How Saudi Arabia aims to make Hajj 2024 an eco-friendly pilgrimage

Special How Saudi Arabia aims to make Hajj 2024 an eco-friendly pilgrimage
Hajj pilgrims arrive on June 14, 2024, at the tent city of Mina, near the holy city of Makkah, as the annual pilgrimage begins in exhausting summer heat. (AFP)
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Updated 15 June 2024
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How Saudi Arabia aims to make Hajj 2024 an eco-friendly pilgrimage

How Saudi Arabia aims to make Hajj 2024 an eco-friendly pilgrimage
  • Journey causes environmental strain through waste, water and energy consumption, and carbon emissions
  • By adopting sustainable practices, pilgrims can contribute to a greener journey and minimize their impact

JEDDAH: Hajj draws about 2 million people each year. However, this monumental event places a significant strain on the environment through waste, water and energy consumption, and carbon emissions. 

That is why measures have been put in place to encourage pilgrims to minimize their waste, use resources judiciously, and reduce their overall carbon footprint while fulfilling their Hajj obligations.

Various government bodies are collaborating to manage solid waste, promote environmentally conscientious behaviors, and mitigate the adverse effects of litter on the environment.

 

 

In a statement posted on X, the National Waste Management Center said: “With integrated efforts to safeguard the environment of the holiest places on earth, MWAN inspection teams are conducting rounds to ensure safe waste management, facilitating the performance of Hajj rituals with ease and peace of mind.”

Its teams inspected 49 operational facilities in the waste management sector across Makkah and Madinah in May to ensure their compliance with waste management regulations.




Teams from the Saudi National Waste Management Center conduct inspections regularly to ensure safe waste management. (X: @ncwmsa)

MWAN says that it aims to roll out several initiatives to serve pilgrims, optimize natural resource use, and promote public health and environmental sustainability.

The National Center for Environmental Compliance plays a crucial role in gathering data and monitoring air quality before, during and after the Hajj season.

“These figures are sent directly to the central monitoring station, where national experts analyze them and issue daily reports provided to the Hajj Committee,” Saad Al-Matrafi, the center’s spokesperson, told Arab News.

“Quick responses from field committees and appropriate decisions are made upon observing significant deviations to ensure the safety of the pilgrims.”




In the streets of Makkah province, thousands of cleaners are hard at work separating plastic waste from compost as more than two million Muslims wrap up their annual hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)

The center also conducts inspection rounds of sites and facilities to ensure compliance with environmental regulations and standards.

“The first phase of this year’s operational plan has been completed, which includes inspection rounds of sites and facilities in the health, municipal, industrial, agricultural, fuel stations, and roads used by pilgrims,” Mohammed Ammar Ameen, the head of the center’s Hajj Operations Room, told Arab News.

Ameen said that any facility found to be non-compliant during these visits was reported to the relevant authorities to ensure the quality of environmental conditions before the start of Hajj rituals.




Maintaining the sacred ambiance: Sanitizing and perfuming the Grand Mosque ensures lasting memories of cleanliness and pleasant fragrances for all pilgrims. (SPA)

In the second phase, the center will intensify its field visits around Makkah and the holy sites, monitoring water, soil and air samples to ensure their safety.

“This year’s monitoring plan includes monitoring environmental violations and responding to environmental emergencies in the holy site camps,” Ameen said. 

“The center’s team of inspectors and environmental specialists work around the clock to ensure the comfort of guests through continuous environmental monitoring and instant detection of any violations in environmental standards and noise pollution.”

DID YOUKNOW?

• The electric Holy Sites Train produces zero carbon emissions, preserving the environment and pilgrims’ health.

• The National Center for Waste Management is raising awareness about environmentally friendly behaviors.

• The National Center for Environmental Compliance established 20 air quality monitoring stations in Makkah and Madinah.

• The National Center for Wildlife Development works to ensure baboon-free zones at the holy sites.

Clean water for drinking and for carrying out ablutions is provided at dispensing stations around the holy sites and along connecting routes to keep pilgrims and performers of Umrah cool and hydrated.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has initiated 10 projects to enhance water infrastructure, with 2,000 employees dedicated to providing services to pilgrims.

Abdulrahman Al-Fadley, minister of environment, water and agriculture, said that there was an average daily pumping volume of more than 750,000 cubic meters per day to Makkah and the holy sites, rising to more than one million cubic meters per day on the day of Arafa and the days of Eid Al-Adha.




During the Hajj season, 750,000 cubic meters of water are pumped in Makkah every day. (SPA)

Water storage has reached 3.2 million cubic meters. There are also about 4,100 daily laboratory tests carried out to ensure water quality.

Meanwhile, the National Center of Meteorology is monitoring weather conditions in the event of extreme heat events.

Al-Matrafi of the National Center for Environmental Compliance said that he and other departments had devised a set of environmental performance metrics to help encourage improvements.

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“Through strategic analysis of environmental performance and challenges during the Hajj seasons, we aim to pinpoint areas for improvement and innovation,” he said.

“This approach enables us to develop sustainable environmental standards and introduce forward-looking initiatives, including implementing smart cities, adopting alternative energy sources, promoting recycling, and integrating environmentally friendly transportation systems.”




The Grand Mosque in Makkah has a fleet of rides running on electric battery. (Shutterstock)

These include electric trains, a fleet of electric buses, a rollout of brand new e-scooters, and even a pioneering, all-electric, self-driving aerial taxi service — the world’s first to be licensed by a civil aviation authority.

Despite its many environmental challenges, Hajj presents an opportunity for pilgrims to embrace sustainable practices — be that choosing to travel by electric vehicle, to reuse garments rather than buy new clothing, or simply by carrying a reusable bottle.

By adopting these sustainable practices, pilgrims can contribute to a greener Hajj journey and minimize their environmental impact.


 


King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language

King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language
Updated 20 July 2024
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King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language

King Salman Global Academy spotlights India’s role in promoting Arabic language
  • KSGAAL is hosting Arabic Language Month for Indian students and teachers
  • Initiative is in line with Human Capability Development Program of Vision 2030

NEW DELHI: India plays a significant role in promoting the Arabic language in the wake of growing commercial exchanges with Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom’s top linguistic institution has said, as it conducted a series of programs for Indian scholars and learners.

Students and lecturers from the Indian universities and colleges that teach Arabic courses are taking part in training sessions, workshops and competitions as part of the Arabic Language Month organized by the King Salman Global Academy for Arabic Language.

The event, which aims to develop and improve the teaching of Arabic for non-native speakers in the world’s most populous nation, began online in late June and runs until July 26.

The main host is Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, which has been teaching Arabic for decades.

“India plays a significant role in promoting the Arabic language, driven by a growing demand for learning Arabic within its vast and diverse human, linguistic and cultural landscape,” KSGAAL Secretary-General Dr. Abdullah bin Saleh Al-Washmi told Arab News on Friday.

“Despite India’s diverse multilingual landscape, there is a growing interest in learning Arabic, fueled by increasing commercial activities and cultural exchanges.”

The Arabic Language Month in India features a range of educational activities led by Saudi linguists affiliated with the KSGAAL — from competitions and workshops to enhance Arabic language teaching curricula at different educational institutions, to specialized sessions for instructors to familiarize them with the most recent teaching methodology.

“These activities are conducted in different educational institutions across India, with the primary goal of fostering stronger relationships with Indian universities that have an interest in teaching Arabic,” Al-Washmi said.

“Moreover, the Arabic Language Month serves as a platform to highlight the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s efforts in promoting and teaching the Arabic language through innovative methods. This initiative is in line with the objectives of the Human Capability Development Program, a key component of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.”

Upholding and promoting the Arabic language is part of the Vision 2030 transformation strategy, which also focuses on the development of skills and academia.

“The program also focuses on enhancing the teaching skills of Arabic language educators, both locally and globally, particularly in non-native speaking communities,” Al-Washmi said.

“These initiatives include supporting modern activities for teaching Arabic to non-native speakers, enhancing the teaching competencies of instructors, and organizing scientific competitions to discover and encourage individuals with linguistic talents.”


KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 

KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 
Updated 20 July 2024
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KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 

KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan 

RIYADH: Saudi aid group, KSrelief, has distributed 25,000 bags of bread in Akkar Governorate and Miniyeh District in Lebanon.

The distribution comes as part of KSrelief’s Al-Amal Charitable Bakery project to support Syrian and Palestinian refugee families, and the host community living in northern Lebanon, benefiting 125,000 individuals.

KSrelief continues to distribute bread to refugee families in northern Lebanon. (SPA)

Elsewhere, KSrelief implemented the Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan's provinces of Sindh and Balouchistan from May 15 to July 10.

During the program, rolled out in cooperation with the Albasar International Foundation, KSrelief's volunteer medical team examined 21,614 cases, distributed 4,683 eyeglasses, and performed 2,038 successful eye surgeries.

KSrelief implemented the Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan's provinces of Sindh and Balouchistan from May 15 to July 10. (SPA)

 


Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries

Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries
Updated 20 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries

Saudi Arabia’s Mawhiba ties up with UNESCO to promote STEM education in Arab countries
  • Partnership aims to enhance STEM education for students from 6th grade to 12th grade across Arab states
  • Special attention will be given to empowering Arab girls and young women, ensuring they have equal opportunities to excel in STEM fields

PARIS: Mawhiba, an endowment organization that aims to nurture talented Saudi students in the scientific field, has signed a partnership agreement with UNESCO to foster science, technology, engineering and mathematics education across Arab countries.

The agreement was signed on July 19 in Paris by Abdulaziz bin Saleh Al-Subail, Mawhiba deputy secretary-general for business development and communication, and Lidia Arthur Brito, UNESCO’s assistant director-general for natural sciences, Mawhiba said in a news release carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

Mawhiba is the short name for the King Abdulaziz and his Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity, which was organized in 1999 in honor of Saudi Arabia’s founding king.

Brito said that the partnership aimed to enhance STEM education for students from 6th grade to 12th grade across Arab states, ”focusing on refining their scientific knowledge, nurturing creativity, and fostering critical thinking.”

It sought ”to provide young people with the necessary knowledge and capabilities and to motivate them to use science, technology, engineering and mathematics to meet global challenges,” she said.

Brito said that the experience would help in exchanging these experiences globally, adding that ”there is potential for expanding these efforts to Africa and other parts of the world to promote sustainable development goals.”

Special attention would be given to empowering Arab girls and young women, ensuring they had equal opportunities to excel in STEM fields, she said.

Mawhiba has identified 97,000 gifted students out of more than 300,000 tested in more than 100 cities and villages across the Kingdom. Its sponsorship of more than 54,000 students and its participation in international science competitions for talented youth has reaped global recognition for the Kingdom. 

Saudi students have so far won more than 397 medals and prizes in these competitions, developed in excess of 16,000 ideas, acquired 15 patents, and more than 1,000 Saudi students were accepted in the world’s top 50 prestigious universities in distinguished disciplines that met the needs of national development plans, the SPA report said.

Mawhiba Secretary-General Amal bint Abdullah Al-Hazzaa emphasized the shared commitment to empowering young Arab minds and advancing sustainable development through education and innovation. She underscored the importance of this collaboration within the framework of Saudi Vision 2030.

Central to the initiative is the MAWHIBA-UNESCO Online STEM Oasis, which will serve as a global platform for local, national and regional science and engineering fairs. 

The partnership will focus on training Arab science teachers to lead research and guide students in scientific projects, thereby enhancing the overall quality of STEM education, the Mawhiba news release said.

“Mawhiba is committed to expanding the use of the UNESCO Open Science Portal and the UNESCO Science-2-Innovation Network to build the capacity of young scientists and women in STEM education globally.

“Over the past three years, Mawhiba has supported 839 students from Arab states through enriching STEM programs, setting a precedent for regional cooperation and development in STEM education,” it added.

By joining forces with UNESCO, Mawhiba aims to amplify its ability to address global challenges such as climate change, health crises and technological disruptions, it said.


Saudi Arabia, MWL welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories

Saudi Arabia, MWL welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories
Updated 20 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia, MWL welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories

Saudi Arabia, MWL welcome ICJ ruling on Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories
  • The Kingdom calls for practical steps to reach a just solution to the Palestinian cause
  • MWL says the ruling is "a positive step towards the human and legal right of the Palestinian people to reach a just and comprehensive solution to their cause"

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has welcomed a ruling by UN’s top court that Israel’s settlement policy on Palestinian territory breaks international law.
The Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement that the Kingdom welcomed the advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice and called for practical steps to reach a just solution to the Palestinian cause.
The World Court issued the judgment, which is non-binding, on Friday.

A sign stands in the Palestinian village of Battir, a UNESCO heritage site in the occupied West Bank south of Jerusalem, which is now threatened by Israeli settlers trying to build a new, illegal outpost. (AFP)

In a separate statement, the Saudi-based Muslim World League described the ICJ ruling as "a positive step towards the human and legal right of the Palestinian people to reach a just and comprehensive solution to their cause."

MWL Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, who is also chairman of the Association of Muslim Scholars, said the decision, although non-binding, ensures that Palestinians "obtain their legitimate rights to self-determination and establishing their independent state in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and relevant international legitimacy resolutions."

The court panel found “the transfer by Israel of settlers to the West Bank and Jerusalem as well as Israel’s maintenance of their presence, is contrary to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
The ruling comes against the backdrop of Israel’s devastating bombardment on Gaza, following the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants on Israeli settlements adjacent to the Palestinian enclave.
Israel captured the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem in 1967, but Palestinians consider the areas as integral part of a future independent state.

A view of Battir, a UNESCO heritage Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank south of Jerusalem, which is now threatened by Israeli settlers trying to build a new, illegal outpost. (AFP)

The Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday condemned the “continued genocidal massacres” against the Palestinian people amid Israel’s battle with Hamas in Gaza.
The Kingdom wants an independent state for the Palestinian people, encompassing the 1967 borders.
The US and regional players have been attempting to end the conflict in Gaza through a peace deal between Hamas and Israel, which would include the release of Israeli hostages and a form of lasting cessation of military activities.

(With SPA)


How Saudi Arabia and its Asian partners are driving green development ahead of COP29

How Saudi Arabia and its Asian partners are driving green development ahead of COP29
Updated 20 July 2024
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How Saudi Arabia and its Asian partners are driving green development ahead of COP29

How Saudi Arabia and its Asian partners are driving green development ahead of COP29
  • Asian nations share a common vision for climate action that does not hinder growth and prosperity
  • From the Saudi Green Initiative to Azerbaijan’s adoption of solar, Asia seeks harmony between humans and nature

QINGDAO, China: As one of the world’s largest economies and contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, China is seen as having a particular responsibility among nations to help address climate change and promote sustainable development.

As such, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization invited Asian countries to participate in a two-day Green Development Forum in Shandong earlier this month to discuss solutions for a greener future.

China’s President Xi Jinping has expressed his desire to strengthen cooperation with regional parties to work toward common social and economic development goals, while at the same time fostering harmonious coexistence between people and nature.

Representatives from various Asian countries attended the two-day Green Development Forum in Shandong, China, earlier this month to discuss solutions for a greener future. (Supplied)

Shen Yueyue, vice chair of the national committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and chair of the Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation Commission of the SCO, reiterated the need to foster this link between development and the environment.

“Development is development for all, and good development is green development,” Shen said in her keynote address at the forum, which was themed: “Joining hands in green development, together promoting harmony between humans and nature.”

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Green development is a focus for many countries, including Saudi Arabia. Indeed, one of the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform agenda is ensuring sustainable practices in social and economic development.

Two such strategies launched by the Kingdom to promote green development and a low-carbon future are the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative.

Together, these initiatives aim to increase vegetation cover in Saudi Arabia and across the region by planting billions of trees to mitigate the effects of climate change and to help slow the rise of global temperatures in line with the Kingdom’s net-zero commitments

Another regional state that is making green development a key priority is Iran.

During the SCO conference in Shandong’s port city of Qingdao, Ali Salajegheh, vice president and head of Iran’s Department of Environment, discussed his country’s commitment to fighting climate change.

One example of this is the country’s role in hosting the International Conference on Sand and Dust Storms in 2023.

Family picture of the participants of the Green Development Forum held in Shandong, China, earlier this month. (Supplied)

However, Salajegheh believes that addressing social and political issues is crucial to preventing a deepening of the environmental crisis in the region, including the need for economic stabilization and poverty reduction.

“Developing countries should make sure of their social and economic development as the main priority because the fight against poverty and the development of health and the provision of housing and energy is still for a significant part of the developing world considered a basic priority,” he said, according to Iran’s state news agency IRNA.

These efforts and more will be on the agenda at the 29th UN Climate Change Conference — COP29 — in Baku this November. In the run-up to this major event, host nation Azerbaijan has been working hard to achieve its green development goals.

DID YOUKNOW?

Azerbaijan’s capital Baku will host COP29 in November.

COP29 Presidency aims to raise ambition and enable action.

Baku is committed to developing the nation’s renewable energy potential.

Policies include tax breaks on electric vehicles and investment in education.

Although Azerbaijan is a major player in the global oil and gas industry, ranking 20th in the world for proven oil reserves, one of the key pillars of its green development strategy is the rapid expansion of renewable energy infrastructure.

The country has made significant changes to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, begin the transition to renewable energy, and participate in the global effort to combat climate change.

The 230MW Garadagh Solar Power Plant project in Azerbaijan. (AN photo by Haifa Alshammari)

In 2020, an agreement was signed between Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Energy and UAE firm Masdar to establish the country’s first solar energy facility — the 230-megawatt Garadagh Solar Power Plant.

The project occupies 550 hectares and currently boasts 570,000 bifacial photovoltaic panels, which capture the direct light of the sun and the reflection of sunlight from the ground.

Murad Sadikhov, the Garadagh Solar Power Plant’s country manager, told Arab News the facility has thus far achieved 24-gigawatt capacity. “But we have set a very ambitious goal to reach 100 GW by 2032,” he said.

Murad Sadikhov, country manager at The 230MW Garadagh Solar Power Plant project in Azerbaijan. (AN photo by Haifa Alshammari)

Alongside the implementation of renewable energy projects, Azerbaijan is also encouraging the public to shift from using fossil fuel-intensive vehicles to adopting green modes of transport.

“The government is promoting a green agenda, not only in terms of establishing generative capacity but also on the demand side,” said Sadikhov.

“They promote electrical vehicles. They started the electromobility master plan. They hired prominent consultants. They established new rules and legislations such as the tax relief for EVs and are promoting EVs for public transportation, trying to maximize the use of electric transportation.”

Significant strides have been made in tapping Azerbaijan's immense wind energy potential. The Azerbaijan 240 MW Wind Farm, for one, is being developed by Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power. 

Azerbaijan is also investing heavily in raising public awareness about environmentally friendly practices and training the next generation of sustainability professionals. “Most of the universities now have special programs for renewable energy,” said Sadikhov.

Although green development strategies have been adopted by several nations across Asia, experts and officials are keenly aware that more needs to be done to respond to the climate challenge without undermining social and economic development.