[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.]
“Stranded Humpback Whale Rescued Off Oman Port”Middle East Monitor (3 February 2021)
An endangered Arabian sea whale was rescued after it was caught in a net for multiple days.
“Qatar Airways Pledges to Fly Wild Animals Back to Their Habitat for Free”Middle East Monitor (4 February 2021)
As part of a commitment to anti-wildlife trafficking, Qatar Airways has pledged to fly endangered animals to their wild habitats for free. However at the same time, the airline has not done any testing of sustainable aviation fuel to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
“U.N. Delays Salvage of Yemen Oil Tanker Amid Fears of Major Spill”The New York Times (2 February 2021)
After Houthi authorities gave permission for an inspection of a stranded oil tanker at risk of leaking, breakdowns in communication has led to a delay in the inspection.
“Half of Yemeni children under 5 face acute malnutrition: UN”Al Jazeera (12 February 2021)
The prolonged conflict in Yemen has exacerbated food insecurity in the area, with a severe increase of the number of children at risk of death from malnutrition since 2020.
“Red Sea coral reefs ‘under threat’ from Israel-UAE oil deal”Al Jazeera (15 February 2021)
UAE-Israeli normalization has led to agreements to transport oil by tankers to the Eilat pipeline, but environmentalists are concerned that this could harm the reef reserves in the area.
“Crew of oil tanker beached off UAE to go home after four years stranded at sea”The Guardian (17 February 2021)
The crew of a ship (predominantly from South Asia) which ran aground in the UAE years ago will finally be repatriated. The abandonment of the ship and ceasing payment of the workers’ wages is indicative of a larger problem of ship abandonment in the Gulf.
Egypt and Sudan
“القاهرة في عشر سنوات... هل نعرفها؟” Assafir Arabi (Part 1 25 January and Part 2 1 February 2021)
This two part series critically analyzes neoliberalism in Cairo’s built environment ten years after the 2011 uprising and the politics of Egypt’s “Sustainable Development Plan 2030.”
“Architect Ahmed Mansour on how one-size-fits-all urban planning, overpasses threaten Sayeda Aisha neighborhood’s history and organic structure”Mada Masr (8 February 2021)
This interview with an architect involved with UNESCO projects criticizes the lack of transparency of green development and cultural heritage projects in Cairo, as well as whether new urban planning efforts take the needs of all of its residents into account.
“‘Catastrophic’: Outrage grows over Egypt’s new tourist attraction”Al Jazeera (10 February 2021)
Plans for Africa’s largest “observation wheel” ride and related shopping and eating areas have sparked concerns that the development may harm the Nile island upon which it is planned to be built. The development also raises larger concerns about whether the “green development” of Cairo is benefiting its poorest residents.
“Sisi links political unrest to population growth in public address calling for birth control”Mada Masr (17 February 2021)
In a televised address, President Sisi claimed that population growth is the cause of continued political unrest and economic woes, but reproductive rights activists criticized his remarks.
“Sudan and Ethiopia trade barbs over border dispute”Al Jazeera (20 February 2021)
Statements from Sudan and Ethiopia dispute who has control over the fertile Al-Fashqa region on the border.
“Exploding Fuel Tanker Ignites Enormous Fire on Afghanistan-Iran Border” The New York Times (13 February 2021)
An explosion with an unknown cause ignited multiple tankers carrying natural gas from Iran, causing numerous injuries and causing power outages in the area.
“Economic sanctions are triggering environmental damage”Al Jazeera (15 February 2021)
This opinion piece criticizes US sanctions on Iran as disincentivizing sustainable development and encouraging extractive industries in both Iran and Iraq.
“Date growing crisis in Iraq's 'black land'”Middle East Eye (25 January 2021)
The historic date growing region around Basra, in southern Iraq, has been hit hard by decades of war and environmental changes like drought and decreased water flows due to upriver dams.
“In Beleaguered Babylon, Doing Battle Against Time, Water and Modern Civilization”The New York Times (6 February 2021)
The ancient city of Babylon, recently recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site, faces issues of preservation of its antiquities, both from erosion and exposure to the elements as well as military infrastructure from decades of invasion dating back to the British occupation.
“Decades after the Gulf War, Iraq’s youth view oil as a curse”Al Jazeera (26 February 2021)
Young people protesting government corruption in Iraq in 2018-19 decry the environmental, economic, and political impacts of Iraq’s reliance on oil extraction.
“الظلام مستمر: إهدار الغاز يمدد أزمة الكهرباء في العراق”Assafir Arabi (28 February 2021)
“Flaring,” or the burning off of excess natural gas from Iraq’s oil refineries contributes both to environmental pollution and to Iraq’s electricity crisis--gas could be used to help heat and light homes instead.
“Beyond the Beirut explosion: The many dangers of ammonium nitrate”Al Jazeera (4 February 2021)
The explosion of ammonium nitrate improperly stored at the port of Beirut exposes the larger environmental hazards of this artificial fertilizer, which causes nitrogen pollution in air and water globally.
“Oil spill off Israel coast reaches Lebanon's shores”Middle East Monitor (23 February 2021) and “Lebanon begins cleaning beaches after oil spill”Al Jazeera (27 February 2021)
The large oil spill in the eastern Mediterranean reached landfall in Lebanon, including a nature reserve home to endangered sea turtle populations.
“Lebanon’s Banking Collapse Turned Food Into a Luxury”Raseef22 (23 February 2021)
Personal narratives from ordinary Lebanese affected by the massive inflation and currency crisis shows how basic necessities like food are increasingly out of reach.
“The power of soil: How our precarious climate shaped the Arab Spring”Middle East Eye (1 January 2021)
This op-ed claims a declensionist narrative of a fall from agricultural productivity in Tunisia, while also criticizing global neoliberal food markets as a contributing factor to the beginning of the Arab Spring.
“A Mountain Village’s Fight for Clean Water Passes Four Seasons” Meshkal (21 January 2021)
Villagers in northwest Tunisia continue to struggle against a rock quarry, which has contaminated groundwater sources.
“Algeria’s oil and gas exports plummet”Al Jazeera (8 February 2021)
Falling oil production due to COVID-19 may push Algeria into another financial crisis.
“Flood kills dozens in Morocco underground factory”Al Jazeera (8 February 2021)
Heavy rainfall caused disastrous flooding in an illegal textile factory located underground, leading to criticism from workers’ rights groups of unsafe working conditions for many “informal” laborers.
“بلدة تفريت.. حكاية عن نفايات موريتانيا”Assafir Arabi (20 February 2021)
Protests in a Mauritanian village against a large landfill owned by a French company continue. While a court ruling has declared the dump unpermitted, it continues to operate despite calls from local residents that the landfill is negatively affecting public and environmental health.
“After Protests by Cattle Farmers & Food Sovereignty Activists, State Announces New Price Controls” Meshkal (25 February 2021) and “إنتفاضة فلّاحات وفلّاحي أولاد جاب الله ضدّ بارونات الإحتكار”Inkyfada (25 February 2021)
Two articles (English and Arabic) detail protests from cattle farmers in Tunisia for better government enforcement of cattle feed prices to stop price inflation. Protestors have been met by police brutality.
Palestine Israel and Jordan
“How Israel’s road projects are ensuring apartheid is here to stay”972 Magazine (31 December 2020)
The expansion of roads connecting Israeli settlements to cities across the Green Line is entrenching the spatial segregation of Palestinians and de facto annexation of land in the West Bank.
“Israel's ibex make the most of lockdown – in pictures”The Guardian (22 January 2021)
This photo essay depicts ibex in Mitzpe Ramon in the Naqab Desert frolicking in urban spaces otherwise empty of people due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
“How an Israeli smear campaign is ripping away funds from Palestinian farmers” 972 Magazine (25 January 2021)
EU funders have cut off support for the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) due to a push from a right-wing Israeli legal center claiming the group has ties to “terrorists” through the PFLP.
“The goal? Judaization. The means? A military exercise in the middle of a village” 972 Magazine (5 February 2021)
Israel continues to stage military drills in Palestinian villages in Area C in the West Bank, declaring the land “firing zones” in order to attempt to expel villagers. Villages also are systematically denied building permits for their lands.
“‘Valuable treasure’: Gaza turns to quail as fishing goes belly up”Al Jazeera (9 February 2021)
Israel’s ongoing blockade of offshore fishing in Gaza has constricted fishers, making quail breeding -- for meat and eggs -- a promising and growing food source and economic livelihood.
“Palestine’s garden walls: the deliberate destruction of Palestine’s terraced gardens” The Architectural Review (11 February 2021)
The history of the traditional terraced hillsides supporting Palestinian farming has been threatened by first British and now Israeli settler-colonialism, but a revival of maintaining and building terraces can be seen in contemporary Palestinian efforts.
“In Pictures: Jerusalem turns white after rare snowfall”Al Jazeera (18 February 2021)
A rare major winter storm hit the region, as depicted in this photo essay of snow accumulation in Jerusalem.
“Oil Spill Off Israel's Coast Is Its Worst Maritime Pollution in Decades, and Cleanup 'Could Take Years'”Haaretz (19 February 2021)
“Israel Closes Mediterranean Beaches After Worst Oil Spill in Its History”Haaretz (21 February 2021)
“Israel shuts Mediterranean shore after oil spill devastates coast”AlJazeera (21 February 2021)
“'It'll take decades to clean': oil spill ravages east Mediterranean”The Guardian (22 February 2021)
“Israel’s Beaches Are Littered With Tar After Mysterious Oil Spill”The New York Times (23 February 2021)
Multiple articles detail the oil spill affecting the eastern Mediterranean coast, after an unknown ship leaked oil offshore. Impacts of the oil are affecting sensitive sea turtle habitat, leading also to closures of beaches to human swimming.
“In pictures: Floods devastate camps in Syria's Idlib”Middle East Eye (18 January 2021)
This photo essay depicts major flood damage to nearly 150 refugee camps in northern Syria.
“Turkey Drought: Istanbul could run out of water in 45 days” The Guardian (13 January 2021)
Severely low rainfall in the second half of 2020 has led to Turkey’s worst drought in a decade, leading to concerns over managing scarce supply for both agricultural and residential water needs.
“Istanbul: municipality to build water tanks to overcome drought”Middle East Monitor (15 January 2021)
The Istanbul municipality has announced it will build rainwater storage tanks to attempt to alleviate residential water shortages in the current drought.
“In pictures: The man who planted a forest in Turkey's Mardin”Middle East Eye (16 February 2021)
This photo essay depicts the efforts of one man who has afforested his region of southern Turkey by planting over 20,000 trees over decades.
“Cattle stranded at sea 'face immediate slaughter' if ship docks in Spain, says manager”The Guardian (25 February 2021)
A Lebanese livestock ship, bringing bulls from Spain originally bound for Turkey, was turned away when an error in the paperwork led Turkish officials to deny the shipment for fears the animals were infected. An inability to find a new buyer for the cattle has led the ship, containing all of its animal cargo, to be stranded in the Mediterranean for weeks.