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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Qatar Environment

When I first arrived in QatarI couldn’t believe how much energy was wasted. Energy on massive cars, energy on air-conditioning that was never shut off, energy on lights that blazed on all night, energy on a massive construction boom that has only become more frenetic since I arrived.

And never one word about the environment.

Yet despite the lack of awareness, Qatar is one of the countries that stands most to lose from global warming.

The country is low lying, and the Pearl development which it is so immensely proud of is, in places, just two meters above sea-level

What’s more, with temperatures reaching 50 degrees in the height of the summer, the country really doesn’t need to get any hotter.

The first sign of environmental awareness that I noticed was at a food festival, when the school hosting the festival had put out recycling bins. Each bin was to contain a different type of rubbish. Unfortunately, the guests didn’t notice, and the bins were filled with all kinds of different junk – and left-over cake.

But there have been other signs that Qatar is gaining in awareness.

In 2007 Qatar presided over the Montreal conference, and the conference agreed to accelerate the phase out of chemicals that damage the ozone layer.

Other signs have been slow to appear, despite frequent articles on the subject by local naturalist Francis Gillespie, but for the first time on the way to the beach this weekend I noticed signs urging residents not to litter the beaches.

When we got to the beach a large rubbish bin had been planted in the middle, and much of the rubbish we had seen in the past had disappeared.

And in the middle of the desert a camel farm is being established that will be powered purely by solar and wind power. The aim of the camel farm is, through managed farming, to combat or reverse the process of desertification.

Qatar is following a new trend in the region. The UAE is looking at building a huge solar panel farm, and even Saudi Arabia is investing in renewable energy. Countries in the region are also looking at nuclear power as an alternative to oil.

However, just look around and you will see Qatar has a long way to go before it becomes environmentally aware – not least with its huge buildings filled with large windows that leak the coolness from the air conditioners in the summer.

There is an increased environmental awareness. But I fear it is still too little, too late.

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