Turks defend nature against Erdogan’s development push

Turks defend nature against Erdogan’s development push
A quarry at Ikizdere in the Rize Province in the Black Sea region. A government-friendly company plans to extract 20 million tons of stone for one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's latest development projects. (AFP)
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Updated 24 June 2021

Turks defend nature against Erdogan’s development push

Turks defend nature against Erdogan’s development push
  • Up to four million trees were chopped during the construction of Istanbul’s third major bridge, activists say
  • Critics argue that Turkey is sacrificing the environment as it develops

IZIKDERE: Lush, thick woodland and green tea fields coat the slopes of an idyllic valley, a slice of pastoral heaven near the Turkish president’s familial home that will soon be gone.
A government-friendly company plans to extract 20 million tons of stone from a quarry in the northeastern town of Ikizdere for one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest development projects.
The locals are rising up in protest, challenging the government and its priorities in a region dear to the powerful Turkish leader’s heart.
Under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power since 2002, Turkey has seen rapid modernization, with new airports, roads and bridges.
The AKP says robust infrastructure will help transform the nation of 84 million people — still considered an emerging market — from a regional player into a global force.
Critics argue that Turkey is sacrificing the environment as it develops, with forests among natural resources destroyed by companies close to Erdogan for profit.
Residents of Gurdere village in Rize province, the Black Sea home of Erdogan’s family, have protested against the planned quarry in Iskencedere valley since late April.
But in a country where dissent is poorly tolerated, the Rize governor issued two 15-day bans on protests in May and June, after standoffs between security forces and older women in headscarves.
Residents say their livelihoods and nature will be demolished by the quarry, which the company, Cengiz Holding, and Ankara say is needed for a new logistics port nearby.
The gushing sound of freshwater streams reverberate around the valley, a rarity in a country pushing ahead with urbanization at great speed.
Organic tea grows in abundance. Brown bears roam the forests, and villagers produce chestnut honey.
One of those picking tea was Pervin Bas, who was among several detained during the protests.
“We have honey, we have tea, we feed our animals with these forests,” Bas, 50, said after spending the morning picking tea leaves.
“I used to feed my animals there, and now they are stuck in the barn. They’ve even punished my animals,” she said.
Gungor Bas, a relative of Pervin, said he felt pained by the destruction wrought on the place where he spent his childhood.
“Dust coats our houses,” the 58-year-old said.
There are two legal cases against the quarry, lawyer Yakup Okumusoglu said.
Cengiz wants this quarry because it is conveniently close to the planned Iyidere logistics port, he said. But the company told AFP the site was chosen by the transport ministry.
“You say there’s stone below, but above there’s life, a life of so much more value. This belongs to everyone,” villager Asuman Fazlioglu, 60, said.
Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu last month said “marginal groups” and “outsiders” sought to exploit the protests and that villagers actually backed the quarry.
Erdogan inaugurates hospitals and dams with bombastic speeches appealing to his base craving a stronger Turkey.
The opposition says the tenders given to companies are a way to keep Erdogan’s friends in construction happy rather than serving a real infrastructure need.
Cengiz Holding was among the top 10 contractors worldwide with the most public-private partnership projects between 1990 and 2018, according to the World Bank.
“This government prioritizes money over the environment,” said Ali Oztunc, a main opposition party vice chair responsible for environmental issues.
“They love the green of the dollar more than the green of the trees,” Oztunc said.
Experts say a focus on growth alone can be misguided.
“We cannot call it development when there is no value given to nature, earth, air, water,” said Chamber of Environmental Engineers (CMO) chair Ahmet Dursun Kahraman.
“Development is a yarn. We keep saying we’re developing since the Ottoman Empire. It’s 2021 and we’re still apparently going to develop,” Okumusoglu quipped.
Erdogan proudly points out that Turkey now has 56 airports, up from 26 when he came to power.
One of the airports due to open later this year is in Rize, which was built with stone from another quarry hit by protests four years ago.
Its once-green valley is now covered in black and grey.
The gaping wound is a sore point for some villagers, who say there are daily dynamite explosions while trucks kick up dust as they come and go.
“This was a green area. We had different kinds of trees. Animals lived here, birds lived here. There were gazelles, deers. They’ve all gone,” Mahir Karaca said.
The 42-year-old villager said he was not against having an airport.
“As long as it provides a service, as long as it’s good for the country, no one is against this,” he said.
But in Ikizdere, they remained defiant.
“We haven’t lost,” said Zeynep Bas, 43, who is related to Gungor and Pervin.
For environmentalists, deforestation is a major worry.
Up to four million trees were chopped during the construction of Istanbul’s third major bridge, activists say, while others claim up to 13 million were cut for Istanbul’s newest airport, which opened in 2018.
“The future of forests is now at risk,” said Foresters’ Association vice president Husrev Ozkara. “It’s not just about cutting one tree, what is actually damaged is the forest’s ecosystem.”
Cengiz promised that once the stone was extracted, it would ensure vegetation and trees would be planted to “restore the natural life.”
The CMO’s Kahraman dismissed this as “baseless.”
“It’s deception. You’re going to take rock from there, how will you then plant a tree?” Kahraman asked, adding that the quarry’s impact would be felt across generations.
“This is how we should look at such actions and projects. What are you leaving behind?“


UAE to build waste-to-energy plants to burn two thirds of trash

UAE to build waste-to-energy plants to burn two thirds of trash
Updated 30 July 2021

UAE to build waste-to-energy plants to burn two thirds of trash

UAE to build waste-to-energy plants to burn two thirds of trash
  • Dubai is building a $1.1 billion waste-to-energy plant
  • Sharjah, Abu Dhabi also constructing facilities

RIYADH: The UAE plans to build a series of waste incinerators that will eventually burn up to two thirds of the country’s trash to deal with a growing refuse problem.

Dubai is constructing a $1.1 billion waste-to-energy facility, one of the largest in the world, while a smaller plant in being built in Sharjah and will begin operation this year, Bloomberg reported. Two further projects are being built in Abu Dhabi.

Burning trash creates carbon emissions, potentially making it harder for the UAE to reach its target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

However, Bee’ah, Sharjah’s waste company, will try to mitigate this by creating green spaces, install a 120-MW solar array on top of the plant and produce hydrogen from the garbage to fuel its rubbish trucks. Sharjah will also be able to close its landfill site.

Bee’ah CEO Khaled Al Huraimel said he wants to export the model across the region, including Saudi Arabia.

While environmentalist favor recycling over burning of trash, turning plastics and other waste into usable products is extremely challenging.

China’s recent ban on the importation of waste “has really changed the economic drivers,” said Mr.John Ord, a UK business director at engineering firm Stantec. “All of a sudden, we have a lot of waste that needs to be dealt with.”


Bitcoin tests the $40k resistance level

Bitcoin tests the $40k resistance level
Updated 30 July 2021

Bitcoin tests the $40k resistance level

Bitcoin tests the $40k resistance level

RIYADH: Bitcoin traded higher on Thursday, rising by 0.03 percent to $39,670.54 at 4:02 p.m. Riyadh time. Ether, the second-most traded global cryptocurrency, was up 0.44 percent to $2,291.72.05, according to data from CoinDesk.

Below is the latest news from the world of cryptocurrency:

Bitcoin buyers have been profitable, as the cryptocurrency tests the $40,000 resistance level. Sentiment has improved significantly over the past week, although some analysts believe it is time to pause before rallying again.

In a CoinDesk report, Justin Chuh, a senior trader at Wave Financial, said: “Bitcoin easily broke through $35,000, but I think it will probably have a harder time going through $40,000 this time.”

But attitudes could easily shift from bullish to bearish as bitcoin was still in a consolidation phase with strong resistance, the report added.

HIGHLIGHT

Bitcoin buyers have been profitable, as the cryptocurrency tests the $40,000 resistance level. Sentiment has improved significantly over the past week, although some analysts believe it is time to pause before rallying again.

Meanwhile, in a research paper published on Wednesday, Bank of America described central bank digital currencies as a more efficient payment system than cash. The second-largest bank in the US by total assets, said that digital central bank currencies could completely replace cash in the distant future.

A report released in May by blockchain infrastructure platform Bison Trails found that around 80 percent of central banks were exploring using digital currencies, with CoinDesk reporting that 40 percent were already testing proof-of-concept programs.

London-based Fabric Ventures has closed a $130 million fund to invest in early stage blockchain companies. One of its supporters is the European Investment Fund, which provided $30 million, marking the first time a European Commission company had invested in a fund focused on digital assets, said CoinDesk.

Stock and cryptocurrency trading app Robinhood has received a $32 billion valuation with its initial public offering and was set to debut on the Nasdaq on Thursday.

In a press statement on Wednesday, Robinhood priced its offering at $38 per Class A common share. The price is at the lower end of the $38 to $42 share price range that the company had targeted, and it planned to sell 5.5 million shares targeting an increase of $1.89 billion.

The firm is trying to reshape its image and said it was working on a new feature that would help protect users from cryptocurrency price volatility, while hiring a former Google graduate to improve the overall product design, according to CoinDesk.


Arab celebrity message app Yela raises $2.2 million funding

Yela has secured over a hundred A-list celebrities who fans can connect with, including Amr Diab. (Supplied)
Yela has secured over a hundred A-list celebrities who fans can connect with, including Amr Diab. (Supplied)
Updated 30 July 2021

Arab celebrity message app Yela raises $2.2 million funding

Yela has secured over a hundred A-list celebrities who fans can connect with, including Amr Diab. (Supplied)
  • The interactions on the platform can range from direct text messages to video clips

JEDDAH: Yela, a platform allowing users to get personalised video messages from their favorite Arab celebrities, has secured $2.2 million in funding, it was announced on Thursday.

Set to launched in August, Yela secured funding from US and UK investors with offices in London, Cairo, and Dubai. Participating from Silicon Valley is Razmig Hoghavian, a board member of Rakuten and General Partner at Graph Ventures.

The application was founded by Alex Eid, who said in a statement: “It’s incredible to see the support that Yela has already received from all sides, investors, celebrity creators, and fans.”

The first round of funding was also led by US investors Justin Mateen, a co-founder of Tinder and the General Partner of JAM Fund, and Sean Rad, a general partner at RAD Fund and also a co-founder of Tinder.

Yela has secured over a hundred A-list celebrities who fans can connect with including Amr Diab, Haifa Wehbe, Youssra, Mohamed Henedy, and Ahmed AlSakka. The interactions on the platform can range from direct text messages to video clips, with prices starting from $100.

 

 


Saudi Arabia to use 4IR to transform energy sector, fight climate change

Economy and Planning Minister Faisal Al-Ibrahim (L), Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman (C) and Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan at the 4IR forum. (Screenshots)
Economy and Planning Minister Faisal Al-Ibrahim (L), Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman (C) and Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan at the 4IR forum. (Screenshots)
Updated 29 July 2021

Saudi Arabia to use 4IR to transform energy sector, fight climate change

Economy and Planning Minister Faisal Al-Ibrahim (L), Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman (C) and Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan at the 4IR forum. (Screenshots)
  • Ministers laud the technology at forum for Fourth Industrial Revolution in Riyadh
  • 4IR is a way of describing the blurring of boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological worlds

DUBAI/RIYADH/JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is aiming to use Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technology to fundamentally transform the energy sector, enhance the security of its water and food resources, and fight climate change, senior ministers announced.

“Our vision is to transform the energy sector through the application of data and technology,” Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman said during the 4IR forum in Riyadh on Thursday.

“Saudi Arabia has a rich resource of youthful innovators who can be entrusted with the task of seeing this transformation through to fulfillment. The synergy between youth and technological innovation will make Saudi Arabia a dynamo for the digital transformation of the energy sector.”

4IR is a fusion of advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), genetic engineering, quantum computing, and more. It is a way of describing the blurring of boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological worlds.

The application of 4IR technology in energy will enable the Kingdom to lead the way in the battle against climate change, the Saudi energy minister said. 

“Perhaps the most important area where technology and energy can combine to the benefit, not just of the Kingdom, but of all mankind, is in the search for cleaner energy,” Prince Abdul Aziz said. “Here, we can use the technology of the 4IR to accelerate the energy transition, and meet the goals for the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

His view was echoed by Ahmed Al-Zahrani, assistant minister for energy, who highlighted the potential of 4IR technologies like IoT and Blockchain. 

“These will help our endeavors to improve efficiency and reduce emissions,” Al Zahrani said.

The Kingdom is known for its energy security as it has been endowed with huge energy resources, but when it comes to food and water security, the country is facing challenges. Adding 4IR applications can address these challenges, Saudi Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdul Rahman Al-Fadli told the conference. 

Al-Fadli also said 4IR applications such as the use of remote sensors, artificial intelligence, and robotics will help the farming sector in Saudi Arabia as the technologies will provide better data from the fields. He also mentioned that these applications will assist the Kingdom in its plan to plant billions of trees under its green initiative.

“The challenge we all face is to tackle the great issues of the world today, like post-pandemic economic recovery, energy reliability, and sustainability,” Prince Abdul Aziz said.

In other developments from the forum, Ahmed Al-Saadi, senior vice president for technical service at Saudi Aramco, said the oil company had developed its technology for many years, notably in monitoring conditions in oil reservoirs. He said Aramco had made great strides in technology and was among the “best in class” operators in the global energy peer group.

Mohammed Abunayyan, chairman of ACWA Power, the utility developer backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, told the forum most of its operations were now digital and that essential maintenance was controlled and managed through digital functions.

Abunayyan also said the involvement of the private sector in the digitization of energy was crucial: “The private sector will always deliver better value than the public utility model.”

Jason Bordoff, Dean of the Columbia Climate School in New York, had a warning about the slow progress towards the Paris Agreement goal of reducing CO2 emissions.

“We are not on track to meet those goals,” he said. “We need emissions to decline faster.”

Melissa Lott, research director at Columbia’s energy policy center, said carbon capture, utilization, and storage — a big element in Saudi Arabia’s Circular Carbon Economy framework — was crucial to efforts in reducing emissions.


New center to lead Saudi role in ‘4th industrial revolution’, economic minister says

New center to lead Saudi role in ‘4th industrial revolution’, economic minister says
Updated 30 July 2021

New center to lead Saudi role in ‘4th industrial revolution’, economic minister says

New center to lead Saudi role in ‘4th industrial revolution’, economic minister says
  • The Saudi minister said the new center will contribute to global discussions on the use of 4IR technology, such as 5G and artificial intelligence

DUBAI: The Saudi Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will lead the Kingdom’s role in utilizing advanced technologies and their local and global implications, Minister of Economy and Planning Faisal bin Fadel Al-Ibrahim said.

The Saudi minister said the new center will contribute to global discussions on the use of 4IR technology, such as 5G and artificial intelligence, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has introduced new challengers to countries.

“COVID-19 intensified the need for data and evidence-based iterative policymaking supported by technology-driven and innovation-based solutions,” he said at the first Saudi 4IR forum held in Riyadh.

The Kingdom has become a global role model in deploying digital technology at peak of the health crisis, Al-Ibrahim said, enumerating Saudi efforts to manage the pandemic.

The Kingdom is known for its energy security as it has been endowed with huge energy resources, but when it comes to food and water security, the country is facing challenges.
(Shutterstock)

Saudi Arabia ranks 4th in the world in 5G connectivity, he added, and a robust digital infrastructure helped the Kingdom overcome challenges in the education and finance sectors.

Over 850 thousand daily classes were executed for over 6 million students in 2020, and around 2.8 billion digital payment transactions were made.

“This demonstrates Saudi`s leadership in having the most modern digital platform and world class capabilities to design local and global solutions at the technological frontier,” the minister said.

A recent report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said the technology market could reach the value of 3.2 trillion dollars in 2025, increasing by almost 10 times from 2018 figures.

Al-Ibrahim said the Saudi economy could benefit from this by capturing a slice of the industry over the next five years.

The Kingdom is already in a good position, he explained, saying it “has its work cut out for it to move up the Global Innovation Index rankings where we plan to be among the leading pack of our G20 peers.”

“We are passionate about the objectives and vision of the Center, and look forward to working closely with its team in bringing the public and private sectors as well as the science and technology community together,” he added.