The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not particularly known for its commitment to conservation of the environment. Instead, being the world’s largest producer of petroleum products it faces a number of related dilemmas. From oil spills to decline in sensitive marine habitats, to plain old oil pollution, the kingdom has its feet firmly grounded as the evil demigod of eco-disaster.
Then there’s the omnipresent oil guzzling monstrous four-wheelers, it seems no one wants to ride a small(ish) car. Fuel is so cheap I will buy the most gigantic vehicle out there as my ride of choice and feel like I own the world! I really wish someone, someday, writes a book about the relationship between the size of an automobile and a person’s self-worth!
That said there are now obvious changes in the way companies in Saudi Arabia are viewing environmental challenges with more and more local companies putting conservation on their agenda. It is an uphill task and the level of consumer awareness is still at an elementary level but the role of these companies deserves applause. Below, I give a list of entities that are supporting this rather infantile green movement:
1. Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME):
PME is responsible for all environmental matters in Saudi Arabia, including planning for the conservation of natural marine and coastal resources. The presidency also serves as the regulator for local environmental regulations.
2. Saudi Aramco:
Saudi Aramco, the state owned oil Company has taken the lead in contributing to environmental protection through project environmental assessments, air and water quality standards, occupational health regulations, safe disposal of hazardous material and vital oil spill contingency plans. Aramco’s Environmental Conservation Policy emphasizes that the company not create undue risks to the environment, and that operations be carried out with concern for protection of the land, air, and water.
3. Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC)
SABIC devotes substantial effort to protecting the environment by building their plants to minimize environmental impact, enforcing stringent pollution-control measures, regular monitoring of groundwater levels and safety measures to protect marine life.
4. Saudi Electric Company (SEC):
SEC in November 2011 took a momentous step towards green energy by inaugurating Saudi Arabia’s first solar power plant on Farasan Island. According to this interview, it is a 500 KW Solar Power Plant Project using technology from Solar Frontier of Japan. The plant is directly connected to SEC’s distribution system.
5. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)
KAUST serves as a living example that environmentally responsible methods of energy use, materials management, and water consumption are viable in the region. In June 2010, the KAUST campus earned a Platinum rating on the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) scale, produced by the U.S. Green Building Council. Also, a collaborative project between the University of California at Berkeley, KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology), and Dar Al-Hekma College is underway to support the development of a sustainable engineering infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and Middle East.
6. Saudi Gulf Environmental Protection Company (SEPCO)
SEPCO was established in 1997 as a company specialized in biological Waste Management. They provide biological waste disposal services to majority of healthcare service providers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
7. Saudi Environmental Society (SENS)
SENSE was founded as a national non-profit society according to a decision of the Ministry of Social Affairs mainly to promote and enhance environmental conservation in the kingdom. SENS is also expected to strengthen the role of the private sector to contribute to environmental protection and conservation of natural resources and wildlife
According to an estimate, 600,000 new cars are sold in Saudi Arabia every year and a very small minority of these cars are fuel efficient.
The car companies at the moment have no focus on providing greener options and the consumer in general is not sensitive to environmental concerns. The car dealers when presented with fuel efficient cars of same horsepower but fewer cylinders are not optimistic about the sale potential of such cars in the kingdom since people don’t favour such cars due to prestige issues.
That may seem like a bleak picture but with the concerted efforts of the movers and shakers above, coupled with the governments concern over depleting oil resources; I am hopeful that things will take a turn for the better in years to come. Here’s to the start of a green Saudi Arabia!