Green timebomb ticking, warns expert
Manama, January 28, 2008
Bahrain and its neighbours are sitting on an environmental timebomb, an expert has warned.
It could go off at any moment, thanks to the reckless 'invasion' of the sea by governments and developers, says Regional Organisation for the Protection of the Marine Environment (Ropme) executive secretary Dr Abdul Rahman Al Awadhi.
'The haphazard and continued reclamation apart, the region is also now becoming ecologically extremely fragile, thanks to billions of litres of ballast water being released into the seas,' Dr Al Awadhi, who is former Kuwaiti health minister, told the Gulf Daily News.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the opening of the sixth regional steering committee meeting on implementation of Marpol (the name given to the standards and requirements adopted by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, governing the discharge of oil and other hazardous substances, and garbage).
Representatives from all over the Gulf and the Middle East region are attending the three-day meeting, at the Intercontinental Regency Bahrain, to discuss suggestions on Marpol's implementation.
Bahrain is being represented at the event by the Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre (Memac), headed by Captain Abdul Munem Al Janahi.
'At the rate sea is being invaded, it is only a matter of time before nature hits back at us,' said Dr Al Awadhi.
'All this is not only reducing the area of sea that we have, it is also leading to severe and disastrous effects on the environment, for which our future generations will never forgive us.'
He said the Gulf and the Middle East region was, in any case, extremely prone to accidents, it being the 'oil capital' of the world.
'There is the threat of a major oil spill, the chances of a natural disaster are very high and the possibilities of a major earthquake hitting the region cannot be ruled out,' said Dr Al Awadhi.
'We are right next to Iran, which has had several earthquakes already and it is only a matter of time before we are hit by one.'
Dr Al Awadhi said there were now more than 40,000 oil tankers passing though the Gulf region every year, a figure which is expected to increase to 70,000 in the next decade.
'As things stand today, we will not be prepared to handle that number,' he said.
Instead of expanding into the sea, development should happen 'inwards' into the desert regions, said Dr Al Awadhi.
'We have vast area of desert lying barren. The sea should be brought to the desert and not the other way round. The development should be in the deserts and the sea should be left alone. This would help us all.'
He said lakes and other water features could be created in what are now desert areas by bringing water from the sea.
In terms of potential disaster, he gave the example of Oman, where a cyclone recently devastated large parts of the country.
'That destruction was the result of rapid and haphazard invasion into the sea. The natural defences are destroyed, which leaves the population vulnerable. It would never have happened if some basic steps had been taken,' said Dr Al Awadhi.
He said the issue of ballast water discharged from ships was also significant but had, in the last few years, been organised better, with special sea areas being created in the region where the dumping of ballast is allowed and controlled.-TradeArabia News Service