Cel­e­brat­ing our com­mon fu­ture

Arab En­vi­ron­ment Day is an op­por­tu­nity to raise aware­ness on an en­vi­ron­ment­friendly so­ci­ety and em­bark upon a long jour­ney that needs our ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion

Gulf News - - OPINON - Spe­cial to Gulf News

e cel­e­brate sev­eral in­ter­na­tional, re­gional and na­tional eco/en­vi­ron­ment days through­out the year. Each of these dates is des­ig­nated to cre­ate aware­ness on var­i­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal sign­posts such as Earth Day, World Wa­ter Day and Gulf (Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil) En­vi­ron­ment Week.

In fact, our mod­ern life­style and un­sus­tain­able devel­op­ment pat­terns have placed in­creas­ing pres­sure on our mother Earth. Thus these oc­ca­sions help to reach out to the wider pub­lic and younger gen­er­a­tions to en­cour­age and ed­u­cate them about the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and nat­u­ral re­sources.

On Oc­to­ber 14 each year, the Arab world cel­e­brates the ‘Arab En­vi­ron­ment Day’. This is the main re­gional en­vi­ron­men­tal oc­ca­sion to demon­strate sup­port for en­vi­ron­ment and raise aware­ness on im­por­tant en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues in the re­gion. This was the day on which Arab En­vi­ron­ment min­is­ters met in Tu­nis in 1986 and the Arab League es­tab­lished the Coun­cil of Arab Min­is­ters Re­spon­si­ble for En­vi­ron­ment with the aim of de­vel­op­ing co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Arab states in ar­eas of en­vi­ron­ment, iden­tify ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems and seek so­lu­tions in the Arab world as well as the in­ter­con­nec­tions be­tween en­vi­ron­ment and devel­op­ment.

Un­for­tu­nately, many Arab coun­tries ig­nore this day. There is no en­vi­ron­men­tal theme to cel­e­brate the day. Al­though there is a com­mon en­vi­ron­men­tal theme iden­ti­fied by the Arab League for the day, many coun­tries do not pay any at­ten­tion to it. Sadly, there is lit­tle or no ac­tiv­ity at all to mark the oc­ca­sion. There is lit­tle aware­ness and hardly any me­dia cov­er­age for that day across the re­gion. In ad­di­tion, there is a com­plete ab­sence of com­mon par­tic­i­pa­tion at both gov­ern­men­tal and non-gov­ern­men­tal lev­els.

How­ever, one must ad­mit that a few Arab coun­tries like the UAE and Jordan com­mem­o­rate the Arab En­vi­ron­ment Day with mul­ti­ple ac­tiv­i­ties pro­mot­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal con­ser­va­tion, re­new­able en­ergy, clean and green tech­nolo­gies, sus­tain­able trans­porta­tion etc — in line with their plans to­wards a shift to a green econ­omy.

Emerg­ing chal­lenges

The Arab world faces com­mon en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges. Some en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems are tra­di­tional, linked to wa­ter scarcity, wa­ter pol­lu­tion, land degra­da­tion, de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion and air pol­lu­tion. There are also, emerg­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges such as in­creased de­mand for en­ergy, neg­a­tive im­pact of cli­mate change, e-waste, con­struc­tion and de­mo­li­tion de­bris.

Arab En­vi­ron­ment Day is a real chance to raise en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness to pro­tect our en­vi­ron­ment. Only by safe­guard­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, Arab coun­tries can re­alise the 2030 agenda for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) be­cause en­vi­ron­ment is in the DNA of sus­tain­abil­ity.

Rais­ing aware­ness about en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion and chang­ing peo­ple’s be­hav­iour to­wards an en­vi­ron­ment-friendly so­ci­ety will not hap­pen overnight. It is a long jour­ney that needs our ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion. Oc­to­ber 14 can serve as an ef­fec­tive marker for that. Need­less to say, in the Arab World, ef­forts to in­crease en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness dur­ing Arab En­vi­ron­ment Day should be an easy task be­cause it is our re­li­gious duty to con­serve the en­vi­ron­ment and nat­u­ral re­sources. The use of re­li­gious guide­lines and prin­ci­ples must be an in­te­gral part of any aware­ness cam­paign dur­ing Arab En­vi­ron­ment Day.

There is plenty of room for co­op­er­a­tion in the Arab world on many as­pects re­lated to the en­vi­ron­ment sec­tor, such as pol­lu­tion mon­i­tor­ing, util­i­sa­tion of ground­wa­ter ta­bles, re­cy­cling, wa­ter de­sali­na­tion, joint en­vi­ron­men­tal re­search and projects, the use of re­new­able en­er­gies and so on. In ad­di­tion, Arab En­vi­ron­ment Day is a great op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on what we can do as in­di­vid­u­als and as part of a civil so­ci­ety to re­duce our car­bon foot­print, shift to­wards a green life­style, non-waste­ful, and one that does not lead to ex­haus­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources. It also gives us a chance to re­duce car­bon emis­sions.

On Arab En­vi­ron­ment Day to­day, let us unite to pro­tect our frag­ile en­vi­ron­ment. We have failed to do so po­lit­i­cally, but en­vi­ron­ment has the power to unite us all, help us achieve sus­tain­able devel­op­ment and im­prove qual­ity of life for our cur­rent and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Dr Mo­hamed Ab­del Raouf is an in­de­pen­dent en­vi­ron­ment re­searcher.

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