News From Around the Muslim World – May 2010

Jordan: Jordan Receives Grant to Phase Out Ozone-Depleting Chemicals

Jordan received a $2.16 million grant from the Montreal Fund on May 2, 2010 to support the disposal of ozone-layer depleting chemicals used in cooling systems, officials said on May 2, 2010.

The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol is financing the Kingdom’s strategy to get rid of 1,500 tonnes of chemical materials by the year 2020, Ozone Project Director at the Ministry of Environment Ghazi Odat said.

Jordan is a signatory to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of a number of substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion.

As part of the strategy, the production of air conditioners and central cooling systems manufactured by Petra Engineering Industries Company will be replaced with environment-friendly materials and technologies, Odat told The Jordan Times on May 2, 2010.

The Montreal Fund executive committee approved the grant in April 2010, making Jordan the first country in the region to introduce environment-friendly practices and materials in the production of cooling devices and systems, he said.

Odat noted that the project started last month and will be completed within the next two years, highlighting that if it proves successful, the initiative will be later implemented at the regional level.

// With the grant, and in accordance with an agreement with the ministry, Petra Engineering Industries Company will phase out harmful gases in the production process by introducing environment-friendly refrigerant gases such as hydrofluorocarbon (HFC)-410A, HFC-407C, HFC-134A, according to Vice Chairman Omar Abu Weshah.

“We want to be pioneers in preserving Jordan’s environment and also internationally, so we are switching to new refrigeration gases,” he said in a statement to The Jordan Times, noting that the firm exports its products to 45 countries.

He indicated that 95 per cent of companies in the cooling industry in Jordan use harmful chlorofluorocarbons.

With 75 per cent of refrigerants being released into the atmosphere and causing depletion of the ozone layer, environmentalists and researchers call for strengthening laws that govern the import, export and use of ozone-depleting chemicals.

Scientists estimate that a 1 per cent decrease in the ozone layer`s thickness would lead to a 1.3 per cent increase in the volume of ultraviolet rays reaching the Earth, an increase which they say poses serious consequences for human beings, fauna and flora.

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Kuwait: Kuwait environment body warns of ‘strict penalties’ against violators

Kuwait’s Supreme Council for Environment is resolutely determined to take strict penalties against environment-violating factories at western areas, Environment Public Authority Director General Salah Al-Mudhi warned here on May 9, 2010. Speaking at a news conference, Al-Mudhi said several edicts had been recently taken to shut down some factories and to suspend eight others for a week at western areas, including Al-Shuaiba and Ushairej.

The council insists on imposing the state of law in order to wipe out pollution nationwide, he said, calling for applying law to all violating public and private industrial installations. Measures taken to stop environmental pollution do not target Kuwaiti industrialists, but they are in the interest of the population, he said, adding that his authority spares no effort to assess the performance of factories and to spot pollution areas.

Environmental violations at western Ushairej area are mostly related to sanitary and industrial water sewage into marine environment, he said. Al-Mudhi stressed the importance of marine environment to Kuwait, especially at Kuwait Bay, which is rich in fish resources. However, he maintained, several factories at western areas have shown cooperation with the Environment Public Authority for wiping out environmental breaches with a view to protecting public health.

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Malaysia: Malaysia Developing FiT Mechanism to Boost Renewable Energy Use

The Malaysian government has been developing the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) Mechanism to spur the rapid development of renewable energy, a Malaysian official said here on May 4, 2010. 

The mechanism allowed electricity produced from indigenous renewable energy resources to be sold to power utilities at a fixed premium price and for specific duration, Malaysian Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Peter Chin Fah Kui said. Speaking at the First Carbon Neutral Conference on Sustainable Building South East Asia here, Chin said that with the mechanism in place, the Malaysian government anticipated a significant increase in the viability of renewable energy projects.

 These projects would in turn create a conducive environment for investment in renewable energy generation, added Chin.

 According to the fact sheet issued by Chin’s ministry here on May 4, 2010, the FiT mechanism can, on a cumulative basis, avoid 42 million and 145 million tons of carbon dioxide from the power generation sector by 2020 and 2030 respectively.

 The Malaysian government aims at raising renewable energy contribution to the electricity generation mix to 6 percent, or 985 megawatt in 2015, and 11 percent or 2,080 megawatt in 2020.

 Chin said that the Renewable Energy Act of Malaysia would be enacted to support renewable energy development in the country.

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Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia to Create Reneable Energy ‘City’

Researchers have welcomed a plan by Saudi Arabia to build a new renewable-energy “city” as a sign of the oil-rich nation’s commitment to developing alternative fuel sources. The King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) will be based in the nation’s capital Riyadh after the Saudi ruler, King Abdullah, issued a royal decree in April to order its creation. It will serve as a centre for renewables research and for co-coordinating national and international energy policy.

While it is not yet clear when KACARE will be opened, the King has appointed a president for the city – Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani, a former minister for commerce and trade. In a statement to the Saudi Press Agency, Yamani said, “Establishment of the city will contribute to achieving sustainable development in the kingdom through exploiting the science, research and industry of atomic and renewable energy for peaceful purposes.”

The announcement to create the new city comes just six months after the official opening of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), a multi-billion dollar research centre with energy and environment amongst its core research activities. Both these projects have received the financial backing of the King Abdullah. Since coming to the throne in 2005, the King has been aware that while the country’s oil and gas reserves are deep they are not infinite – and that Saudi Arabia must use its current wealth to prepare for a future with dwindling fossil fuels. His vision for KAUST is to provide a world-class university that can develop, among other things, more sustainable technologies.

More focused approach

With KACARE, King Abdullah wants to create a more specialized centre that focuses on harnessing the nation’s other natural resources. Given its desert climate, Saudi Arabia is keen to develop a solar energy infrastructure, and it is also looking to develop nuclear energy, an approach mirrored by the other member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council – the United Arab Emirates, Quatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman. KACARE will also be given the responsibility of drafting a national policy for nuclear power, as well as supervising the use of atomic energy and nuclear waste. It will represent Saudi Arabia at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The creation of KACARE is welcomed by Tony Eastham, the director of labs at KAUST who agrees that Saudi Arabia is right to realize that its oil reserves will not last forever. “It makes a whole lot of sense to diversify its energy future, particularly by seeking to utilize solar energy – KSA sits in a region of high solar intensity and minimal cloud cover,” he says.

Eastham is keen to build links between KAUST and KACARE from the outset. “We and KACARE need to develop collaborations with the best in the region and the best in the world. No-one has an exclusive on great ideas – we need to listen, be aware of what is happening worldwide, and form partnerships to stay at the leading edge of energy science and technology,” he says.

Wider cultural change?

Chukwumerije Okereke of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment at the University of Oxford thinks that the creation of KACARE could be symbolic of a wider cultural change among the oil-producing nations of the Middle East. He believes that Saudi Arabia and the other countries belonging to OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) are coming to realize that sustainability and climate change are now key national issues.

Okereke says that the OPEC countries have previously been somewhat “retrogressive” in international climate negotiations and he blames this on a lack of effective policy-making in these countries. “In so many cases, climate change was framed as a win-lose situation – if you act on climate change, by investing in new technologies, you lose out on your economy.” But he believes there are signs to show that the situation is changing. “There have been various announcements and ‘noises’ over the past five years from countries including Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to suggest that they are willing to consider renewables now.”

Once KACARE is inaugurated by King Abdullah, it will have an independent annual budget, but will be able to draft budgets for programmes lasting for more than a year if required. Financing the centre will be made through allocations of the state budget, and revenues achieved by the KACARE in addition to grants and endowments if accepted by the city council.

“The city will first attempt to specify priorities and national policies in the field of atomic and renewable energy to build a strong scientific and technologic base in the fields of power and desalinated water, in addition to medical, industrial, agricultural and mineral fields,” says Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani, the future KACARE president.

About the author

James Dacey is a reporter for

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Syria: Cement Factory Sparks Protest

A cement factory under construction at Jebel Kohla, opposite the popular Bagdad Café on the Damascus-Palmyra highway, is drawing fire for blighting both the environment and the region’s tourism industry.Construction at the factory, which is being built by United Arab Cement (UAC), began in March. It is located off the highway at Jebel Kohla, a prominent relief reaching 1,400m in height. Critics say the development, which will also include apartments for housing some 2,500 workers and their families, a school, hospital and power plant, is a huge setback for one of the most beautiful areas in Syria’s badia and question why an alternative site could not have been found.

“This factory will irreversibly destroy the beauty and fine desert scenery of the area,” Gianluca Serra, a biodiversity expert, said. “The desert in this area is wild, natural and unexplored. The biodiversity potential of this area seems high and it would be ideal for the establishment of a protected area for recreational purposes and also for the reintroduction of gazelles.”

A unique environment

When Serra arrived in Palmyra to assess the region’s flora and fauna in the early 2000s, he was told that there was very little left to preserve. Since then, he and his team of researchers have identified more than 306 species of vertebrates, 31 species of invertebrates and 90 species of plant in the Talila Protected Area alone, a nature reserve established south-east of Palmyra. It would be a tragedy then, says Serra, for a similar area such as Jebel Kohla to be destroyed by an industrial development before it has even had the chance to be fully assessed.

“Underlying this issue is the assumption that the badia is an empty space, ripe for exploitation,” he said. “The preservation of the badia, for ecological as well as aesthetic reasons, does not seem to be considered important.”

Mwaffak Chikhali, general manager of Earth Link & Advanced Resources Development (ELARD), a private environmental consultancy firm based in Damascus, shares a similar view.

“Many see this area as a desert and, therefore, assume that there is nothing sensitive in the area,” he said.

Critics of the factory’s location – opposite the Bagdad Café, a popular stop-off point for tourists on their way to Palmyra – say it will also adversely affect the region’s tourism industry. The Syrian government has singled out the Palmyra region as a strategic area for developing tourism over the next 10 to 15 years. Building factories on the road to Palmyra does not seem to be consistent with this aim, says Nashaat Sanadiki, former chairman of the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Tourism.

“The construction of factories en route to Palmyra is appalling and obviously damaging to the main tourist artery of Syria,” Sanadiki said. “A large part of the problem is a general lack of coordination between ministries.”

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UAE: Ministries Of Economy And Environment To Regulate Fishing Profession And Enhance Market Stability

The Consumer Protection Department of the UAE Ministry of Economy, in coordination with the Ministry of Environment and Water, discussed with representatives from UAE’s fishermen associations, the various issues and challenges facing the fishing sector and the recent recommendation of the Supreme Committee for Consumer Protection aimed at regulating the fishing business and stabilising market prices. The meeting was chaired by Dr Hashim Al Nuaimi, Director of Consumer Protection Department, and representatives from the Ministry of Environment and Dubai Department of Economic Development.

The participants discussed the need to apply best practices in order to enhance the trust of the fishermen on the various associations in the UAE by providing the needed support including logistics and equipment for fishermen. They also emphasized the importance of creating balance in the market between traders and consumers.

A committee to study the challenges facing the fishing sector in the UAE will be formed which will present a detailed report to the Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Environment and Water in order to tackle the issues and develop the performance of the sector.

Participants also discussed the reasons behind the fall in fish prices and the Ministry’s of Economy role in this aspect by coordinating with the Ministry of Environment to provide inspectors and monitor fish prices in the UAE markets.

Dr Al Nuaimi said the Ministry of Economy is coordinating at the high levels with the Ministry of Environment and Water to assign inspectors all over the UAE’s fish markets to regulate the business and to create a balance between traders and consumers, He said that both ministries will build a data base to study price fluctuations and transfer the findings to the Supreme Committee to take appropriate action.

Dr Al Nuaimi said that as per the Federal Consumer Protection law 24, 2006, the Ministry of Economy of Economy is committed to protect consumer rights and create stability in the markets.

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