(MENAFN- The Peninsula) By Irfan Bukhari and Sanaullah Ataullah | The Peninsula
Environmental pollution is a global threat being faced by the whole world and different nations are taking different steps according to their needs and sources to address the challenge to avert further harm to atmosphere.
Like other countries of the world, Qatar is facing pollution in its various forms from air pollution to plastic pollution but the country has taken a number of solid measures to curtail the threat with a number of initiatives including introducing pieces of legislation.
Recently Qatar constituted the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change while environment was previously part of the Ministry of Municipality. It shows the level of seriousness the State attaches to environmental issues.
Major forms of pollution include air pollution, light pollution, litter, noise pollution, plastic pollution, soil contamination, radioactive contamination, thermal pollution, visual pollution, and water pollution.
Under relevant laws, state institutions are taking concrete steps to address each form of pollution. The community is also being involved in the process through a number of awareness campaigns.
Talking to The Peninsula, Chairman of Friends of Nature, Dr. Saif Ali Al Hajari, who is also CSR International Ambassador said that the slogan for Qatar National Day (QND) 2021, 'Ancestral Meadows: A Matter of Trust', aims at connecting people especially children to the nature dating back to the old age.
“Our forefathers were more careful and concerned towards the nature because they were living close to the nature taking water from wells and enjoying open weather without air-conditioners during summer or winter. They gained a lot of experiences in dealing with nature with high respects to the nature such as flora and wildlife surrounding them.”
“Now things changed, so we need to launch programmes to educate children and young generation about the importance of nature in their life influencing their behavior to respect the nature. That is way, this year, by revealing slogan on environment, the government tries to bring back the old days to share the experiences of ancestors with new generation.”
He noted:“Now we have more responsibilities to educate children to understand the importance of nature in a better way. Only awareness programmes are not enough to deal with preserving environment and addressing climate change issue therefore we have to run programmes to build the values and to take positive actions as well.”
To increase greenery in the country, 'Plant Million Trees' initiative was launched in 2019. So far over 600,000 trees have been planted.
Recently in October this year, community in Qatar gathered in a green attempt to break the world record for the most nationalities planting trees simultaneously. With 66 nationalities, the Public Works Authority (Ashghal) achieved the milestone on October 9, 2021 in Doha. The attempt was part of an aptly named campaign“Plant Million Trees” which aims to protect and preserve the environment for future generations.
The campaign also invited kids in their mission to plant one million tress across the country to help improve the quality of life, improve air quality through minimizing carbon emissions and protect the environment.
In November last year the Environmental Protection, Reserves and Wildlife Department of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in cooperation with the Public Works Authority 'Ashghal' launched an initiative to fence 50 meadows in the country to protect the vegetation from encroachments, especially in the rainy and spring season, due to the increasing visits to the dessert.
The 50 meadows were selected by giving priority to areas of vegetation growth and meadows of environmental and social importance, as well as threatened meadows, which include rare or endangered species of wild plants, with a focus on areas with high plant density, such as the northern regions and Al Reem Reserve, among others.
Highlighting the word 'meadow' mentioned in the QND 2021 slogan, Dr Saif Ali Al Hajari said that it is flora which is plying very important role in ecosystem of the planet providing pastures for cattle grazing.
“Our forefathers were relaying largely on pastures giving utmost care to them for their cattle in producing foods as at that time there were no food imports. They also received more rainfall those days compared to nowdays.”
“To protect the meadows and flora, in old times, people followed the ecosystem as they did not take their cattle to pastures at least three days from the date of rainfall.”
To protect the environment, Dr Al Hajari said, now Qatari government is taking a number steps and making huge investments on environmental projects.
“The authorities concerned brought the industrial cities under the preview of laws and regulations setting environmental standards to curb the pollution.
Advanced technologies are also being adopted to mitigate the impact of industrial activities to the environment.”
Qatar is also taking serious measures to protect mangroves. Mangroves serve as natural air filters, which can significantly sequestrate carbon emissions – one of the main causes of global warming. According to Unesco, mangroves“support rich biodiversity and provide a valuable nursery habitat for fish and crustaceans. Mangroves also act as a form of natural coastal defense against storm surges, tsunamis, rising sea levels, and erosion.”
In Qatar, mangroves are located in north of Al Khor – Al Thakira – and has become a popular destination due to its vast green scenery and kayaking activities. In a bid to raise environmental awareness, various government and non-governmental organisations, as well as volunteer groups and expatriate communities, regularly hold beach cleanup drives in Al Thakira to help protect the mangroves and the place's natural beauty.
The Environmental Protection Reserves & Wildlife Department at the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change monitors and protects wildlife and marine life of the country, through development & implementation of protection plans, in coordination with the authorities concerned.
It also controls the onshore and offshore environmental violations, and refer them to the authorities concerned, and removing the causes of such violations through administrative channels, in coordination with the authorities concerned. It also drafts plans for the management of natural reserves, in coordination with the authorities concerned as well as conducts studies and evaluates proposals for the sites of new reserves.
It develops proposal of replanting meadows, pastures and natural areas, with wild plants, rehabilitation of which, and safeguarding it from desertification, in coordination with the relevant administrative units. It also prepares studies and research related to biodiversity, and oversees the management of rehabilitation and propagation of wildlife, in coordination with the authorities concerned.
In August 2021, the Department of Industrial Inspection and Pollution Control launched many key initiatives to develop an integrated system for pollution control across the country and Qatari water. The department also intensified inspection campaigns to make industrial facilities and companies comply with Qatari standards and specifications to reduce the pollution.
The Department takes action against major violations such as disposal of hazardous waste without following environmental conditions and standards, burning garbage, solid and liquid waste in non-designated places, non-compliance with environmental protection regulations and standards and using waste as primary materials in production processes without obtaining the necessary environmental permits.
Dr Saif says that the government is making great investments on research works at Qatar University, Qatar Foundation and other research organizations.“The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is running its own research programmes to protect the environment in different ways.”
He said that National Programme for Conservation and Energy Efficiency (Tarsheed), run by Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (Kahramaa), is also doing great job in creating awareness among the community especially children to play their roles in protecting the environment by saving electricity and water.
In Sep 2021, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) entered new partnership to combat plastic pollution. As environmental sustainability remains at the heart of tournament preparation, the SC partnered with Seven Clean Seas to deliver a plastic-neutral tournament.
Seven Clean Seas will work with Qatar 2022 organizers to raise awareness about plastic pollution, develop plastic waste reduction plans and offset plastics used in the tournament by physically removing plastic waste from rivers and oceans. The amount recovered will be equivalent to the plastic waste generated from the hosting of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and will ensure the tournament is plastic neutral.
Dr Saif Ali Al Hajari said that Qatar signed a lot of agreements with international organizations to address the climate change issue which is matter of saving the planet.
“NGOs such as Friends of Nature and 'A Flower Each Spring Program' are running initiatives making their contributions to protect the environment and ensure sustainability in the country.”
He added:“With the support of volunteers, we are running the programmes and encouraging private sector to play their active roles in this noble cause. If private companies are unable to launch their own initiatives to protect the environment, they can make their contributions to the NGOs working in this field.”
The disposal of waste materials in an improper manner and at non-designated places cases littering which is taken as a form of environmental pollution. It also causes damage to marine life, pollutes oceans and creates visual pollution in cities. The littering can also cause health hazards for individuals and wildlife.
Qatar has strict laws in place to curb this menace. The Law No. 18 of 2017 on Public Hygiene and Cleaning stipulates a fine of QR300 to QR6,000, according to the nature and severity of violation under the conciliation. The minimum fine QR300 is imposed on releasing waste water on roads and QR6,000; the maximum fine for dumping solid waste of construction, demolition or excavation on unauthorised places.
The serious violations are referred to court where the law imposes fine up to QR25,000 and stipulates one year jail sentence as maximum. The fine for throwing tissue papers and spitting on road and public places is increased from QR200 to QR500. The fine for littering on beaches is QR500.
One of the largest initiatives is 'Plant Million Tree' run by the Ministry of Municipality where private companies and institution can take part by planting trees, Dr Al Hajari said:“We need to do more to cope with the issue of climate change and environmental protection. We need to work very hard to address the issue to protect coming generations from the impact of climate change.”
He said that people from all over the world should come together to face the challenges of climate change to save the planet.“Rich countries should help the poor countries because the ecosystem is the same for all countries of the world. The failure of poor countries in addressing the challenges of climate change will have impact on other countries.”
He said more international conferences are needed to host experts from all over the world to discuss the challenges of climate change and bring about an appropriate solution.
He said that many groups from expatriate communities were noted participating in the activities of environmental protection such as cleaning beaches.
“There is a large number of people in Qatar who are engaged in volunteering. To engage them, we need initiatives with the support of private sector.”
He said that on the occasion of QND celebration, massive programmes are being organised to educate people especially young generation about the importance of protecting environment to ensure the sustainability goal of Qatar.
“The Friends of Nature initiative is running ten programmes targeting children from three years old to university students. Some programmes are being held online. Ecokids programme is held through Zoom on Saturday in Arabic and Sunday in English from 6pm to 7:30pm. Children from all over the world can participate in the online porgramme.”