Saudi Arabia loses 120,000 hectares of trees every year

Awareness campaigns highlight the importance of trees. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 21 February 2020

Saudi Arabia loses 120,000 hectares of trees every year

  • The fine for cutting down a tree can reach SR5,000 ($1,333) while the fine for transporting logs is SR10,000

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia loses 120,000 hectares of trees every year through destruction and tree logging.
Trees help stop desertification because they are a stabilizer of soil. In the Arabian Peninsula, land threatened by desertification ranges from 70 to 90 percent. A national afforestation campaign was launched in Saudi Arabia last October, and there is a national plan set to run until this April.
The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture said that although natural vegetation across the country had suffered in the past four decades, modern technologies such as satellites and drones could be used to track down individuals or businesses harming the Kingdom’s vegetation.
“Harsh penalties should be imposed on violators such as the seizure or confiscation of transport and hefty fines,” Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sugair, chairman of the Environmental Green Horizons Society, told Arab News.
These were long-term solutions and they needed coordination with authorities to ensure warehouses and markets did not stock logs or firewood, he said. Another solution was sourcing an alternative product from overseas that was of high quality and at a reasonable price. A third was to provide support to firewood and coal suppliers.
“The general public needs to be more aware of the importance of trees and should have a strong sense of responsibility toward these trees,” Al-Sugair added.
“They should also stop buying firewood in the market. We can also encourage investment in wood production through agricultural holdings as well as implement huge afforestation projects and irrigate them from treated sewage water.”
The fine for cutting down a tree can reach SR5,000 ($1,333) while the fine for transporting logs is SR10,000. These fines could not be implemented as they should be because there were no available staff to monitor and catch violators and, to make matters worse said Al-Sugair, there was a weak level of coordination between authorities.
Most of the Kingdom’s regions have suffered in some way from tree felling, and some places no longer have trees. These violations are rampant in the south and Madinah regions, as well as in Hail and Al-Nafud Desert.
Riyadh is the most active and the largest market for firewood. Many people in Al-Qassim use firewood as do restaurants in some parts of Saudi Arabia.
Omar Al-Nefaee, a microbiology professor at the Ministry of Education in Taif, said the reason behind the widescale destruction of the environment could be attributed to a supply shortage of imported firewood.
“Tree logging causes an environmental disequilibrium,” he told Arab News. “The Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Water has launched an initiative raising public awareness on the issue and is asking people not to use local firewood. Several awareness campaigns have been launched for the same purpose to educate people about the importance of using imported wood instead of the local wood in order to protect the Kingdom’s vegetation.”
Official reports warn that the Kingdom has lost 80 percent of its vegetation and that the drop will have a detrimental effect on its biodiversity, as well as causing great damage to the environment.
The general public should use other heating options during the winter and stop using firewood, Al-Nefaee said.
Some local studies have called for farms that can produce wood from plants that do not consume too much water and do not affect vegetation, while at the same time reducing the pressure on other regions in the Kingdom that are rich in animal resources.
Falih Aljuhani, who runs a business that imports wood from Georgia, encouraged Saudi firms to import wood from the Balkans because it was a competitive market and the trees had low carbon percentages.


Saudi Arabia delays May crude prices until after OPEC+ meeting

Updated 05 April 2020

Saudi Arabia delays May crude prices until after OPEC+ meeting

  • OPEC and allies are due to meet on Thursday to discuss a possible new global crude supply cut

DUBAI: Saudi Aramco will delay the release of its crude official selling prices (OSP) for May until April 10 to wait for the outcome of a meeting between OPEC and its allies regarding possible output cuts, a senior Saudi source familiar with the matter said on Sunday.
"It is an unprecedented measure that has not been taken by Aramco before. May OSPs will depend on how the OPEC+ meeting concludes. We are doing what we can to make it successful, including taking this extraordinary step to delay the OSPs," the Saudi source said.
Saudi Aramco typically issues its OSPs by the 5th of each month, setting the trend for Iranian, Kuwaiti and Iraqi prices and affecting more than 12 million barrels of oil per day bound for Asia.
OPEC and allies are due to meet on Thursday to discuss a possible new global crude supply cut to end a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia which has prompted US President Donald Trump to intervene.
The Saudi source said that Riyadh wants to avoid a repeat of the outcome of a March meeting where oil talks collapsed between OPEC and allies "due to Russia's lack of cooperation with the rest of OPEC+ participants".
Coordinated cuts between OPEC members and others led by Russia expired on March 31 having helped support crude prices since they began in January 2017.
The OPEC+ meeting was initially due for Monday, but was postponed to April 9 "to allow for more time to reach out to all producers including OPEC+ and others," the Saudi source said.