Ministers launch new and enhanced Hajj and Umrah services

Bentin highlighted the smart Hajj platform, which offers a range of advanced and enhanced services to help pilgrims. (SPA)
Updated 07 August 2019
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Ministers launch new and enhanced Hajj and Umrah services

  • Hajj Bank cards, meanwhile, will be issued by a local bank, allowing pilgrims to deposit money when they arrive in Saudi Arabia

MAKKAH: Saudi authorities on Tuesday launched a number of initiatives and enhanced services designed to improve and enrich the experiences of Hajj pilgrims.

Eight projects were unveiled by Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Salih Bentin and his deputy, Dr. Abdul Fattah Mashat. They include: a smart Hajj platform; a service-supervision initiative to improve housing by adding additional living space and organizing bus trips; a pilgrims grouping program that uses an electronic system to manage and monitor crowds; a project to increase capacity as part of which a site in Mina has been cleared to house fully equipped tents; and an initiative to improve food services and expand the provision of ready meals at holy sites.

In addition, a “Be an Assistant” initiative encourages people to volunteer to help pilgrims, while an electronic system has been developed to measure the readiness of holy sites to welcome and serve visitors. Finally, a “pilgrimage without a bag” program will make life easier for pilgrims by transporting their luggage from their accommodation to the Hajj terminal at King Abdul Aziz International Airport.

Bentin said that under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia is undergoing great advances in many fields as part of the Vision 2030 national transformation plan, and that the ministry of Hajj and Umrah is contributing through the launch of its new projects and initiatives.

He highlighted the smart Hajj platform, which offers a range of advanced and enhanced services to help pilgrims, including an online electronic visa-application process that removes the need to visit an embassy. The platform also includes a “Smart Hajj” card that holds a pilgrim’s personal, medical and housing information, and can be quickly and easily read using electronic scanners. The card also uses near-field communication to provide assistance to pilgrims who are lost and control entry and exit to Hajj tents.

Hajj Bank cards, meanwhile, will be issued by a local bank, allowing pilgrims to deposit money when they arrive in the Kingdom. It will be accepted by all local traders, and help prevent money being lost or stolen.

In a first at the holy sites, Internet of Things technology has been implemented. It consists of six transmitting stations and 350 sensors places throughout Mina and at the Jamrat bridge. This network will gather and analyze data about overcrowding and the movement of pilgrims. Crowds and movement will also be monitored by a network of high-definition cameras. They data that is collected by these systems will be analyzed at a dedicated monitoring center.


Clean sweep: Marine waste targeted in Red Sea tourism program

The program for eliminating marine debris will play an important material and moral role with the support of the residents of areas surrounding the seafront. (SPA)
Updated 22 September 2019

Clean sweep: Marine waste targeted in Red Sea tourism program

  • Debris major cause of death for marine life
  • Disintegration of plastic waste threaten human food resources

JEDDAH: A beach cleanup program targeting marine waste has been launched by the Red Sea Development Co. (TRSDC), the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The firm, which is behind the development of a luxury seafront tourism destination in Saudi Arabia, is already developing a range of environment-friendly policies such as zero-waste-to-landfill, zero-discharge-to-the-sea, zero-single-use plastics, and achieving 100 percent carbon neutrality. On Saturday it launched the Marine Debris Beach Clean Up Program as part of the Red Sea Project. “Eliminating marine debris is receiving increasing attention from the media that it has become a global cause, urging us to participate in protecting our virgin environment for which our seafront is known,” said TRSDC CEO John Pagano.
“The program for eliminating marine debris will play an important material and moral role with the support of the residents of areas surrounding the seafront. It will also shed light on the importance of reducing the use of nonrecyclable plastics, in addition to encouraging the disposing of these substances in a safe and sustainable manner.”
The TRSDC will continue to explore ways for recycled materials to be a source of employment opportunities for the area’s residents, he added. 
TRSDC is an official partner of the United Nations’ initiative to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the cleanup program will initially support two SDGs: Life Below Water and Life on Land. It will expand to support other SDGs, including Responsible Consumption and Production, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Decent Work and the Growth of the Economy, Ending Poverty, and Quality Education.

HIGHLIGHTS

• TRSDC is an official partner of the United Nations’ initiative to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the cleanup program will initially support two SDGs: Life Below Water and Life on Land.

• It will expand to support other SDGs, including Responsible Consumption and Production, Sustainable Cities and Communities, Decent Work and the Growth of the Economy, Ending Poverty, and Quality Education.

• Institutions or individuals wishing to take part in the beach cleanup program can find more details here: www.act4sdgs.org/partner/TheRedSeaProject

Dr. Rusty Brainard, chief environment officer at TRSDC, said: “Marine debris causes significant damage to the environment and is a major cause of death for many marine organism species, which may ingest these substances. Moreover, the disintegration of plastic waste into small pieces that penetrate into the food web base may also threaten human food resources. Our program for eliminating marine litter is a long-term project that includes ongoing monitoring of environmental health, as well as periodic intervention to clean up any waste in the Red Sea Project.”
TRSDC has teamed up with leading academic institutions in the Kingdom, such as King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the University of Tabuk, on a number of educational initiatives, added Brainard.
The partnership between TRSDC and KAUST has led to an international competition — “Brains for Brine” — that encourages academics, scientists, engineers and the water industry to find solutions for managing the disposal of brine, which is a waste product of water desalination, in a sustainable and commercially viable way.
KAUST has also helped TRSDC with marine spatial planning for the Red Sea Project.
As part of the planning process, major environmental studies were carried out to ensure that the area’s sensitive ecology was protected both during and after completion of the development.
The final master plan, which preserves around 75 percent of the destination’s islands for conservation and designates nine islands as sites of significant ecological value, required several redesigns to avoid potential disruption to endangered species native to the area.
Institutions or individuals wishing to take part in the beach clean-up program can find more details here: www.act4sdgs.org/partner/TheRedSeaProject