UAE's SAG Group: Middle East – Take the Environment Seriously or Suffer

middle east environment issues photo dry middle eastCould this “dry” setting be the entire Middle East one day if we don’t take environment issues seriously?

Business concerns in the Middle East, especially real estate developers in countries like the UAE,  Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia are not being concerned enough about the environment, according to a study just released by the UAE branch of the Sustainable Advisory Group (SAG) as reported in the UAE’s The National.

Companies, especially those located in the Middle East, are risking their economic prosperity by not taking enough care for the environment.

According to the article, due to the impact of water scarcity and climate change on the region:

“There is a significant amount of work ahead for public policy leaders and scientists to encourage businesses to appreciate the full scope of the impacts of climate change and water scarcity on economic prosperity and business opportunity.”

Two of the biggest problems are water scarcity and pollution caused by inadequate measures being taken to dispose of garbage and other wastes.

Dr. Mohammad Raouf, manager of the environment research program at the Dubai based Gulf Research Center said he is not surprised at the findings by the SAG, and suggests that governments in the Middle East should consider offering incentives to companies willing to undertake measures which are more friendly to the environment.

Maria Sillanpaa photoWith more than 60% of the surveyed businesses being in the Middle East, particularly in water scarce countries like the UAE, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, it was noted by SAG founding director Maria Sillanpaa (pictured left), a leader in the field of social corporate responsibility, that easily accessible  ground water reserves in countries like Abu Dhabi are likely to run out in the 20-40 years.

While desalination is becoming an increasingly feasible way to acquire needed water supplies (Saudi Arabia claims to have the biggest desalination plant), it was noted that 74% of total water needs are supplied by ground water, while 24% comes from desalination.

The problem of sewage contamination, due to large landfills , like the recent Green Prophet article on the dump in Lebanon showed how emitting methane and other gases from decomposing garbage, is an increasing problem, as well as contamination by various chemicals and other contaminates into the soil.

Ms. Gayatri Raghwa, an environmental education specialist at the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi  (EAD), says that more awareness is coming from companies in the region, and that 21 per cent of companies said they had water-saving initiatives in place and 42 per cent had implemented power-saving policies. But she added that a lot more needs to be done by these companies, especially since many are Muslim and as such they need to utilize more Islamic religious teaching that are based on morality and conserving of natural resources.

She summed up by saying:

“Islam puts big emphasis on conserving natural resources. We should use the power of religion, which  will have a major effect because people are very religious here. If people believe in something, they will do it no matter what.”

Photo via kansai

::The National

More on Middle East pollution and problems:
Lebanon’s Garbage Dump More Serious Than Just The Smell
Environmental Impact of a Syrian Drought
The Middle East is  Drowning in Waste

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