[This is a monthly roundup of news articles and other materials related to environmental issues in the Middle East. It does not reflect the views of the Environment Page of Jadaliyya.]
"Renewable Energy: What Does it Mean for Oil-Dominated Middle East?" Middle East Eye (30 October 2020)
With “peak oil” theory on the decline, the economic impact of the transition to renewable energy on oil-dense countries is uncertain, as many MENA nations have not comprehensively invested in renewable energy infrastructure development.
"Qatar, Egypt Most Affected Arab Countries by Air Pollution: HEI Report"MENA FN (10 November 2020)
A new public health report from a US-based think tank highlights the issue of particulate matter and ozone air pollution in the Arab region, contributing to child illness and death from respiratory issues in multiple countries in the region.
"Oil, Guns, and Gas: How Gulf Money Will Fuel Israel’s Arms Industry" 972 Magazine (8 December 2020)
The recent normalization deals between Israel and Gulf countries such as the UAE and Bahrain are part of a larger “military-fuel complex,” in which the fossil fuel and military arms industries feed each other infrastructurally and economically.
“UAE to Import Israeli Fruit and Vegetables”Middle East Monitor (2 November 2020)
The UAE-Israel normalization deal means Israeli farmers, including potentially in settlements, will be able to export fresh produce to the UAE.
“Qatar, Singapore Natural Gas Deal Will Detail Carbon Emissions” Al-Jazeera (9 November 2020)
A deal for Qatar to supply liquified natural gas to Singapore will include published reports of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the fuel, making carbon offsets easier to quantify.
“U.N. Gets OK to Aid Crippled Yemen Tanker After Months of Waiting”The New York Times (24 November 2020)
An inspection team has finally been granted permission to board a stranded oil tanker off of the west coast of Yemen, but boarding the ship is complex and repairs or a solution may still be months away.
“Classifying Houthis as Terrorists Will Worsen Famine in Yemen, Trump is Warned”The Guardian (13 December 2020)
Humanitarian groups have spoken out against potential sanctions against rebel groups in northern Yemen. They argue sanctions will make food aid and infrastructure even harder to provide when ongoing war and the COVID-19 pandemic have already exacerbated hunger in the region.
“New Locust Swarms in Africa, Yemen Prompt UN Appeal for Funds”Bloomberg (17 December 2020)
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) hopes to expand funding for surveillance and pest control measures against desert locusts impacting crops in Sudan, Yemen, and other eastern African nations.
“A New Population of Blue Whales Was Discovered Hiding in the Indian Ocean”The New York Times (23 December 2020)
A new group of blue whales, with their own distinct “dialect” of whale songs, have been found via recordings off of the coast of Oman.
“Eight-Armed Underwater Bullies: Watch Octopuses Punch Fish”The New York Times (24 December 2020)
Scientists observing octopi in the Red Sea have found they co-hunt with other fish species, although not without competition!
“Photos: Overfishing of Sharks in the Red Sea Sparks Outcry”Egypt Independent (30 November 2020)
Fears of illegal fishing of sharks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Suez have led to condemnations from environmentalists.
“EGYPT: An Application to Exchange E-waste for Vouchers”Afrik21 (4 December 2020)
The Egyptian government hopes to encourage electronic waste recycling by launching a mobile app that provides a discount voucher for a new device upon trading in an old one.
“Red Sea’s Coral Reefs Face Existential Threat from Overfishing”Egypt Independent (20 December 2020)
Fishing violations by trawlers (ground-scraping nets) threaten the sensitive marine ecosystem of the Red Sea’s coral reefs.
“How Iran is Destroying its Once Thriving Environmental Movement”National Geographic (12 November 2020)
The increase in jailing and surveillance of Iranian environmental leaders and scientists for their political work in recent years has caused major political and ecological impacts on conservation.
“Climate Crisis is Causing Lakes to Shrink”EurekAlert, AAAS (23 December 2020)
The Caspian Sea, bordering Iran, is suffering from falling water levels due to lower inflow from the Volga River combined with increased evaporation from global warming.
“Troubled Waters: Documenting Pollution of Iraq’s Shatt Al-Arab River”Bellingcat (10 November 2020)
Recent oil and sewage spills in southern Iraq are only the latest environmental injustices dating back decades. Grassroots citizen activism, such as environmental monitoring pages on Facebook and the use of publicly-available satellite imagery, are attempting to identify the culprits of oil spills and hold them accountable.
النخيل آخر خطوط الدفاع البيئي عن البصرة في “أرض محروقةDaraj (15 December 2020)
Stories from date farmers in Basra document how decreased water supplies due to damming and economic development that prioritized oil has decimated the historic agrarian economy in the region.
A new non-profit in Erbil aims to start a large afforestation campaign in the region.
“Why Socio-Spatial Practices Matter to Urban Recovery”The Public Source (2 December 2020)
Informal daily practices in Beirut, particularly those invisibilized as practiced by marginalized communities, will ultimately need to be the foundation of the city’s recovery after the August port blast. This ethnographic study analyzes the physical and social barriers to rebuilding vibrant neighborhoods in post-blast Beirut.
“Lebanese Officials Try to Limit Inquiry Into Deadly Beirut Blast”The New York Times (19 December 2020)
Despite popular outcry, government officials have blocked or stalled investigation into responsibility for the August port blast, leading legal experts to condemn this inaction as the latest in years of government corruption and ineptitude.
"الضرب لا يُعلّم الحيوان"... غضب من ضرب مشتركة The Voice كلبتهاRaseef22 (28 December 2020)
A Twitter video of a woman beating a dog was revealed to be Ingrid Bouab, known for appearing on the Arab version of “The Voice.” While she has publicly apologized and blamed the incident on pandemic and post-blast stress, social media condemnation of her and larger questions of the mistreatment of animals still remain.
"Mountains, Sea and Toxic Waste: Tabarkans Protest Local Dump"Meshkal (20 November 2020)
Residents of a coastal Tunisian town have staged sit-ins against the relocation of a dump, which they are concerned will harm both public health and lead to environmental pollution through groundwater and runoff contamination.
“Protesters in Tunisia Halt Key Phosphate Production” Al-Jazeera (25 November 2020)
Sit in protests stopped phosphate extraction, as protestors called for better economic support in a time of major unemployment.
“For the Poor, Tunisia’s Infrastructure can be Deadly”Nawaat (2 December 2020)
Inadequate stormwater runoff options in poor neighborhoods has led to the deaths by drowning of two young people in recent months, leading residents to condemn the municipalities for neglecting neighborhoods.
“UNESCO Adds Couscous to List of Intangible World Heritage”Al-Jazeera (16 December 2020) The UN has recognized couscous, the dish culturally valued by multiple North African countries, as an important part of world heritage.
”الاقتصاد الاجتماعي والتضامني في تونس: ظاهرة ذات جذور تاريخية واجتماعية عميقة” and “Social and Solidarity Economy in Tunisia is Not New” Legal Agenda (17 December 2020)
This piece, published in Arabic and an English translation, analyzes the history of collective land and familial property relations in Tunisia.
“Italian Fishermen Held in Libya Freed After More Than 100 Days”The Guardian (17 December 2020)
Italians accused of fishing in Libya’s waters for prized red prawns have been released back to Italy.
“NORTH AFRICA: Freshwater Availability has Fallen by 30% According to FAO”Afrik21 (23 December 2020)
Water stress across North Africa has been caused by climate change but also by changes in freshwater use, such as intensified animal agriculture.
“Tunisia Minister Sacked and Arrested in Scandal Over Illegal Waste From Italy”The Guardian (24 December 2020)
The importation of household and medical waste from Italy by for-profit waste disposal companies has led to the arrest of Tunisia’s environment minister and the questioning and detaining of 23 others.
Palestine, Israel, and Jordan
“Palestine's Contaminated Vegetables: From Farm to Table, Without Regulation”Middle East Monitor (3 November 2020)
Research by ARIJ (Applied Research Institute Jerusalem) reveals that enforcement by the PA’s Ministry of Agriculture of maximum pesticide residue limits on fresh produce is sparse to non-existent.
“Israel Carries Out Largest West Bank Demolition Operation in a Decade”972 Magazine (4 November 2020)
A massive demolition of the rural Palestinian community Humsa al-Fuqa in the Jordan Valley, who live in what Israel has declared a closed “firing zone,” is the largest demolition by Israel in a decade.
“Eight Climate Activists Arrested in Protest Against New West Bank Industrial Zone”972 Magazine (22 November 2020)
Protestors chained themselves across a road leading to a cement quarry in the central West Bank, arguing expanding the quarry would have both ecological impact on a sensitive area and contribute to deepening de facto annexation of Palestinian land.
“A Hiking Trip Amid the Beautiful West Bank Scenery is a Bittersweet Experience”The Guardian (11 December 2020)
A first-hand account by a Palestinian writer of a trip to the hills of southern Jerusalem to visit springs and orchards under threat from settlers.
“Dolphins and Cats... The 2020 Drugs Menu in Palestine” Raseef22 (14 December 2020)
Growing marijuana and drug trade in the Occupied West Bank has been on the rise in recent years, bringing up concerns about environmental impacts from growing as well as public health impacts.
“These Rare Seeds Escaped Syria’s War and Are Now Helping to Feed the World”Mother Jones (23 November 2020)
Syrian scientists had to send their seed bank of heirloom Syrian dryland crops to Svalbard in the midst of the civil war in 2014. Recent years has seen them successfully replant and reseed these crops in Morocco and Lebanon.
“In Pictures: Does Turkey’s Lake Salda Hold the Key to Life on Mars?”Middle East Eye (9 November 2020)
Microbial communities in southwestern Turkey’s Lake Salda, which resembles a large Martian crater, may help scientists understand what type of extraterrestrial life may be possible. However, environmentalists fear increased tourism to the lake may damage its sensitive ecosystem.
“Turkey to Build Port in Eastern Mediterranean”Middle East Monitor (13 November 2020)
Turkey announced plans to build a new container port in the eastern Mediterranean as part of the controversial infrastructure plan, the Belt and Road Initiative.
“Turkey's Cities Face Drought as Lack of Rain Hits Water Levels in Dams”Middle East Eye (7 December 2020)
Low rainfall since the summer has left reservoir levels low; reservoirs outside of Istanbul are at 25% of capacity, and concerns mount about the need for freshwater to support residential and agricultural needs.