Mayssam Tamim, who is also a Saudi representative for the UN Development Program (UNDP), said women are marginalized in the Gulf region at the moment, which should not be the case when it comes to precious resources.
“A woman may get up in the morning and walk many miles to collect water for her family. She has as much right to decide how water is managed as a man,” she said.
Tamim was speaking at a session on the sustainable management of water, agriculture and sanitation at the Gulf Environment Forum in Jeddah.
She said the UN is keen to see a shift toward a decentralization of water management in the region, empowering local communities.
Tamim added that the UNDP was also focused on helping the Gulf manage risks such as floods and droughts as well protecting the environment.
Less than two percent of the world’s water is usable despite a six billion strong population, according to Dr. Khalil Atasi of consultancy firm CDM.
He quoted verse 30 of the Qur’an, “We made from water every living thing,” suggesting that reusing water was the way forward instead of the desalination methods currently employed in the Kingdom and other Gulf countries.
One company looking to carve a niche for itself in water treatment and recycling in the Arab world is environmental management company GEMS-UtilEco, which already has 14 waste treatment centers in the Kingdom.
The company was represented by its CEO Amyn Dahya, who said the Kingdom and the Gulf should focus on recovering the maximum amount of resources using as little energy as possible.
His brother Hanif, who is also chairman of GEMS, said the Kingdom has shown great initiative in improving its environmental credentials.
“We are conscious of the fact that Saudi Arabia has taken very strong steps in the regulation and legislation of this waste. We are actually very impressed with the way the regulatory bodies today are operating in the Kingdom, where all the loopholes are getting tightened.”
He added that environmental-related businesses had a great opportunity to expand within the Kingdom and the Gulf.
“I think you’re going to see renewable energy come in, despite the fact there is very cheap oil. [We] are looking at solar energy projects in the Kingdom. We feel it has potential.”