Tag: Middle East

Syrian Refugees and Water Security

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Water scarcity is a stark reality in the Middle East, the world’s most scarce region. The region is home to 6.3 percent of world’s population but has access to only 1.4 percent of the world’s renewable fresh water.  In the Middle East, refugees from Syria have been resettled in Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt. Most of the Syrian refugees (more than half a million) have migrated to Jordan in search of safe shelters.

Large-scale influx of Syrian refugees has precipitated a water crisis in many areas which may worsen in the coming years unless the Syrian conflict is resolved. The water shortages are particularly serious in Jordan which is one of the dried countries worldwide and has very limited natural water resources at its disposal.

There have been several cases where refugees in Jordan have been forced to relocate to other countries due to endemic water shortages in overcrowded refugee camps, such as Zaa’tari and Azraq.

Countries like Jordan and Turkey, which hosts a vast majority of Syrian refugees, are experiencing tremendous strain on their limited natural resources such as water and land. As of now, there have been no serious reports of civil unrest against refugees in these countries but local people are becoming frustrated as they have to share meager water and agricultural resources with hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Some of the steps being taken to reduce water shortages include digging of new wells, water conservation awareness programs for refugees, development of wastewater treatment facilities and recycling of wastewater.  As most of the refugees have settled in the more water-rich region of Northern Jordan, the government and NGOs working in the region are trying to implement stronger conservation efforts.

The horrific humanitarian crisis being faced by Syrians leaves neighboring nations, like Jordan and Turkey, no other option except to allow refugees to come in. I think the responsibility for rehabilitation of Syrian refugees lies with world powers who have allowed the situation to deteriorate to the worst possible extent.

For more information, please email Salman Zafar on salman@cleantechloops.com or salman@ecomena.org

A Primer on Ecotourism

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Ecotourism has swiftly emerged as the fastest growing segment in the global tourism industry. The characteristic features of ecotourism include strong emphasis on resource conservation, environmental education, traveler responsibility and active community participation. Broadly speaking, ecotourism involves experiencing natural attractions, typically through outdoor activities which are sustainable in terms of their impact on the environment.

With growing concerns about climate change and global warming, the interest in ecofriendly and responsible tourism is rapidly growing across the world.  The ecotourism industry, which has been catalyzed by advancements in transportation and information technology, has brought hitherto unknown geographical landscapes into public limelight, thus bringing tourists to pristine natural locations in Asia, Europe, South America, Africa, Middle East and elsewhere.

Basic Ingredients

Ecotourism, also known as sustainable tourism or nature tourism, is characterized by strong focus on natural ecosystems, promotion of environmental ethics, preservation of natural resources, respect for local culture and environmental education of travelers.  The key attribute of ecotourism is to strike a fine balance between preserving natural environments with the needs of tourists. This special tourism industry holds great economic importance for developing countries having many natural attractions but limited resources to develop facilities for conventional tourism.

Ecotourism is witnessing growing popularity

Eco-tourists are given a first-hand understanding and experience of nature through guided walks, wildlife safaris, bird-watching, camping, star-gazing, hiking and related activities. Popular natural attractions include deserts, rainforests, woodlands, grasslands, wetlands, mountains, beaches and polar regions, in addition to unique life forms that inhabit these natural habitats (animals, birds, insects, plants and other organism).

Need for Caution

In the absence of proper management, planning and environmental education, the influx of tourists to ecologically-sensitive areas may be detrimental to the integrity of ecosystems and indigenous cultures. The management of ecotourism attractions is of great importance in order to prevent degradation of natural ecosystems which took millions of years to evolve.

It is also essential to restrict number of visitors to natural ecosystems, otherwise such attractions will swiftly lose their charm and beauty. Environment-friendly supporting facilities for visitor are also required in order to ensure minimal impact on the environment (e.g. composting toilets, recycled water, passive solar buildings and recycling stations).

For more information, please email Salman Zafar on salman@cleantechloops.com or salman@ecomena.org

Renewable Energy Situation in Kuwait

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The renewable energy sector is in nascent stages in Kuwait, however there has been heightened activity in recent years mainly on account of the need for diversification of energy resources, climate change concerns and greater public awareness. The oil-rich State of Kuwait has embarked on a highly ambitious journey to meet 15 per cent of its energy requirements (approximately 2000 MW) from renewable resources by 2030.

One of the most promising developments is the kick-starting of the initial phase of 2GW Shagaya Renewable Energy Park in December last year. As per conservative estimates, more than $8 billion investment will have to be made to achieve renewable energy targets in Kuwait.

Renewable Energy Potential

In Kuwait, the predominant renewable energy resource is available in the form of solar and wind. The country has one of the highest solar irradiation levels in the world, estimated at 2100 – 2200 kW/m2 per year. The average insolation of 5.2 kWh/m2/day and maximum annual sun hours of around 9.2 hours daily makes Kuwait a very good destination for solar power plant developers.

Wind energy also has good potential in the country as the average wind speed is relatively good at around 5m/s in regions like Al-Wafra and Al-Taweel. Infact, Kuwait already has an existing 2.4MW Salmi Mini-windfarm, completed in 2013, which mainly serves telecommunication towers in remote areas and the fire brigade station in Salmi. As far as biomass energy is concerned, it has very limited scope in Kuwait due to arid climate and lack of water resources.

Kuwait Renewable Energy Program

Interestingly, Kuwait has been one of the earliest advocates of renewable energy in the Middle East with its involvement dating back to mid-1970s; however the sector is still in its early stages. The good news is that renewable energy has now started to move into development agenda and political discourse in Kuwait.

The Kuwait Institute of Scientific Research (KISR) and the Kuwait Authority for Partnership Projects (KAPP) are playing an important role in Kuwait’s push towards low-carbon economy. KISR, in particular, has been mandated by the government to develop large-scale alternative energy systems in collaboration with international institutions and technology companies.

Kuwait’s renewable energy program, with the aim to generate 2GW renewable energy by 2030, has been divided into three stages. The first phase involves the construction of 70 MW integrated renewable energy park (solar PV, solar thermal and wind) at Shagaya which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2016. The second and third phases are projected to produce 930 MW and 1,000 MW, respectively. The three phases will meet the electricity demand of 100,000 homes and save about 12.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per year on completion.

Role of KISR

The Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), founded in 1967, is one of the earliest research institutions in GCC to undertake commercial-scale research on potential applications and socio-economic benefits of renewable energy systems in Kuwait as well as GCC. Infact, KISR designed and operated a pilot-scale 100kW solar energy station in 1978.

Over the years, KISR has done extensive research, using experimental projects and economic modelling exercises, on deployment of solar energy, wind energy and renewables-powered desalination in Kuwait. KISR is playing a pivotal role in the conceptualization, R&D and development of renewable energy projects in Kuwait including the flagship venture of Shagaya Renewable Energy Park.

Shagaya Renewable Energy Park

Shagaya is to Kuwait as Masdar is to Abu Dhabi. Shagaya Renewable Energy Park comprises of solar thermal, solar photovoltaic and wind power systems, being built on a 100 km2 area in Shagaya, in a desert zone near Kuwait’s border with Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The $385 million first phase, scheduled to be operational by the end of 2016, will include 10MW of wind power, 10MW of solar PV, and 50MW of solar thermal systems. The project’s thermal energy storage system, based on molten salt, will have nine hours of storage capacity, one of the few projects worldwide with such a large capacity.

Shagaya Renewable Energy Park comprises of solar thermal, solar photovoltaic and wind power systems

Al-Abdaliyah Integrated Solar Project

Al-Abdaliyah ISCC Project is another promising solar venture which is currently at pre-qualification stage. To be built in the south-west of Kuwait, the plant will have a total capacity of 280 MW, out of which 60 MW will be contributed by solar thermal systems. The facility being developed under a build-operate-transfer scheme, under the supervision of Kuwait Authority for Public Partnerships, provides a 25-year concession backed by an energy conversion and power-purchase agreement with the government.

Parting Shot

The major force behind Kuwait’s renewables program is energy security and diversification of energy mix. The country has one of the world’s highest per capita consumption of energy which is growing with each passing year. Kuwait is heavily dependent on imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) to run its power plant, which is a significant burden on its GDP.

In recent years, the MENA region has received some of the lowest renewable-energy prices awarded globally for both photovoltaic and wind power which seems to have convinced Kuwait to seriously explore the option of large-scale power generation from renewable resources. Needless to say, Kuwait has a long way to go before renewable energy can make a real impact in its national energy mix.

Another key driver for Kuwait’s transition to low-carbon economy is its carbon and ecological footprints, which is among the highest worldwide. Widespread use of renewable power will definitely help Kuwait in putting forward a ‘green’ and ‘eco-friendly’ image in the region and beyond. Job creations, growth of private sector, development of green SMEs sector and heavy cleantech investment are among other important benefits. The business case for green energy proliferation in Kuwait is strengthened by widespread availability of solar and wind resources and tumbling costs of alternative energy systems.

With many projects in planning and development phases, Kuwait should now focus on implementing projects in a timely manner and also on developing a realistic renewable energy vision. The development of a renewable energy atlas and renewable energy framework are bound to attract more investments from local and foreign investors.

For more information, please email Salman Zafar on salman@cleantechloops.com or salman@ecomena.org

Green SMEs in Developing Countries: Challenges and Opportunities

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With ‘green’ being the buzzword across all industries, greening of the business sector and development of green skills has assumed greater importance in the developing world. Around the world, SMEs, startups and entrepreneurs are playing a vital role in the transition to a low-carbon economy by developing new green business models for different industrial sectors. Infact, young and small firms are emerging as main drivers of radical eco-innovation in the industrial and services sectors.

What are Green SMEs

A judicious exploitation of techno-commercial opportunities and redevelopment of business models, often neglected by established companies, have been the major hallmarks of green SMEs. For example, SMEs operating in eco-design, green architecture, renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainability are spearheading the transition to green economy across a wide range of industries. The path to green economy is achieved by making use of production, technology and management practices of green SMEs.

Categories of Green Industries

Environmental protection Resource Management
Protection of ambient air Water management
Protection of climate Management of forest resources
Wastewater management Management of flora and fauna
Waste management Energy management
Noise and vibration abatement Management of minerals
Protection of biodiversity and landscape Eco-construction
Protection against radiation Natural resource management activities
Protection of soil, groundwater and surface water Eco-tourism
Environmental Monitoring and Instrumentation Organic agriculture
Research and Development Research and Development

Key Drivers

The key motivations for a green entrepreneur are to exploit the market opportunity and to promote environmental sustainability. A green business help in the implementation of innovative solutions, competes with established markets and creates new market niches. Green entrepreneurs are a role model for one and all as they combine environmental performance with market targets and profit outcomes, thus contributing to the expansion of green markets.

Some of the popular areas in which small green businesses have been historically successful are renewable energy production (solar, wind and biomass), smart metering, building retrofitting, hybrid cars and waste recycling.  As far as established green industries (such as waste management and wastewater treatment) are concerned, large companies tend to dominate, however SMEs and start-ups can make a mark if they can introduce innovative processes and systems. Eco-friendly transformation of existing practices is another attractive pathway for SMEs to participate in the green economy.

Major Challenges

Green SME sector in developing countries has been growing steadily, albeit at a slower pace than anticipated.  One of the major obstacles has been poorly-designed regulation. Lack of clear policy direction and enablers are hindering growth and competitiveness of green SMEs. Product market regulations which stifle competition pose a big hurdle to SMEs operating in renewables, energy, environment and sustainability sectors.  For example, state-owned companies in the Middle East have almost complete monopoly in network industries which have large environmental impacts (electricity/energy sector) or control strategic environmental services (water and waste management sector).

Restructuring of the SME sector in developing countries is essential to allow small businesses to grow and prosper, thus catalyzing a steady transition to a green economy. SMEs account for vast majority of production units and employment across the developing world. Needless to say, participation of SMEs is essential in the transition to a low-carbon economy, thus paving the way for greening the business sector and development of green skills across all industrial segments.

Participation of SMEs is essential in the transition to a low-carbon economy

Green SMEs require strong government support for growth, which is unfortunately lacking in many developing nations. The most pressing challenges are

  1. Increasing disconnect between education and market needs and
  2. Disorientation of research and development from industry priorities and trends.

Government agencies, business associations and NGOs need to play a bigger role in advocating more streamlined priorities for green growth across all industrial sectors. Green SMEs face significant barriers to entry despite their key role in developing locally appropriate technologies and eco-friendly business models.

Conclusion

Policy interventions for supporting green SMEs in developing nations are urgently required to overcome major barriers, including knowledge-sharing, raising environmental awareness, enhancing financial support, supporting skill development and skill formation, improving market access and implementing green taxation. In recent decades, entrepreneurship in developing world has been increasing at a rapid pace which should be channeled towards addressing water, energy, environment and waste management challenges, thereby converting environmental constraints into business opportunities.

For more information, please email Salman Zafar on salman@cleantechloops.com or salman@ecomena.org

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