Arab nations must do more on environment

Arab nations are not doing enough to control pollution and manage waste responsibly and need to invest more in the development of clean technologies.

This is the damning conclusion of a report, Arab Environment : Future Challenges, published by Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), an NGO active in the region.

The report looks at a number of key areas including water supply, energy generation, pollution and waste management and outlines where governments and industry are making progress – and where they are failing.

The report also highlights how several Arab states have based their economies on oil revenues and this could lead to bankruptcy in the long term unless an alternative stream of revenue is found to replace that generated by the finite oil reserves.

Pollution is one of the main problems covered by the report.

Najib Saab, one of the authors of the report, said: “Air quality in Arab cities continues to deteriorate. Health losses attributed to air pollution from the transport sector alone are over $5bn annually. Emissions from industry in Egypt surpass in certain cases twenty times the acceptable international limits. Air pollution levels in most Arab cities are many folds higher than acceptable rates.”

Marine pollution and coastal development pose major challenge, according to Saab.

“From the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Gulf, 18,000 kilometres of populated Arab land lies along coasts, most of it polluted and degraded by uncontrolled urban development, let alone pollution caused by wars and conflicts,” he said.

The report also looks at the water supply issues peculiar to the region, pointing out that while it produces the majority of the world’s desalinated water, it suffers from a dry climate and is put in a vulnerable position by the fact that most of the major rivers supplying Arab countries have their source beyond their borders.

The report also looks at waste management, claiming that only 20% is properly treated with just 5% being recycled – the vast majority ends up in makeshift dumps.

On the subject of climate change, Saab says that while “contribution of Arab countries to the causes of global climate change might not count for more than 3%, the impact on the region will be disastrous.”

He also highlights that the Arab contribution to scientific research in this area is less than 0.2% of GDP, compared to 2 to 4% in other regions.

Sam Bond

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