JEDDAH: As the weather lets up in many parts of Saudi Arabia, preparation for winter tourism is underway. Tour groups map out hiking trips on weekends, quick get-a-ways outside city limits, and organize cross-country trips. While some opt for excursions, many prefer booking through websites that provide elaborate camping trips that will highlight the beauty of life in the Kingdom's deserts.
Yasmin Khaki, an Indian expat living in Jeddah, who explores Saudi Arabia as a hobby, told Arab News that she was looking forward to doing a bit of travel this winter with her children: “I have developed a certain kind of love for Saudi Arabia.”
The 35-year-old was living in Canada before moving to the Kingdom in 2018. “I wasn’t very happy at first. To move from a country filled with lots of greenery and forests to a desert was a little overwhelming. However, I soon realized that everything I have heard about this country and its attractions is wrong.”
“I have been to AlUla once and the place is straight out of a fairy tale. This is just my opinion. Others might disagree but I found the desert much more calming than a hike in the forest. The feeling of being cozied-up in a tent surrounded with absolute silence, and the millions of stars over your head, is unparalleled.”
Though the Kingdom’s western regions — Jeddah, Yanbu and Umluj — may not be as cool as other cities to the north and south, the cooler evenings are still appealing to many residents and visitors.
Some of the top destinations are Wadi Disah in Tabuk, AlUla, Riyadh’s Edge of the World, the Nafud deserts near the Eastern Province, Al-Ahsa Oasis and Al-Qura Mountain for hikers. The Kingdom’s southern mountains offer many options for hiking and camping in forests too.
Similarly, Texas-based Elmar Santamaria said that he has been on desert safaris previously. “The appeal of it for me is that you are out in the middle of nowhere, it is very serene, with nothing to see just the sky and the stars,” he told Arab News.
How a culture of recycling can reduce waste generation in Saudi Arabia
Culture of consumerism in GCC countries has created mountains of trash, most of the content of which is nonbiodegradable
“Circular economy” opens up huge opportunities for Saudis to reduce, reuse and recycle the waste they generate
Updated 29 sec ago
Rawan Radwan JEDDAH: As is the case in many other parts of the world, a combination of population growth, urbanization and economic expansion has not only increased personal consumption across the Middle East but is also generating colossal amounts of waste.
Five Gulf Cooperation Council countries — Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait — rank in the top 10 worldwide in terms of per capita generation of solid waste.
Thanks to their oil wealth, consumer spending in these countries has grown over recent decades to become a key driver of domestic economies. But as in many advanced countries, a culture of consumerism has created mountains of trash, most of the content of which is nonbiodegradable and extremely harmful to the environment.
Saudi Arabia alone produces about 15 million tons of garbage a year, 95 percent of which ends up as landfill, polluting the soil and releasing greenhouse gases, including methane, into the atmosphere for decades.
What is not buried often ends up as litter on city streets, in the form of discarded polythene bags, fast-food containers, plastic bottles and empty soda cans.
Between the start of 2020 and the first half of 2021, Saudi Arabia recycled only 5 percent of its total waste, including plastic, metal and paper.
To reduce waste generation, protect fragile ecosystems and make the most of reusable materials, Saudi Arabia can rely on the “circular economy” concept, a closed-loop system that involves the 3-R approach: Reduce, reuse and recycle.
The leading agent of change in this effort is the Saudi Investment Recycling Company, which was established in 2017 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund.
* Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade.
* Only 12 percent of plastic is incinerated worldwide.
SIRC seeks to divert 85 percent of hazardous industrial waste, 100 percent of solid waste, and 60 percent of construction and demolition waste away from landfills by 2035. The only types of waste not covered by its remit is that created by the military and nuclear energy, both of which are handled by specialist organizations.
The circular economy model opens up huge opportunities, whether in terms of products, energy creation or services, which can make a major contribution to the diversification of the Saudi economy away from oil and its derivatives, in line with the aims of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms strategy.
Saudi Arabia aims to invest almost SR24 billion ($6.4 billion) in the recycling of waste by 2035 as it attempts to switch to a more sustainable waste-management system. It will invest about SR1.3 billion in construction and demolition waste, and about SR900 million in industrial waste. Investments in municipal solid waste will exceed SR20 billion, while investments in other types of waste will amount to more than SR1.6 billion.
There are several ways to create value in a circular economy. One of them is “waste-to-energy,” which involves drying and incinerating garbage, raw sewage and industrial sludge to power steam turbines.
Burning waste produces carbon dioxide but leaving it to decompose in landfill sites results in 20 to 40 times the amount of greenhouse-gas emissions, in the form of methane, over a period of many years.
Unsurprisingly, the circular economy approach is catching on. In 2020, when Saudi Arabia held the presidency of the G20, the Kingdom proposed to allies the concept of a circular carbon economy as a means of mitigating the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere.
But a circular economy model cannot succeed without the active involvement of big companies, small-business entrepreneurs and the general public.
Experts say that the construction of recycling facilities in the Kingdom is only part of the solution; it must go hand in hand with efforts to instill in the Saudi population a culture of household recycling and responsible consumption.
“We have to invest in the infrastructure but, equally, we have to provide education and create outreach programs,” Ziyad Al-Shiha, the CEO of SIRC, told Arab News in October. “Once we achieve 25-35 percent recycling, we can say to the public: ‘Look, this is your effort and this is the result that we’re bringing back to you.’”
TIMELINE OF SAUDI ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRESS
2016: Launch of Saudi Vision 2030.
2017: National Renewable Energy Program announced.
2018: Launch of the National Environment Strategy.
2019: Saudi Arabia joins International Solar Alliance.
2020: Launch of Environmental Fund.
March 27, 2021: Launch of Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative.
Sept. 16, 2021: Farasan Islands added to UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Oct. 23, 2021: Saudi Arabia announces goal of Net Zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2060.
Oct. 23, 2021: Saudi Arabia joins Global Methane Pledge.
Progress has already been made in fostering environmentally conscious behavior at the community level. Saudi highways are better maintained now than before. Even in cities, drains are no longer clogged with cigarette butts, tissue paper, paper cups and discarded food packaging.
In part, such improvements are as a result of the introduction of penalties; the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing can now impose fines of $133 on anyone caught littering or spitting in a public place.
But concern about the environment and public interest in recycling and reducing household waste have also increased markedly, thanks to campaigns conducted by civil society groups.
One such group, Mawakeb Alajer, has worked for 17 years to encourage community-level recycling in Jeddah by providing sorting facilities where the public can drop off a wide range of recyclables, from scrap paper and waste plastic to unwanted furniture and even old wedding dresses.
“As a second-hand shop, we encourage people to give away what they don’t need to charity, which helps protect the environment by reducing waste,” Sara Alfadl, a spokesperson for Mawakeb Alajer, told Arab News.
“We believe that everyone plays a part in the community and we’re providing a service everyone can benefit from. We sort out everything we receive. This takes a lot of time, requires a lot of manpower and is hard. Thankfully, most of the items we receive, whether clothes or recyclable waste, are in good condition.”
In cooperation with local businesses, truckloads of recyclable materials are brought to Mawakeb Alajer’s facility where they are sorted and then sold, donated, or sent to be reused, recycled or repurposed. In the process, the group is helping to gradually change public attitudes.
“Awareness is still in its infancy but spreading nonetheless,” Alfadl said.
Schools have begun to play an important part in shaping attitudes among the next generation, by adopting “environmental literacy” projects that give pupils the chance to learn by participating in school-based recycling schemes and science projects.
For their part, many Saudi businesses are adjusting to the circular economy model, in line with the Kingdom’s pursuit of sustainable-development goals.
Mona Alothman, the co-founder of Naqaa, a local provider of business-to-business environmental-sustainability solutions, said that many companies are now integrating recycling and waste reduction into their business models.
“It’s not just a phase,” she told Arab News. “Many Saudi companies are adopting ingenious ways to reduce, reuse and recycle their office supplies and better manage their waste, among other things.
“A lot has changed in recent years. Regulations have become stricter in order to adhere to international standards. Our company’s core ethos revolves around sustainability, and recycling is one part of the picture.
“Companies today are not only applying our recommended solutions to office waste but also initiating campaigns to promote and encourage people to be more conscious of how they throw away their trash.”
This multi-pronged approach, encompassing education, charity schemes, stricter rules and penalties, is encouraging the Kingdom’s business establishments to adopt eco-friendly practices and communities to think more about the effects of lifestyle on the environment.
Alfadl and her colleagues at Mawakeb Alajer believe there is a lot that Saudis can do to encourage their employers, neighbors and local authorities to implement more environmentally responsible practices in homes and workplaces.
“I believe that recycling will pick up fast here in Saudi Arabia,” Alfadl said. “With growing awareness, what was once a project or short-term initiative has become a necessity.
“Our approach was always bottom-up. When employees join the sustainability drive with their actions, it won’t be long before others do the same and create a community of people who follow the same approach.”
MUKALLA: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center inaugurated a search and rescue training project in Mukalla city in Yemen’s Hadhramaut governorate.
The project consists of seven training courses on various topics including first aid, first aid for blind people and those with special needs, firefighting and psychological aid, all of which will benefit 1,300 people.
The project aims to build the capacities of health and humanitarian aid workers, and volunteers in the emergency sectors, with all beneficiaries being issued international licenses.
UK’s King’s College Hospital starts work on medical facility in Saudi Arabia
The Jeddah hospital will have a capacity of 150 beds in its first phase and be staffed by more than 1,000 healthcare professionals from the UK and Saudi Arabia
Updated 43 min 23 sec ago
JEDDAH: King’s College Hospital in London announced that construction has begun on a world-class medical facility in Jeddah, in partnership with Ashmore Group and Saudi Bugshan Group.
The new hospital, set to open in 2023, will be the first in Saudi Arabia fully integrated with King’s College facilities in the UK, where it has 178 years of healthcare knowledge, experience and expertise.
“We are delighted that King’s, in partnership with Ashmore, is expanding its footprint to Saudi Arabia, following on from the success of our hospital and clinics in the UAE,” said Hugh Taylor, chairman of the hospital in London.
“King’s College Hospital has a long history of providing outstanding patient care in London, and as part of our strong roots and global reach strategy we remain committed to delivering outstanding care for patients in Saudi Arabia.”
The Jeddah hospital will have a capacity of 150 beds in its first phase and be staffed by more than 1,000 healthcare professionals from the UK and Saudi Arabia. It will benefit from knowledge sharing with King’s research centers in the UK.
Afnan Abdulfattah, who earned a doctorate in orthodontics from King’s College Dental Institute, told Arab News: “This makes me, first of all, excited and proud that one of the top, leading colleges has chosen to base one of its hospitals in Saudi Arabia.
“This will be very beneficial for the future of medical education in Saudi Arabia, where students will have a chance to benefit from the world’s top doctors, top facilities and the competencies of their own country, serving their country, serving nationals of Saudi Arabia and also residents of Saudi Arabia. It will enhance the field of medicine.”
The hospital’s authorities said it will use clinical innovation and smart technologies to provide treatments. More than 40 medical and surgical specialists occupying six specialized clinical floors will focus on women’s health, metabolic disease, bariatric surgery, orthopedics, and heart and vascular conditions.
King’s College in London, which is part of Britain’s National Health Service, has a long history of treating patients with complex conditions. It has more than 13,000 staff and treats more than a million patients each year. It is considered one of the country’s busiest hospitals and is also one of the largest teaching hospitals in London.
Its hospital in Jeddah will be the first in Saudi Arabia to partner with the UK’s NHS. In 2011, King’s College signed a collaboration agreement with King Fahd Medical City in Riyadh to provide education and training for nurses.
It also signed a partnership agreement with the Royal Commission for Riyadh City to open a school in the capital, which welcomed its first students, between the ages of three and eight, in August last year. The agreement includes education from kindergarten level through to high school. Students will benefit from the resources of an institution with 140 years of educational expertise and knowledge.