In parts of Middle East, power generators spew toxic fumes 24/7

A new generator is lifted to a roof to replace an old generator in Beirut, Lebanon, Feb. 21, 2022. (AP)
A new generator is lifted to a roof to replace an old generator in Beirut, Lebanon, Feb. 21, 2022. (AP)
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Updated 13 September 2022

In parts of Middle East, power generators spew toxic fumes 24/7

A new generator is lifted to a roof to replace an old generator in Beirut, Lebanon, Feb. 21, 2022. (AP)

BEIRUT (AP) — They literally run the country.
In parking lots, on flatbed trucks, hospital courtyards and rooftops, private generators are ubiquitous in parts of the Middle East, spewing hazardous fumes into homes and businesses 24 hours a day.
As the world looks for renewable energy to tackle climate change, millions of people around the region depend almost completely on diesel-powered private generators to keep the lights on because war or mismanagement have gutted electricity infrastructure.
Experts call it national suicide from an environmental and health perspective.




A row of privately-owned diesel generators provide power to homes and businesses in Beirut, Lebanon, March 4, 2022. (AP)

“Air pollution from diesel generators contains more than 40 toxic air contaminants, including many known or suspected cancer-causing substances,” said Samy Kayed, managing director and co-founder of the Environment Academy at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.
Greater exposure to these pollutants likely increases respiratory illnesses and cardiovascular disease, he said. It also causes acid rain that harms plant growth and increases eutrophication — the excess build-up of nutrients in water that ultimately kills aquatic plants.
Since they usually use diesel, generators also produce far more climate change-inducing emissions than, for example, a natural gas power plant does, he said.
The pollutants caused by massive generators add to the many environmental woes of the Middle East, which is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to the impact of climate change. The region already has high temperatures and limited water resources even without the growing impact of global warming.
The reliance on generators results from state failure. In Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, governments can’t maintain a functioning central power network, whether because of war, conflict or mismanagement and corruption.
Lebanon, for example, has not built a new power plant in decades. Multiple plans for new ones have run aground on politicians’ factionalism and conflicting patronage interests. The country’s few aging, heavy-fuel oil plants long ago became unable to meet demand.
Iraq, meanwhile, sits on some of the world’s biggest oil reserves. Yet scorching summer-time heat is always accompanied by the roar of neighborhood generators, as residents blast ACs around the clock to keep cool.
Repeated wars over the decades have wrecked Iraq’s electricity networks. Corruption has siphoned away billions of dollars meant to repair and upgrade it. Some 17 billion cubic meters of gas from Iraq’s wells are burned every year as waste, because it hasn’t built the infrastructure to capture it and convert it to electricity to power Iraqi homes.
In Libya, a country prized for its light and sweet crude oil, electricity networks have buckled under years of civil war and the lack of a central government.
“The power cuts last the greater part of the day, when electricity is mostly needed,” said Muataz Shobaik, the owner of a butcher shop in the city of Benghazi, in Libya’s east, who uses a noisy generator to keep his coolers running.
“Every business has to have a backup off-grid solution now,” he said. Diesel fumes from his and neighboring shops’ machines hung thick in the air amid the oppressive heat.
The Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people rely on around 700 neighborhood generators across the territory for their homes. Thousands of private generators keep businesses, government institutions, universities and health centers running. Running on diesel, they churn black smoke in the air, tarring walls around them.
Since Israel bombed the only power plant in the Hamas-ruled territory in 2014, the station has never reached full capacity. Gaza only gets about half the power it needs from the plant and directly from Israel. Cutoffs can last up to 16 hours a day.
WAY OF LIFE
Perhaps nowhere do generators rule people’s lives as much as in Lebanon, where the system is so entrenched and institutionalized that private generator owners have their own business association.
They are crammed into tight streets, parking lots, on roofs and balconies and in garages. Some are as large as storage containers, others small and blaring noise.
Lebanon’s 5 million people have long depended on them. The word “moteur,” French for generator, is one of the most often spoken words among Lebanese.
Reliance has only increased since Lebanon’s economy unraveled in late 2019 and central power cutoffs began lasting longer. At the same time, generator owners have had to ration use because of soaring diesel prices and high temperatures, turning them off several times a day for breaks.
So residents plan their lives around the gaps in electricity.
Those who can’t start the day without coffee set an alarm to make a cup before the generator turns off. The frail or elderly in apartment towers wait for the generator to switch on before leaving home so they don’t have to climb stairs. Hospitals must keep generators humming so life-saving machines can operate without disruption.
“We understand people’s frustration, but if it wasn’t for us, people would be living in darkness,” said Ihab, the Egyptian operator of a generator station north of Beirut.
“They say we are more powerful than the state, but it is the absence of the state that led us to exist,” he said, giving only his first name to avoid trouble with the authorities.
Siham Hanna, a 58-year-old translator in Beirut, said generator fumes exacerbate her elderly father’s lung condition. She wipes soot off her balcony and other surfaces several times a day.
“It’s the 21st century, but we live like in the stone ages. Who lives like this?” said Hanna, who does not recall her country ever having stable electricity in her life.
Some in Lebanon and elsewhere have begun to install solar power systems in their homes. But most use it only to fill in when the generator is off. Cost and space issues in urban areas have also limited solar use.
In Iraq, the typical middle-income household uses generator power for 10 hours a day on average and pays $240 per Megawatt/hour, among the highest rates in the region, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.
The need for generators has become engrained in people's minds. At a recent concert in the capital, famed singer Umm Ali al-Malla made sure to thank not only the audience but also the venue’s technical director “for keeping the generator going” while her admirers danced.
TOXIC CONTAMINANTS
As opposed to power plants outside urban areas, generators are in the heart of neighborhoods, pumping toxins directly to residents.
This is catastrophic, said Najat Saliba, a chemist at the American University of Beirut who recently won a seat in Parliament.
“This is extremely taxing on the environment, especially the amount of black carbon and particles that they emit,” she said. There are almost no regulations and no filtering of particles, she added.
Researchers at AUB found that the level of toxic emissions may have quadrupled since Lebanon’s financial crisis began because of increased reliance on generators.
In Iraq's northern city of Mosul, miles of wires crisscross streets connecting thousands of private generators. Each produces 600 kilograms of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases per 8 hours working time, according to Mohammed al Hazem, an environmental activist.
Similarly, a 2020 study on the environmental impact of using large generators in the University of Technology in Baghdad found very high concentrations of pollutants exceeding limits set by the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization.
That was particularly because Iraqi diesel fuel has a high sulphur content — “one of the worst in the world,” the study said. The emissions include “sulphate, nitrate materials, atoms of soot carbon, ash” and pollutants that are considered carcinogens, it warned.
“The pollutants emitted from these generators exert a remarkable impact on the overall health of students and university staff, it said.

 


Egyptian fighter plane crashes in training accident

Egyptian fighter plane crashes in training accident
Updated 16 sec ago

Egyptian fighter plane crashes in training accident

Egyptian fighter plane crashes in training accident
  • Crew survived and no damage caused on the ground after technical malfunction
  • Another technical malfunction caused a fighter plane to crash during training in June

CAIRO: An Egyptian fighter plane crashed on Sunday while training, the Egyptian army said.

Gharib Abdel-Hafez, a military spokesman, said on Facebook that the crew survived and that no damage was caused on the ground. He did not identify the location of the crash, which he said was caused by a technical malfunction.

Another technical malfunction caused a fighter plane to crash during training in June. The pilot survived that accident, the spokesman added.

Separately, the British Red Arrows arrived at an air base in southern Egypt to take part in the Hurghada Air Show 2022 over the city of Sahl Hasheesh on Wednesday.

According to the spokesman, the Red Arrows will join the Egyptian Silver Stars team for the event.


Region’s first successful bone marrow transplant on MS patient performed in Abu Dhabi

Region’s first successful bone marrow transplant on MS patient performed in Abu Dhabi
Updated 30 min 56 sec ago

Region’s first successful bone marrow transplant on MS patient performed in Abu Dhabi

Region’s first successful bone marrow transplant on MS patient performed in Abu Dhabi
  • Center also performed region’s first autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation on an MS patient, who has reported an improvement in her overall condition

ABU DHABI: The Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Center has performed the region’s first successful bone marrow transplant on a patient suffering from multiple sclerosis, Emirates News Agency reported. 

This achievement marks a major advance in cell therapy and regenerative medicine capabilities to treat a range of diseases, including cancer and immune disorders.

Doctors at ADSCC performed the region’s first autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation on a patient with MS earlier this month and the patient has since reported an improvement in her overall condition. The treatment aims to “reset” a person’s immune system and can be used for those with relapsing forms of MS.

“We are extremely proud of our achievement at the Abu Dhabi Stem Cells Center to become the first centre in the region to perform the BMT on a MS patient. It fills us with great pride to make such a life-saving treatment here in Abu Dhabi,” said ADSCC’s CEO Dr Yendry Ventura. 

The AHSCT procedure carried out by ADSCC is a “standard of care” and not just a “clinical option” under the updated European Group for Blood & Marrow Transplantation and American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation guidelines from 2019, which reviewed the clinical evidence of AHSCT on MS patients. 

The transplant success follows ADSCC’s ground-breaking work on COVID-19 treatments during the pandemic. These included UAECell19, which was used as a stem cell therapy to help regenerate lung capacity in thousands of COVID-19 patients.

 


Niece of Iran’s Supreme Leader urges world to cut ties with Tehran over unrest: Online video

Niece of Iran’s Supreme Leader urges world to cut ties with Tehran over unrest: Online video
Updated 3 min 30 sec ago

Niece of Iran’s Supreme Leader urges world to cut ties with Tehran over unrest: Online video

Niece of Iran’s Supreme Leader urges world to cut ties with Tehran over unrest: Online video
  • “O free people, be with us and tell your governments to stop supporting this murderous and child-killing regime,” Moradkhani said in the video
  • “This regime is not loyal to any of its religious principles and does not know any rules except force and maintaining power,” she said

DUBAI: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s niece, a well known rights activist, has called on foreign governments to cut all ties with Tehran over its violent crackdown on popular unrest kindled by the death in police custody of a young woman.
A video of a statement by Farideh Moradkhani, an engineer whose late father was a prominent opposition figure married to Khamenei’s sister, was being widely shared online after what activist news agency HRANA said was her arrest on Nov. 23.
“O free people, be with us and tell your governments to stop supporting this murderous and child-killing regime,” Moradkhani said in the video. “This regime is not loyal to any of its religious principles and does not know any rules except force and maintaining power.”
Khamenei’s office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
HRANA said 450 protesters had been killed in more than two months of nationwide unrest as of Nov. 26, including 63 minors. It said 60 members of the security forces had been killed, and 18,173 protesters detained.
The protests, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini after her arrest for “inappropriate attire,” pose one of the strongest challenges to the country’s clerical establishment since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Jalal Mahmoudzadeh, a member of parliament from the mainly Kurdish city of Mahabad, said on Sunday that as many as 105 people had been killed in Kurdish-populated areas during the protests. He was speaking in a debate in parliament as quoted by the Entekhan website.
Widespread opposition 
Challenging the Islamic Republic’s legitimacy, protesters from all walks of life have burned pictures of Khamenei and called for the downfall of Iran’s Shiite Muslim theocracy.
The video was shared on YouTube on Friday by her brother, France-based Mahmoud Moradkhani, who presents himself as “an opponent of the Islamic Republic” on his Twitter account, and then by prominent Iranian rights activists.
On Nov. 23, Mahmoud Moradkhani reported her sister’s arrest as she was heeding a court order to appear at the Tehran prosecutor’s office. Farideh had been arrested earlier this year by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry and later released on bail.
HRANA said she was in Tehran’s Evin security prison. Moradkhani, it said, had earlier faced a 15-year prison sentence on unspecified charges.
Her father, Ali Moradkhani Arangeh, was a Shiite cleric married to Khamenei’s sister and recently passed away in Tehran following years of isolation due to his stance against the Islamic Republic, according to his website.
Farideh Moradkhani added in her video: “Now is the time for all free and democratic countries to recall their representatives from Iran as a symbolic gesture and to expel the representatives of this brutal regime from their countries.”
On Thursday, the United Nations’ top human rights body decided by a comfortable margin to establish a new investigative mission to look into Tehran’s violent security crackdown on the anti-government protests.
Criticism of the Islamic Republic by relatives of top officials is not unprecedented. In 2012, Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, the daughter of late former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was sentenced to jail for “anti-state propaganda.”
Iranian authorities released on bail the activist and blogger Hossein Ronaghi on Nov. 26 to undergo medical treatment, according to his brother writing on Twitter.
Concerns had been growing about Ronaghi’s health after he went on a hunger strike last month. 


Yemen FM: Houthis must be classified as ‘terrorist group’

Yemen FM: Houthis must be classified as ‘terrorist group’
Updated 27 November 2022

Yemen FM: Houthis must be classified as ‘terrorist group’

Yemen FM: Houthis must be classified as ‘terrorist group’
  • US ambassador renewed his country's condemnation of the Houthi terrorist attacks on oil facilities
  • Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen said the Houthi attacks on oil ports are “terrorist operations”

The Houthis must be classified as a terrorist group, Yemen’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, told on Sunday the US Ambassador to Yemen, Steven Fagin. 

The Yemeni government is planning on designate the Houthis as a terrorist organization, Mubarak said, stressing the importance of the international community's support for those decisions.

The two sides discussed the challenges that face the peace process, and the Houthis threat to international navigation and international peace and security, state news agency SABA reported.

Mubarak said that the Houthis aimed to “brainwash society” and impose a “racist identity” instead of the national one, the report said.

The US ambassador renewed his country's condemnation of the Houthi terrorist attacks on oil facilities, stressing the United States’ support for the security, stability and unity of Yemen.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed bin Saeed al-Jaber, said that the Houthi attacks, using Iranian weapons, on oil ports are “terrorist operations.”  He added that Houthi attacks on civilian facilities harm the interests of Yemeni people.

“The international community is working to support the truce, and we encourage those efforts,” the ambassador said.

“We hope that international efforts will contribute to pushing the Houthis to support the peace process.”

He also the Arab Monetary Fund will help the Central Bank of Yemen to stabilize the economy.


Syrian Kurds warn Washington against any Turkish ground operation

Syrian Kurds warn Washington against any Turkish ground operation
Updated 27 November 2022

Syrian Kurds warn Washington against any Turkish ground operation

Syrian Kurds warn Washington against any Turkish ground operation
  • Threat of Daesh resurgence ‘is being used as pressure tactic on US to convince Ankara to de-escalate situation’
  • Turkiye considers the SDF and its leading Kurdish group, the People’s Protection Units, as terror groups due to their links with the PKK

ANKARA: Commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces Mazloum Abdi has told reporters that his troops have halted operations against Daesh following Turkiye’s aerial attacks on northern Syria over the past week. 

Four Turkish soldiers were killed on Saturday during Turkiye’s anti-terror operation in northern Iraq to clear the area of terrorists.

Amid signs that Ankara is now preparing for a ground offensive with the help of Turkiye-backed opposition fighters, Abdi’s statement from the US-backed Kurdish forces is considered a message to Washington to put pressure on Turkiye to prevent any military move in the region.

At a time when the US is attempting to assess its relations with its NATO ally and its Kurdish partners in Syria, Turkiye’s recent air attacks have drawn some criticism from Washington regarding their close proximity to adjacent coalition bases where US soldiers are stationed.

Ankara blames Syrian offshoots of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party for the deadly Nov. 13 bombing in Istanbul’s Istiklal Street that killed six Turkish citizens and injured more than 80.

Turkiye considers the SDF and its leading Kurdish group, the People’s Protection Units, as terror groups due to their links with the PKK.

Soner Cagaptay, of the Washington Institute, believes that the US will not oppose Ankara as it has done in the past.

He told Arab News: “The importance of Syria is fast retreating for the US government in favor of Ukraine, and the relative significance of the YPG is diminishing.

“Turkiye’s support for the Ukraine militarily against the Russian invasion, and Ankara’s critical position as a broker for the grain corridor deal, have also added to their value for the US in the strategic picture.”

According to Cagaptay, Turkiye has also used its leverage in the wake of supporting Swedish and Finnish bids to join NATO.

He added: “NATO’s allies have voiced support for Turkiye and did not criticize their arguments against the YPG.”

Samuel Ramani, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, says “the Syrian Kurds are using the threat of a Daesh resurgence as a pressure tactic on the US to convince Turkiye to de-escalate the situation.”

He told Arab News: “This is very similar to what unfolded during the 2019 Operation Peace Spring offensive in which former US President Donald Trump was heavily criticized for green-lighting Turkiye’s offensive and allowing Daesh to experience a potential recovery."

The SDF’s strategy is unlikely to work, according to Ramani, and he says it is difficult to see Washington now facing the same kind of blowback as Trump received in 2019. 

He said that Turkiye “has emerged as a critical mediator in the Ukraine war and the US has refrained from sanctions against the country over the continued use of S-400 systems for this reason.”

He added: “If it is not objecting to the procurement of Russian military technology, the US certainly will not crack down very hard on Turkiye over an escalation in northern Syria or Iraq.

“SDF officials have admitted their concern that the US will not do enough, and perceive the US as being disengaged from the Syrian conflict overall.”

SDF’s Abdi said that Turkish airstrikes over the past week had damaged the region’s infrastructure.

He added: “The forces that work symbolically with the international coalition in the fight against Daesh are now targets for the Turkish state and therefore (military) operations have stopped.”

Cagaptay believes that the SDF and YPG were once important partners for the US in beating Daesh, which is now defeated.

The SDF, which is the key US partner in combating Daesh in Syria, has also warned about the importance of retaining intact the security of the Al-Hol camp, which is home to Daesh family members, while the Kurdish authorities operate several detention facilities in northeastern Syria that host thousands of opposition fighters.

Cagaptay said: “YPG’s main role is now reduced to prison-keeper of the locations holding relatives of the extremists, mostly Iraqi and Syrians, that no Western country wants to take back.”

SDF’s comments came at the time of fresh reports that bases hosting US-led coalition forces in the northeastern Syrian town of Shaddadeh had been targeted by two rockets. The attacks were believed to have been perpetrated by militias backed by Iran.

In a short statement on Wednesday, US Central Command announced that American troops were put at risk, but no service members were injured in the strike.

Turkiye’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Friday that his forces would never harm coalition forces or civilians, after being questioned over allegations that warplanes hit targets near a US base in northern Syria.

Akar also held a meeting on Saturday with Chief of Turkish General Staff Yasar Guler and authorities from Turkish Land Forces Command in Ankara.

Cagaptay said: “Diminishing the security of the camps as a retaliation for Turkiye’s airstrikes will only end US support to the YPG and reduce the significance of the Syrian Kurds in the eyes of US policymakers.”

Turkiye has continued airstrikes — using fighter jets and drones — against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and Syria to remove militants from the border.

Experts believe that SDF statements will not alter Turkiye’s plans to pursue a potential ground operation, the fourth of its kind since 2016, in the west of the Euphrates River in the coming weeks.

Ankara and Moscow agreed in 2019 to pull YPG forces back 30 km to the south of the Turkish border. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkiye “is determined to make its borders safe against terrorism.”

He added: “Hopefully, with these operations, we show our determination to gradually make every inch of our country safe, starting from beyond the border.”