in the region.”
So Turkey is sending a message to HTS that if carrots do not work, it has some sticks at its disposal, Ersen said.