Prince Turki bin Nasser, chairman of the Presidency of Meteorology and the Environment (PME), said that his department always seeks to develop and activate all possible means, as well as deploy the latest technology, to protect people and properties from the elements and environmental pollution.
“PME has recently developed programs and ways through which the public can stay informed about the weather. We developed the first Arab early warning automated system that provides data around the clock about weather conditions,” he said.
The prince said data collected from various locations and analyzed around the clock have indicated that air quality remains good and environmentally stable.
The following are excerpts from the interview:
How do you deal with pollution in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf?
There are organic pollutants in the world’s seas because people throw untreated sewage in the water. We work in coordination with the agencies supervising sewerage projects and the municipal authorities of the various cities to make the maximum use of treated sewage water in irrigation or for any other purpose. This water is a valuable resource and we cannot afford to waste it. If it must be thrown into the water, there are environmental standards and specifications that must be complied with.Saudi Arabia has a national plan to fight pollution from oil spills and other harmful material.
Are there studies being conducted about incidents in the Gulf area?
There have been a number of field studies in the aftermath of the major oil spills in Saudi waters in the Arabian Gulf during the two Gulf wars. They were conducted by local and international research centers as part of a program to rehabilitate those areas. There is a timetable for rehabilitation.
Do you intend to establish stations to monitor pollution?
The PME has a future vision about the possible use of modern technology. We are studying the benefits of installing buoyant stations to monitor pollution and send instant radio warnings about any pollution-related incident. We do have our own routine measurement equipment for basic marine data.
How does the PME deal with desertification? Is there coordination with other parties?
Saudi Arabia works hard to control desertification in cooperation with local, regional and international organizations. We have government agencies that coordinate efforts between them, but the Ministry of Agriculture plays the greatest role in this regard. It is the agency in charge of implementing the international agreement to fight desertification. Our agency’s role is mainly to conduct field studies to monitor the elements and analyze them.
Which Saudi cities have the most air pollution? How does that compare with the international figures?
There is nothing to worry about with Saudi cities, especially industrial cities, with regards to air pollution. There are, of course, local incidents that are a result of climatic conditions and the operations of certain industries. Some factory violations of clean air rules contribute to the problem. We have rules for the quality of air and we apply them.
Do you plan to modernize communication equipment, especially after the latest weather conditions in the Kingdom?
At the PME we always work on developing all possible means and use available technology to pursue our mission in order to protect people and property from the elements and environmental pollution. The PME has recently developed programs and ways through which the public can be informed about the weather. We developed the first Arab early-warning automated system that provides data around the clock about weather conditions.
Do you think standard procedures are adequate to control medical waste or do you need investment businesses to help in this regard?
Medical waste can cause disease and adversely affect the environment. That’s why the Ministry of Health and other health agencies decided to outsource the disposal of medical waste to investment businesses, but they have to obtain their work permits from us. These organizations transport, treat and dispose of medical waste in environmentally safe methods.
Do you think that fish resources have been depleted? Are there punishments for the abuse of the marine world?
It is inconceivable that fish resources can be depleted, but there are indications that there is a decrease in the reproduction rate of some fish species, which is caused by earthwork on the seaside, which leads to the spread of soil particles in the water. This can kill the coral reefs, which are home to many sea organisms. Moreover, direct discharge of waste in the sea can harm the various habitats of many sea organisms. Of course, harmful fishing does contribute to a decrease in fish resources.
In order to address this concern, we need to coordinate among the various agencies to find the best solutions to the problem and conserve the marine environment and its natural resources. We must educate fishermen and other fishing businesses about the importance of coral reefs and how to protect them. Any violators will be punished according to regulations.