Moshe continues his weekly look at the Middle East eco-blogging community, in Arabic. This week he flies to Syria and looks at how an Internet Service Provider is educating the public.
Unlike last week, this week we are not dealing with a personal blog, which is dedicated more or less to environmental issues, but SAWA is a blog that deals with all sorts of issues, and the environment is only one of them. This whole blog is written in Arabic and administered by a work group in SAWA ISP, which is the leading internet services provider in Syria.
Maybe it’s no accident that SAWA ISP is the one who has a blog with a section on the environment that started to be active at the end of 2009. The issue of environmental awareness in Syria has been really developing during the last two years or so, following the establishment of the Syrian Ministry of Environment in April 2009 as an independent entity, and the Internet (once banned in Syria) is used as a tool to develop this environmental awareness among Syrians throughout Syria and in the Diaspora.
Among the people who take part in this work group, one can find: M. Maher al-Khatib, chairman of SAWA ISP’s administrative board; Raw’ah al-Masri, Ala’ al-Din Binyan, and Muhammad al-Sayyad from SAWA ISP’s marketing department; Basam Shahadat, a web developer from SAWA ISP’s additional services department; and M. Umar Nafis, the head of the technical department in SAWA ISP. Other writers, who are defined as friends of the blog, take an active part in the blog too.
Indeed, the aim of this blog, according to the “about the blog” section, is to strive for a better Syrian society. It says there that the members of the work group, which administers the blog, are proud to be Syrians and believe in their ability to change the situation in Syria for the better by way of posting in the blog “beneficial and modern cultural and societal information in order to create a better Syrian society.”
This blog includes seven sections about health, family and society issues, social and youth associations and NGOs, tourism, Internet, technological innovations, and the “green life,” which deals with environmental issues.
The main writer in the “green life” section is Raw’ah al-Masri, who seems, according to her posts, to be an environmentalist herself or to have a lot of knowledge in environmental issues.
The “green life” section begins in November 2009 and includes reports on current environmental projects and conferences which take place in Syria and the more interesting part, which includes articles whose main aim is to serve the SAWA ISP agenda of increasing the public awareness to environmental issues.
An Environmental Campaign to Protect the Frunluk Forests in Lattakia
Thus, for example, an article titled “An Environmental Campaign to Protect the Frunluk Forests in Lattakia” was posted on July 1, 2010. This campaign was organized by the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform and the United Nations UNDP on the occasion of the International Year of Biodiversity. The campaign, dubbed “Visit them and Keep them Natural,” was launched on June 24, 2010.
The aims of this campaign are to raise the awareness of the Syrian public to the issue of cleaning forests, to administer the eco-tourism at the site, and to protect the biodiversity there.
The Frunluk Forests have been chosen among the three targeted sites of the project of biodiversity preservation and nature reserves management, together with Jabal al-Aziz and Abu Qabis due to its rich biodiversity.
The Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs wishes to draw up from this project modern national policies for management of all sorts of reserves and natural sites in Syria to make them models of eco-tourism. The Frunluk Forests have been announced as a nature reserve in 1999. Studies of the forests which have recorded the existence of 260 botanical genres, 50 species of birds, 22 species of reptiles and amphibians and 18 species of mammals.
The Syrian Arab News Agency also reported on this campaign in English on June 25, 2010.
But, the interesting part in this post is that at the end of it there is a link to another post titled “The Forests and Its Benefits,” which explains what is a forest, its importance, and the negative implications on human beings and the animals of the deforestation process and the forests being unclean.
This is a good example for how the SAWA ISP’s blog is promoting its agenda of raising the environmental awareness among the Syrian public. Not only does it report on the environmental campaign to protect the Frunluk Forests in Lattakia, but it also explains to the Syrian public in yet another post why the forests are so important and why they should be preserved.
Articles on the Environment in Syria
Another article, titled “The Residence of Tomorrow – An Environment-Friendly National Residence Project,” was posted in February 2010. This article described the “residence of tomorrow” project which was planned and worked on by a group of Syrians, who found a solution to the residence and lack of electricity by way of a sustainable project which produce the electricity by itself without any need for energy sources.
The idea was to establish residence units which will be based on solar energy and on stations for water teatment which will make it suitable for the irrigation of house plants. This project was not limited to the residence un its alone, but created the first environmental house in Syria which is based on solar energy as the energy source and on treated water for the irrigation of plants.
The project supplied small families with small houses and saved the families 150,000 Syrian Lira annually because of the lack of electricity and water payments. This project was conducted first in Damascus and its environs, and later, would expand to other places in Syria.
It should be mentioned that when the article was posted, the project had not been started yet, but according to the Syrian government, it would begin soon.
A series of six articles describing some of Syria’s nature reserves was posted in March 2010.
General Environmental Articles
Other articles in the “green life” section are dealing with general issues concerning the environment, such as: the green building and the environmental friendly buildings; the environment and food pollution; recycling; the influence of the plastic on the human beings and the environment; wind energy; simple steps for protecting the environment in the house; organic food; water saving, air pollution, solar energy, etc.
The Contribution of SAWA ISP to the Environment in Syria
SAWA ISP is not only reporting on environmental projects and issues in Syria and at large, but also taking an active part in preserving the environment. As part of its activities for a better Syrian society, SAWA ISP organized a planting campaign on February 12, 2010. One hundred and twenty SAWA ISP’s workers and their families took part in this campaign in which they planted about a thousand trees on the road from Damascus to Zabadani. This planting campaign was conducted under the supervision of the agricultural administration of Rift Damascus, which supplied the machines, seedlings, and water tanks for irrigation.
It seems like SAWA ISP wishes to advance its agenda for a better Syrian society through raising the awareness of the Syrian public to environmental issues through the internet.
In this theme, it seems to cooperate with the Syrian Government, who wishes to raise the environmental awareness among the public by way of all means available, including the Internet. Indeed, according to Syria Internet Usage and Marketing report, which was written by the Internet World Stats, in June 2009 there were 3,565,000 internet users in Syria out of a total population of 21,762,978. This means that the Internet users comprised in June 2009 16.4% of the total population.
In view of this data and in view of the fact that every year the number of internet users in Syria grows, SAWA ISP does a great job through its blog in increasing environmental awareness among the Syrian public.