‘We are protecting nature, improving quality of life’: Head of Saudi Arabia’s new environmental security force

‘We are protecting nature, improving quality of life’: Head of Saudi Arabia’s new environmental security force
Brig. Gen. Saher Al-Harbi, head of the Saudi Special Forces for Environmental Security (SFES). (Supplied)
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Updated 27 December 2020

‘We are protecting nature, improving quality of life’: Head of Saudi Arabia’s new environmental security force

‘We are protecting nature, improving quality of life’: Head of Saudi Arabia’s new environmental security force
  • The commander of the Special Forces for Environmental Security gave an exclusive interview to Arab News
  • Brig. Gen. Saher Al-Harbi explained how the SFES is protecting the Kingdom’s environment, wildlife and biodiversity

JEDDAH: In a speech on Nov. 12, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced that the proportion of Saudi Arabia’s protected areas and nature reserves has increased from 4 percent in 2016 to about 14 percent today. The crown prince’s address to the Shoura Council touched on the issue of conservation, the projects that the Kingdom was implementing for environmental protection and the role of the new dedicated unit, the Special Forces for Environmental Security (SFES).

The SFES currently has 1,100 employees, but this number will grow to 10,000 in the course of the next four years to enable it to protect the environment, wildlife and biodiversity across the Kingdom and to enforce laws and regulations in conservation areas.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, SFES Commander Brig. Gen. Saher bin Muhammad Al-Harbi confirmed that the force was already operating in several natural reserves. He made it clear that the SFES’s role is not limited to protecting wildlife and biodiversity, but goes beyond that. It penalizes activities that harm the environment such as illegal poaching and logging; prevents air, water and soil pollution; and prevents activities that could harm the natural ecosystems of mountainous, land and coastal areas.

Q: How many nature reserves fall within the ambit of the SFES?

A: The SFES has been entrusted with the protection of several natural reserves. They are Imam Saud bin Abdul Aziz Royal Reserve, Imam Turki bin Abdullah Royal Reserve, King Abdul Aziz Royal Reserve, King Khalid Royal Reserve, King Salman Royal Reserve and Prince Mohammed bin Salman Royal Reserve. The SFES uses modern technologies and advanced techniques for control, protection and monitoring of the areas where it is operating.

 

 

Q. How is the SFES working to achieve the objective aimed at improving the quality of life, a key objective of the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision strategy?

A. Environmental safety is one of the indicators of sustainable development and an important element of the quality of life as stipulated in the Kingdom’s 2030 Vision. It will contribute to the enforcement of environmental regulations in the Kingdom in order to reduce the pressure of violations that ecological systems are facing, restore their balance, achieve their sustainability and contribute to the improvement of quality of life and establishment of a society where all its members benefit from healthy lifestyles and surroundings that allow them to live in a positive, attractive environment.

The SFES was established to take on comprehensive tasks and responsibilities and enforce environmental regulations in all the protected regions across the Kingdom. Its duties include environmental security monitoring; environmental security investigation; detaining and arresting offenders; seizing objects used for committing offenses and issuing violation tickets; referring violators to competent authorities; and providing security back-up and support.

Its duties also cover receiving and following up on complaints, taking part in environmental emergencies, and participating in environmental awareness-raising efforts in cooperation with relevant bodies. The force also contributes to the development of policies, strategies and plans related to environmental enforcement, again in partnership with the relevant bodies.




The SFES' function includes preventing activities that alter topographical features in conservation areas. (Supplied)

Q. Do you have a role in protecting conservation areas from activities such as alteration of topographical features, leveling of mountains or arbitrary dredging of sand for use in construction?

A. The SFES works for the protection of conservation areas against all harmful influences such as illegal poaching and logging; air, water and soil pollution; and activities that could harm the ecosystems of mountainous, land and coastal areas.

It also works to prevent any tampering with the vegetation in Makkah and Madinah regions, limit the spread of such activities, and enforce regulations against violators, while also cooperating with Public Security and other relevant bodies that have jurisdiction over these areas, to prevent their occurrence.




The SFES’s role is not limited to protecting wildlife and biodiversity but goes beyond that. (Supplied)

Q. The Kingdom’s land area is vast, with diverse terrain that is home to many species. How do you intend to cover a country of this size?

A. As part of its deployment plan, the SFES intends to focus on those parts of the country that hold special significance from an environmental standpoint. It will make use of the latest modern equipment and advanced technologies to cover the vast land area that falls within its scope, including regions that have rough terrain. The SFES cooperates with other security and environmental bodies and benefits from their support in doing its job.

The SFES has responsibility for all the environmentally significant areas of the Kingdom. They include royal reserves, forests, grasslands, parks, coastal stretches, bird sanctuaries, urban areas, suburbs, industrial zones, water resources, roads and their surrounding areas, land-border areas and marine protected areas.




In addition to the SFES, allied groups are also watching over nature reserves such as the Sharaan Nature Reserve near the town of al-Ula in northwestern province of Tabuk (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP)

This means that it covers a geographical area of almost 800,000 square kilometers across the Kingdom through a main center located in Riyadh, six headquarters in the regions and 21 departments in cities and provinces, encompassing all the environmentally significant regions.

Work will also be initiated to establish additional departments in the provinces in a way that ensures that all the environmentally significant regions of the Kingdom are covered. The forces will be deployed geographically in stages over a period of four years.

Q. Poaching, which has led to the extinction to many wildlife species, is a problem in the Kingdom. What are you doing to bring it under control?

A. In its areas of operations, the SFES monitors all hunting activities and areas of importance for birds, arrests poachers, issues violation tickets against them and refers them to the competent authorities for the remaining procedures to be completed. We have noticed a significant decrease in hunting in the areas where the SFES has a presence. Wild animals and birds will hopefully find safe havens, leading to the recovery and flourishing of the Kingdom’s wildlife.




SFES patrols routinely check the cargo of passing motorists to ensure against violations of the Kingdom's environmental laws. (Supplied)

Q. What are the penalties for hunting with firearms? Will new environmental security violation regulations be issued?

A. Those who hunt without a license using any method are arrested and referred to the competent authorities to be meted out punishment in accordance with the relevant regulations, keeping in mind that hunting with firearms is prohibited in any situation.

As for poaching penalties, they consist of a fine of up to SR 50,000 ($13,333) or imprisonment for a period of up to 30 days, along with the confiscation of any vehicles or equipment used to commit the violation.

Regarding protection of wildlife, there exist regulations and penalties for violations, and new regulations will be issued in the near future in accordance with the environmental protection regime stipulated in Royal Decree no. m/165.




Hunting of certain wildlife may be allowed during specific seasons but the use of firearms is forbidden. (Supplied)
 

Q. There are specific hunting seasons, but what are they? How will you prevent hunting beyond these seasons?

A. The specific hunting seasons are identified by the relevant authorities of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, while licenses are issued to those interested in hunting activities in accordance with the regulations.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, represented by the National Center for Wildlife Development, recently announced that hunting will be allowed between Nov. 1, 2020, and Jan. 15, 2021. It will be permitted subject to clear controls and regulations as announced by the ministry, which cover the species that can be hunted, the equipment that can be used, and the areas where hunting can happen.

The SFES will be in charge of arresting all those who violate the regulations. All forms of hunting are prohibited outside these seasons. The SFES will enforce regulations in its areas of operations through environmental security monitoring and investigation.




Part of the SFES' responsibility is to fight illegal logging across the Kingdom. (Supplied)

Q. Environmental awareness is of vital importance. What are your most plans for advancing this objective?

A. Taking part in environmental awareness-raising campaigns in cooperation with the relevant authorities is one of the most important tasks of the SFES.

It uses its media division and communication channels to increase awareness and to educate society on the importance of environmental conservation, community involvement through cooperation with the relevant public and private sectors; and participation in local and international events that promote environmental protection.

We believe that citizens and residents are partners when it comes to raising environmental awareness.

The SFES has developed programs to encourage community participation by partnering with civil society institutions and environmental associations and reaching out to the largest number of people possible. The SFES is also keen to take part in local and international festivals, exhibitions, conferences and activities related to environment and environmental security.

_________________

Twitter: @md_sulami


Saudi Arabia registers 5 COVID-19 deaths, 59 new cases

Saudi Arabia registers 5 COVID-19 deaths, 59 new cases
Updated 27 September 2021

Saudi Arabia registers 5 COVID-19 deaths, 59 new cases

Saudi Arabia registers 5 COVID-19 deaths, 59 new cases
  • The Kingdom says 78 patients had recovered from the virus in the past 24 hours
  • Over 41.7 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered to date across KSA

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia confirmed five new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the total number of fatalities to 8,704.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 59 new cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 546,985 people have now contracted the disease. Of the total number of cases, 244 remain in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh and Jeddah with 10 cases each, followed by Hafar Al-Batin with four, and Madinah and Makkah confirmed three cases each.
The health ministry also announced that 78 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 536,028.


Over 41.7 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date through 587 centers.
The ministry renewed its call on the public to register with the Sehhaty app to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs reopened one mosque after temporarily evacuating and sterilizing it in Al-Jawf after one person tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of mosques closed and reopened after being sterilized to 2,031 within 230 days.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 232 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 4.76 million.


Ambitious plans unveiled for luxury new Saudi mountain resort

Ambitious plans unveiled for luxury new Saudi mountain resort
Updated 27 September 2021

Ambitious plans unveiled for luxury new Saudi mountain resort

Ambitious plans unveiled for luxury new Saudi mountain resort
  • Oppenheim Architecture has created 48 villas and 12 hotel rooms for the site designed to protect and preserve the environment and highlight the region’s cultural heritage

JEDDAH: Ambitious plans have been unveiled for a new resort in the Saudi mountains designed to blend modern architecture into the natural landscape.

The Red Sea Development Co. project, one of the Kingdom’s most ambitious regenerative tourism schemes to date, will see luxury accommodation built into rocky outcrops commanding stunning valley views.

Developers behind the Desert Rock resort adopted a design philosophy of building with the land, not on the land.

John Pagano, chief executive officer at TRSDC, said: “We wanted to create a destination that allows guests to experience Saudi Arabia’s untouched beauty. Desert Rock will provide guests with uninterrupted spectacular views while preserving the natural landscape for future generations to enjoy.”

Oppenheim Architecture has created 48 villas and 12 hotel rooms for the site designed to protect and preserve the environment and highlight the region’s cultural heritage.

“We have drawn inspiration from the surrounding environment, while providing unparalleled luxury, allowing guests to connect with nature and create memorable experiences,” added Pagano.

Materials excavated from the site will be used to create the infrastructure, with stone going into interior and exterior walls and floors, and sand and gravel being used for concrete aggregate.

Construction began in July, and the resort has been designed to reduce energy consumption and regenerate native flora. Water retention and distribution systems will be used throughout the site, with harvested rainwater creating a more green, flourishing wadi. The first hotel guests are due to check in at the end of next year.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the Red Sea Project in July 2017. Elements of the first phase of the flagship scheme are set to open in 2022. Upon full completion in 2030, the project will comprise 50 hotels offering up to 8,000 rooms and 1,300 residential properties across 22 islands and six inland sites.

The destination will also include luxury marinas, golf courses, entertainment and leisure facilities, and an international airport.


Biden’s national security adviser Sullivan travels to Saudi Arabia, UAE

Biden’s national security adviser Sullivan travels to Saudi Arabia, UAE
Updated 27 September 2021

Biden’s national security adviser Sullivan travels to Saudi Arabia, UAE

Biden’s national security adviser Sullivan travels to Saudi Arabia, UAE

RIYADH: US President Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is traveling to Saudi Arabia on Monday to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the Associated Press. 

Sullivan will also visit the United Arab Emirates as part of his regional trip. 

 

 


Riyadh Season 2021 coming to a desert near you

Riyadh Season 2021 coming to a desert near you
Updated 27 September 2021

Riyadh Season 2021 coming to a desert near you

Riyadh Season 2021 coming to a desert near you
  • The Riyadh Season is expected to provide a mixture of exclusivity and modernity, turning the Saudi capital into a preferred destination for visitors

JEDDAH: Under the slogan #Imagine_more, Riyadh Season 2021 begins in less than a month and offers events and activities for all.

Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the board of directors of the General Entertainment Authority, on Saturday announced the launch of the 2021 Riyadh Season on Oct. 20. It will cover an area of 5.4 million square meters across 14 districts in the capital city.

Al-Sheikh said that after the success of Riyadh Season 2019, this year’s events would be organized by Saudi teams.

The season will host 7,500 events, including 70 Arab concerts, six international concerts, 10 international exhibitions, 350 theater performances, 18 Arab plays and six international plays, in addition to one free-wrestling championship, two international matches, 100 interactive experiences, 200 restaurants and 70 cafes, all catering to a range of tastes and age groups.

Nour Fahed, who visited Riyadh’s last season in 2019, told Arab News how excited she was to be attending this year’s events. “I went to the Riyadh Season twice and I was overwhelmed with the things that I saw,” she said. “I could not believe my eyes and I was proud that my country is making international events like this.” 

Hams Nabeel, who went to Riyadh for a business trip during the season, said: “I tried some of the exotic pop-up restaurants in the season, but my favorite activity was going to the Winter Wonderland theme park. I liked how I saw and met so many foreigners and I am aiming for another adventure this year.”

Another guest, Majid Al Assiri, said that he made the most of the activities on offer during the last Riyadh Season, visiting Winter Wonderland, the boulevard, Diriyah festivals, MDLBEAST. “It will be a fantastic season, especially now that people already have an idea of what to expect from last season,” he said.

“Not to mention the second season of MDLBEAST: 2019 was a blast, it was cold because but the experience itself is unique and the first of its kind,” Assiri said. 

The Riyadh Season is expected to provide a mixture of exclusivity and modernity, turning the Saudi capital into a preferred destination for visitors. It will also contribute to achieving national goals such as raising the level of the entertainment-sector industry, creating job opportunities, growing economic returns and attracting foreign investment.

More details will be announced at a press conference on Oct. 4.

Decoder

RIYADH SEASON

Riyadh Season is the biggest part of Saudi Seasons, a series of themed entertainment, artistic, sporting and cultural events held throughout the Kingdom to boost tourism and business opportunities, and providing jobs for Saudi nationals. Riyadh Season 2021 alone will host 7,500 events, according to the Saudi General Entertainment Authority (GEA).


Who’s Who: Loay Mashabi, deputy minister at Saudi Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services

Who’s Who: Loay Mashabi, deputy minister at Saudi Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services
Updated 27 September 2021

Who’s Who: Loay Mashabi, deputy minister at Saudi Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services

Who’s Who: Loay Mashabi, deputy minister at Saudi Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services

Loay Mashabi has been the deputy minister for logistic services at the Ministry of Transport and Logistic Services since April 2021.

He has also been a board member of Saudia Cargo from August 2021 and a board member of Saudi Exports from June 2021.

Prior to his current position, Mashabi was the deputy governor for planning and development at Saudi Customs from September 2019 to March 2021.

He served as the chief operating officer of the Al-Soudah Development project, later known as Al-Soudah Development Co., at the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, from February 2019 to August 2019.

From January 2017 to December 2018 Mashabi was general manager at LogiPoint Services, previously known as Isnad, the operator of the largest bonded and re-export zone in Saudi Arabia located at Jeddah Islamic Port.

From September of 2013 to December 2016, he worked as general manager at Petroleum and Energy Logistics and Services Co.

His professional career began in September 2006 at Saudi Aramco as a petroleum production engineer, and he continued to work as a senior production engineer at the oil giant until April 2013. This strong foundation in a well-governed giga-company helped to shape his career and he later moved to PETROGISTIX.

Mashabi received his master’s degree in business administration from the London Business School, a constituent college of the University of London, UK (2016-17).

He has a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Saudi Arabia (2002-2006).

Mashabi was issued a petroleum engineering certification from the Society of Petroleum Engineers in December 2012.