How Saudi Arabia is protecting marine habitats by tackling plastic waste 

Special How Saudi Arabia is protecting marine habitats by tackling plastic waste 
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Updated 18 March 2024
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How Saudi Arabia is protecting marine habitats by tackling plastic waste 

How Saudi Arabia is protecting marine habitats by tackling plastic waste 
  • The Kingdom is participating in Plastic Pollution INC-4 in Ottawa next month to address the global plastic waste crisis
  • Raising public awareness about environmental damage and encouraging sustainable habits are seen as key 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will take part in the Plastic Pollution INC-4 conference in Canada next month to help drive global efforts to reduce the manufacture and use of non-essential plastic products and to develop robust regulations on plastic waste.

Convened by the UN Environment Program, the fourth meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international, legally binding instrument to address plastic pollution, including in marine environments, will take place in Ottawa from April 23 to 29.

Although Saudi Arabia does not support an outright ban on plastic products, officials say they are very much aware of the huge industrial and commercial overreliance on plastics, which results in excessive amounts of non-biodegradable waste worldwide.

According to the UN, the equivalent of about 2,000 trucks filled with plastic waste is dumped into the world’s oceans and lakes on a daily basis, causing immense harm to marine life. The presence of microplastics in the water, and the bodies of fish, means it also poses a threat to humans.




Plastic waste wash ashore in the beach next to the Panama Canal. (Shutterstock photo)

Although there are several ways in which manufacturers and consumers can help minimize the problem, such as by recycling or choosing reusable bottles and biodegradable utensils, the amount of plastic waste continues to increase. Of the 400 million tonnes of plastic produced worldwide each year, barely 10 percent is recycled.

“It is a habit; we are used to drinking water from plastic bottles. This behavior needs to change but, also, we need to have alternatives for plastic,” Faisal Al-Fadl, a representative to the UN and UNEP observer, told Arab News.

“I believe the biggest challenge we are facing here is the intensive use of plastic by consumers, such as using plastic water bottles.”

DIDYOU KNOW?

• Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam generate almost 50% of total plastic waste in Saudi Arabia.

• Plastic pollution is a major threat to marine life and food systems.

• Plastic waste takes between 20 and 500 years to decompose.

• Burning plastic releases toxic chemicals, adding to air pollution.

Part of the solution lies in raising public awareness about the environmental impact of plastics, encouraging businesses and consumers to purchase more-sustainable products, and ensuring recycling becomes an ingrained habit, he said. However, this will require effective regulations.

“Until now, regulations have not been enforced to eliminate plastic products from the local market,” said Al-Fadl.

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“Alternative products must be available and affordable, and the production of unnecessary sizes of plastic materials must also be banned. For example, large, medium and small sizes of plastic water bottles are unacceptable. Plastic is accessible but it should not be the only option for consumers.”

Although it might take time to change public attitudes and behaviors, including purchasing habits, efforts by the Saudi government and businesses to reduce the effects of plastic waste on marine life have been promising so far.




Red Sea Global, the developer behind Saudi Arabia's regenerative tourism destinations The Red Sea and Amaala, has introduced cleaning robots to reduce the amount of plastic waste on beaches. (X: @RedSeaGlobal)

For example, Red Sea Global has deployed a robot that can clear up to 3,000 square meters of coastline in an hour. And during the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association’s Plastics Conference in the Saudi city of Al-Khobar last year, industry leaders stressed the need to design and scale up sustainable solutions that can help reduce waste.

Plastics polluting the world’s oceans threaten water quality, marine environments and even food systems. Marine animals such as turtles, whales and seabirds often mistake plastic waste for food and ingest it. This can lead to internal damage, gastrointestinal blockages and ultimately death.

When small fish consume microplastics, the particles collect in their tissue. When larger predators consume smaller prey, the concentration of the plastic increases, eventually affecting top-of-the-chain predators such as sharks and large marine mammals.




Due to the excessive amount of plastic waste in the ocean, extinction of marine biodiversity is rising. (UNESCO photo)

This bioaccumulation of plastic affects not only the health of wildlife; humans can be negatively affected by consuming seafood contaminated by plastic.

In addition to the dangers of ingesting plastics, entanglement in discarded fishing nets and other types of plastic waste can also cause serious injuries to, and affect the mobility and survival of, marine life.




According to the World Wildlife Fund, sea turtles mistake plastic bags for other species that they consume, such as jellyfish. (WWF photo)

Plastic waste that accumulates along coastlines also destroys natural landscapes and suffocates the coral reefs and seaweed beds that are important breeding and feeding grounds for numerous aquatic plants and creatures.

Furthermore, plastic waste can release toxic chemicals into water, putting the physiology and reproductive health of marine life at risk.

The economic impact of plastic waste on marine ecosystems is also significant. Coastal communities that rely heavily on fishing, for example, suffer as a result of the environmental pollution it causes. The degradation of marine habitats can eventually lead to heavy economic losses and destroy livelihoods in these communities.




Almost 700 species in the sea are affected by plastic. (AFP/File)

In response to the blight of plastic waste in waterways, it is therefore important for countries such as Saudi Arabia to develop initiatives and participate in conferences that can aid efforts to promote sustainable development, environmental protection and a better quality of life.

By doing so, the burden of plastic waste might soon be lifted, thereby protecting our oceans and ensuring marine ecosystems are preserved for the generations to come.
 

 


8th Saudi-US Trade and Investment Council Meeting held in Washington

8th Saudi-US Trade and Investment Council Meeting held in Washington
Updated 23 June 2024
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8th Saudi-US Trade and Investment Council Meeting held in Washington

8th Saudi-US Trade and Investment Council Meeting held in Washington
  • Council tackles bilateral trade and investment issues, promotes market access

RIYADH: The eighth meeting of the Saudi-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council in the United States kicked off on Sunday in Washington DC.
The Saudi delegation was led by the General Authority of Foreign Trade (GAFT), and it included 20 government entities.
The council's goal is to monitor trade and investment relations in order to identify opportunities for expansion, work on removing trade and investment barriers, improve a promising trade and investment environment, and foster economic development between the two countries.
The council tackles bilateral trade and investment issues, promotes market access, protects and enforces intellectual property rights, manages data and e-commerce, builds capacity, and reviews trade and investment policies.
The Saudi delegation is scheduled to attend several meetings and workshops on the sidelines of the meeting, which will last until Friday.
These include a workshop titled "Trade Opportunities between the Middle East and the United States," which will be attended by US ambassadors in Gulf countries, and the opening session of the Select USA Investment Summit, which will be chaired by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
The delegation will also participate in the fifth GCC-US Trade and Investment Dialogue Forum, a panel discussion titled "Saudi Investment in Technology," the US-Saudi Forum titled "Investing in Our Shared Future," the GCC-US Roundtable, and the Saudi-US Roundtable, all of which will include private sector participation from both sides.
The trade volume between Saudi Arabia and the US in 2023 was approximately $34 billion, with mineral products and fertilizers being the most significant Saudi exports to the US, while machinery, mechanical appliances and spare parts, and automobiles and spare parts were the top US imports.


Madinah branches out with tree transplant program

Madinah branches out with tree transplant program
Updated 23 June 2024
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Madinah branches out with tree transplant program

Madinah branches out with tree transplant program
  • Relocation of trees to expand green spaces, expedite lengthy process of growth and restoration

JEDDAH: Perennial plants, with their remarkable ability to endure harsh conditions such as droughts, climatic variations, and human activities, play a crucial role in our ecosystem, providing sustenance for people and animals, and contributing to the overall well-being of the environment.

Recognizing the importance of these invaluable assets, the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification has embarked on a program to relocate and care for perennial trees in the Madinah region.

In a four-month operation, some trees were moved to Al-Bayda Al-Bari Park as part of the Kingdom’s efforts toward environmental sustainability and vegetation development. (Supplied)

In a four-month operation, the center moved some trees to Al-Bayda Al-Bari Park as part of the Kingdom’s aims regarding environmental sustainability and vegetation development.

Khalid bin Saadullah Al-Saidi, representative of the general administration of grazing and the general administration of protection, supervision, and inspection of NCVC in the Madinah region, told Arab News: “The goal is to preserve the vegetation and relocate these perennial plants to maintain and care for them, achieving the desired objectives through collaboration and initiatives with environmental advocates across the Kingdom.”

HIGHLIGHT

The National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification has embarked on a program to relocate and care for perennial trees in the Madinah region.

The relocation process involves a thorough selection of trees, based on their type, size, condition, age, and benefits.

Specialists from the center use modern methods to relocate the trees, minimizing damage and ensuring survival.

The criteria used in selecting the trees depend on the type of tree, whether it is wild or cultivated, its size, condition, age, and the extent of its benefit. (Supplied)

The process involves preparing the new site, digging, and manufacturing wooden molds to hold the trees, as well as providing carriers, equipment, and special transport tractors.

Perennials, such as Acacia ehrenbergiana, the Latin thorn tree (Acacia tortilis) and the Maerua crassifolia, that obstruct projects and development lines also will be relocated.

The process of relocating trees involves preparing the new site, digging, and manufacturing wooden molds to hold the trees, as well as providing carriers, equipment, and special transport tractors. (Supplied)

“Acacia ehrenbergiana trees are important local trees in the Kingdom, characterized by their large size, numerous branches, and ability to withstand harsh climatic conditions,” Al-Saidi said.

The wild acacia tree can act as a windbreak, and also provides shade and shelter for birds, as well as sustenance for livestock. The trees can grow to a height of about nine meters, and bear yellow flowers, mostly blooming from mid-February to May. These attract grazing bees, which produce “Salim” honey.

The relocation process went smoothly, thanks to the presence of experts from the center, Al-Saidi said.

“We also acknowledge the cooperation of the Ministry of Transport branch in the region in transporting the trees on main roads, and the interest and cooperation of citizens in this initiative,” he added.

This endeavor makes a substantial contribution to conserving and enriching biodiversity in the Madinah region. Focusing on indigenous tree species, which are integral to the environment and resilient to various conditions, is essential for ensuring sustainability for both present and future generations. The relocation of these trees not only expands green spaces, but also expedites the lengthy process of growth and restoration.

Earlier, on the occasion of World Environment Day, Al-Saidi said: “It is always the duty of individuals to care for the environment and practice proper behaviors to ensure sustainability for the current and future generations.”

NCVC continues to work on such activities and initiatives throughout the year, aiming to safeguard mature and rare trees, ensuring their long-term sustainability, and enriching biodiversity and eco-tourism efforts.

The center’s efforts will lead to the preservation of a wide variety of trees across the Kingdom, promoting environmental sustainability and conservation.

 


Over 1.3m medical services rendered to pilgrims, says Saudi health minister

Successful execution of health management efforts was made possible through efforts of health system and Hajj security forces.
Successful execution of health management efforts was made possible through efforts of health system and Hajj security forces.
Updated 23 June 2024
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Over 1.3m medical services rendered to pilgrims, says Saudi health minister

Successful execution of health management efforts was made possible through efforts of health system and Hajj security forces.
  • Health protocols effectively mitigated heat stress
  • Free health services to pilgrims commenced even before their arrival

RIYADH: Saudi Health Minister Fahd Al-Jalajel has announced the successful execution of health management efforts during Hajj 2024.

“This achievement was made possible through the coordinated efforts of the health system and the Hajj security forces, with no recorded outbreaks of epidemics or widespread diseases,” he said in an interview. “The health system provided more than 465,000 specialized treatment services, including 141,000 services to those who didn’t obtain official authorization to perform Hajj."
Al-Jalajel gave his reassurance about the overall health condition of the pilgrims, despite the high temperatures experienced at the holy sites.
He highlighted the positive impact of the health authorities’ swift responses, and the effective support of the Hajj security forces in managing and reducing the effects of heat stress.
The health system addressed numerous cases of heat stress this year, with some individuals still under care. Regrettably, the number of mortalities reached 1,301, with 83 percent being unauthorized to perform Hajj and having walked long distances under direct sunlight, without adequate shelter or comfort. Among the deceased were several elderly and chronically ill individuals.
The health minister underscored the significant efforts made by the competent authorities to raise awareness on the dangers of heat stress and the importance of preventive measures.
He extended his condolences, saying: “May God forgive and have mercy on the deceased. Our heartfelt condolences go to their families. May God accept their deeds and grant them recompense for their suffering. All reports have been compiled, families of the deceased notified, and identification completed, despite the initial lack of personal information or identification documents. Proper processes were followed for identification, burial, and honoring the deceased, with death certificates provided.”

The minister also detailed that the Kingdom’s provision of free health services to pilgrims commenced even before their arrival, with awareness programs at air, sea, and land border crossings. About 1.3 million preventive services were delivered, including early detection, vaccinations, and medical care upon arrival.

The healthcare services offered included open-heart surgeries, cardiac catheterization, dialysis, and emergency care, totaling over 30,000 ambulance services, with 95 air ambulance operations ensuring the delivery of advanced health services in medical cities across the Kingdom.
Additionally, the healthcare system made available nearly 6,500 beds and rooms. Measures to combat heat stress included the development of devices that enable the rapid and effective rescue of affected individuals.


King Abdulaziz Foundation organizes Saudi-Chinese relations seminar in Beijing

King Abdulaziz Foundation organizes Saudi-Chinese relations seminar in Beijing
Updated 23 June 2024
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King Abdulaziz Foundation organizes Saudi-Chinese relations seminar in Beijing

King Abdulaziz Foundation organizes Saudi-Chinese relations seminar in Beijing
  • Seminar discussed maritime trade between two countries, role of Chinese libraries in caring for Arabic manuscripts

LONDON: The King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives, organized a scientific seminar on cultural and economic relations between Saudi Arabia and China from June 19-23 in Beijing, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The seminar was held as part of the Beijing International Book Fair, which featured the Kingdom as the guest of honor. It discussed a variety of topics, including maritime trade between the two countries and its cultural and economic implications, the role of Chinese libraries in caring for Arabic manuscripts and preserving Arab heritage, and Arab heritage in China.
Numerous agreements of cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, and investment have strengthened the two countries' strategic partnership. Both countries participated in initiatives aimed at boosting global trade, including joint projects to develop ports, railways, and industrial zones.
Cultural exchanges and academic programs have helped to improve understanding between the two peoples, and Saudi Vision 2030 has broadened the scope of economic cooperation with China in areas such as technology, renewable energy, and infrastructure development.
 


Saudi Arabia to host 56th International Chemistry Olympiad

Saudi Arabia to host 56th International Chemistry Olympiad
Updated 23 June 2024
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Saudi Arabia to host 56th International Chemistry Olympiad

Saudi Arabia to host 56th International Chemistry Olympiad
  • Participation of more than 340 students expected 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is set to host the 56th International Chemistry Olympiad, with participation from more than 340 students and 400 university professors and chemistry teachers from 90 countries, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The prestigious event, which will run from July 21-30 at King Saud University, is organized by the Ministry of Education, and King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, and boasts exclusive sponsorship from the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation.

The event is a global chemistry competition in which talented high-school students from around the world compete in the subject. It aims to inspire interest in the subject through the solving of complex and creative chemistry problems; promote international communication in the field; and foster friendships among young science enthusiasts from diverse nationalities.

It will mark the first time Saudi Arabia has hosted the event.

Secretary-General of Mawhiba Amal bint Abdullah Al-Hazzaa said Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the olympiad was testament to the Kingdom’s commitment to supporting talent, science, and innovation, in line with the goals of Vision 2030.

Al-Hazzaa added that Mawhiba had prepared for the event through several parallel tracks, including strengthening coordination with partners to ensure an exceptional hosting experience; preparing talented students for strong competition; and aiming to achieve new milestones for the nation.

Members of the International Steering Committee for the International Chemistry Olympiad praised the Kingdom’s comprehensive preparations during a recent visit to Riyadh.

Their visit included meeting the Saudi minister of education, who launched the awareness campaign for the event in January.

The Kingdom has collected 14 silver and 25 bronze medals at the event in the past, and the Saudi team secured four prestigious awards at the 2023 International Chemistry Olympiad in Switzerland.