[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.]
“Cattle stranded on ship to be destroyed in port as second vessel returns to Spain”The Guardian (1 March 2021) and “How nearly 3,000 cattle came to be stranded at sea for three months”The Guardian (31 March 2021)
After being denied entry to multiple countries including Turkey and Libya, a shipment of cattle which circulated the Mediterranean for months will return to Spain and the cattle on it slaughtered. The second article contains a full timeline of the ship’s activities.
“UN: 40m tonnes of food wasted in Arab countries”Middle East Monitor (16 March 2021)
A report on global food waste from the UN Environment Program identified Egypt and Iraq as the top two countries with the highest food waste in the ARab world, from both household and supply chain sources.
“Oman crackdown over criticism of plans to develop Dhofar camel-grazing area”Middle East Eye (1 March 2021)
Environmental activists have spoken out against grazing restrictions against camels in the Dhofar Plain to clear the area for building housing. Omani police have arrested multiple activists for their posts against the plans on social media.
“Liquid gold: Beekeepers defying Yemen war to produce the best honey”The Guardian (23 March 2021)
Producers of Yemeni Sidr honey, noted as particularly high quality on a global scale, face challenges in production and marketing their product due to Yemen’s ongoing civil war.
“Saudi Arabia unveils campaign to tackle climate change”France 24 (27 March 2021)
Plans were announced for KSA to get half of its energy from renewables by 2030 and plant 10 billion trees in the coming decades.
“Climate Adaptation and Kuwait’s Built Environment”LSE Blog (31 March 2021)
Urbanization in Kuwait may exacerbate the effects of climate change, and resiliency to issues such as rising temperatures and sea levels should be considered in future planning.
“Aramco’s new disclosures still understate its carbon footprint” Al Jazeera (6 April 2021)
Saudi Aramco may be failing to disclose up to 50% of its carbon emissions.
“On Earth Day, diving for Qatar’s other natural resource”Al Jazeera (21 April 2021)
In this short podcast, a correspondent stuck in Doha during COVID-19 began to explore the habitats of whale sharks and dugongs off of Qatar’s coast.
“UAE wealth fund eyes $1BN gas deal as ties with Israel deepen”Al Jazeera (26 April 2021)
After Israel-UAE normalization, an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund purchased a 22% stake in an offshore gas field in the Mediterranean.
“Why are Middle East states selling off oil assets?”Al Jazeera (28 April 2021)
Multiple Gulf states have increased the sales of assets and bond issuance as COVID-19 put pressure on state’s budgets and increased deficits.
“Is Saudi Arabia going to rev up a homegrown EV maker?”Al Jazeera (29 April 2021)
Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth funds indicate there are talks with US-based companies to open an electric vehicle factory near Jeddah.
“‘Our biggest challenge? Lack of imagination’: the scientists turning the desert green” The Guardian (23 March 2021)
Dutch scientists hope to “regreen” the Sinai Desert, claiming historic human activity deforested the region 4,500 years ago.
“Suez canal gridlock could raise oil prices and shipping costs”The Guardian (24 March 2021)
The blockage of the Suez Canal by the container ship Ever Green could affect oil supply and prices, as 10% of global oil supplies pass through the canal.
“At least 20 livestock ships caught in Suez canal logjam”The Guardian (26 March 2021)
Concerns mounted for the welfare of animals stuck in ships behind the blocked Ever Given container ship in the Suez canal.
“How a full moon and a ‘huge lever’ helped free Ever Given from Suez canal” The Guardian (30 March 2021)
Stronger tugboats, sand excavation, and a particularly high tide allowed the container ship blocking the Suez Canal to finally be refloated.
“Unblocking the Suez canal”The Guardian (30 March 2021)
This podcast episode explains how the Ever Given got stuck and was eventually dislodged, and the larger political economic impacts of the blockage.
“Crumbling city: Why does Alexandria account for over half of all building collapses in Egypt?”Mada Masr (1 April 2021)
Coastal weather conditions, poor enforcement of building codes, and economic pressure to build shoddy buildings quickly for profit leads to Alexandria having an inordinate amount of building collapses, killing dozens.
“Wind ... or worse: was pilot error to blame for the Suez blockage?”The Guardian (3 April 2021)
Bad weather (including a dust storm) and human fault are alternatively blamed for the Ever Green blocking the Suez canal.
“Egypt hopes to strike gold to boost budget”Middle East Monitor (23 April 2021)
Egypt offered expanded exploration permits for gold mining in the Eastern Desert.
“'Looking for a flamingo?': bird trafficking in Iraq”The Guardian (1 March 2021)
This photo essay documents the extent of bird poaching in the marshes along the Iran-Iraq border.
“Diversify or risk unrest, oil producers warned in report”The Guardian (26 March 2021)
A third party report names Iraq as one of the leading oil producing countries at risk of financial crisis if they do not diversify their economies.
"Drought and Abundance in the Mesopotamian Marshes"The New York Times (12 April 2021)
While some marshland has been restored since Saddam Hussein drained Iraq’s southeastern marshes, climate change still threatens the marshes and the way of life for the Ma’dan, as documented in this photo essay.
“‘There’s no rain’: Climate change threatens Iraq’s Bedouins”Al Jazeera (28 April 2021)
Rising temperatures and decreased yearly rainfall threatens the flocks of Bedouins shepherds in southern Iraq.
"Fears grow for endangered turtles after oil spill hits Lebanon"Al Jazeera (8 March 2021)
An oil spill in the eastern Mediterranean killed endangered green turtles, and long-term effects on the turtles even after the initial tar is cleaned remain uncertain.
"Lebanon launches first electric car despite economic crisis"Al Jazeera (24 April 2021)
A locally made electric sports car was revealed; the car costs $30,000.
"Saudi Arabia bans Lebanese produce over drug smuggling" (23 April 2021) and "‘Huge disaster’: Lebanese farmers decry Saudi Arabia produce ban" (28 April 2021) Al Jazeera
The discovery of amphetamine capsules in a shipment of pomegranates led to Saudi Arabia banning Lebanese produce imports. Lebanese fruit and vegetable imports are irate as their economic precarity grows in an already dangerous currency crisis; farmers also deny the shipment was from Lebanon, instead saying the pomegranates were Syrian in origin.
"Lebanon set to expand claim on disputed maritime area with Israel"Al Jazeera (12 April 2021)
Lebanon prepared to submit documents to the United Nations claiming an additional 1400 sq km to its maritime claims in the Mediterranean, in an area rich with natural gas deposits which are also claimed by Israel.
"Lebanon faces tough Ramadan amid ‘insane’ food prices” (17 April); "‘No food in the fridge’: A gruelling Ramadan in Lebanon" (18 April); "Lebanese forced to cut back on Ramadan Iftar meal as prices soar" (28 April 2021) Al Jazeera
Lebanon’s ongoing inflation crisis has led to massive food price increases and food insecurity across Lebanon, particularly for Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley.
"40 tonnes of dead fish wash up on shore of Lebanon lake"Middle East Monitor (30 April 2021)
An unknown event caused a massive fish die off in a lake connected to the Litani River. Local activists have protested sewage pollution in the river for years.
"Italian waste: the vast corruption network behind the environmental scandal"Inkyfada (9 March 2021)
An in-depth investigation exposes how a Tunisian company took household non recyclable waste exported from Italy, despite the lack of an incinerator or permits to take non-recyclable waste imports.
"'All This for a Drink of Water': New Documentary Studies Water Injustices"Meshkal (9 March 2021)
A new film was screened showing issues of disparate household water access in Tunisia, illuminating not just the infrastructural and technological aspects of water distribution but the political, ecological, and economic barriers that inhibit small farmers from receiving enough water.
State run phosphate processing has polluted the air and waters of Tunisia’s Gabès governorate on the Mediterranean.
"Tunisia’s Phantom Environmental Sector and its Fake Employment"Newlines Magazine (1 April 2021)
Landscaping companies were set up in response to unemployment protests in Tunisia’s phosphate extraction region. Yet the companies are shells: employees clock into empty buildings, and their ostensible purpose for tree planting efforts has been largely abandoned.
"Moroccan farmers' protests highlight the human toll of border dispute"Middle East Eye (5 April 2021)
Algerian soldiers entered a border area of Morocco claiming it was Algerian territory, evicting numerous date farmers and highlighting the historic disagreement over the water and fertile territory in the area dating back to the 19th century.
"French MPs urge Macron to provide data about nuclear waste buried in Algeria"Middle East Monitor (15 April 2021)
French elected officials call on President Emmanuel Macron to reveal where France conducted nuclear weapons test in the Algerian desert in the 1960s.
Palestine Israel and Jordan
"The JNF is no innocent charity"972 Magazine (4 March 2021)
This overview piece pushes back on the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Germany’s marketing of itself as an environmental organization, discussing instead how the organization has fueled Palestinian land disposession historically and today.
"Israel claims Iran dumped oil in sea in 'environmental attack'"The Guardian (4 March 2021)
Israel’s Minister of Environmental Protection tweeted that an oil spil in the eastern Mediterranean was a deliberate “environmental terror” attack by Iran. No evidence has been publicly offered for this claim.
"Three Palestinian fishermen killed 'when Israeli drone exploded in nets'"The Guardian (11 March 2021)
An alleged Israeli drone downed into the water may have been the source of a deadly explosion that killed three Gazan fishermen.
"Palestinians seize trucks loaded with Israeli waste"Middle East Monitor (17 March 2021)
The Palestinian Customs Authority said they seized 60 tons of waste headed into the West Bank from Israel.
"JNF illegally fired and discriminated against Palestinian workers, court rules"972 Magazine (17 March 2021)
An Israeli court ruled that the JNF discriminated when 35 Palestinian workers from the West Bank were laid off after languishing as temporary workers for yeras, when Israeli temporary workers were given access to labor union bargaining rights.
"Land grabs in Israel never ended — they became more sophisticated"972 Magazine (31 March 2021)
An interview with Palestinian lawyer Salim Wakim explains how Israeli law continues to expropriate Palestinian land inside and outside of the Green Line.
"In Haifa, Israel, Wild Boars Encroach on Human Turf"The New York Times (9 April 2021)
Wild boars have been increasingly spotted in yards and urban settings in Haifa since 2019. Some residents say they appreciate living with the boars while others decry them as a nuisance as they root through waste receptacles for food.
"The Dead Sea is dying. Drinking water is scarce. Jordan faces a climate crisis"Los Angeles Times (17 April 2021)
Shrinking levels in the Dead Sea has led to massive sinkholes across southern Jordan. The Dead Sea shrinking is just one of a number of water scarcity issues in Jordan including aquifer over pumping.
"Climate breakdown and occupation are dismantling the lives of Palestinian shepherds"972 Magazine (21 April 2021)
The United Nations recently identified the South Hebron Hills as an incredibly climate-vulnerable area of the West Bank. Palestinian shepherds face constricting challenges from rising temperatures and settlement expansion and attacks in the area.
"Ammonia leak reported in Haifa Bay"Middle East Monitor (24 April 2021)
A Coca-Cola bottling plant reported an ammonia gas leak and evacuated its workers.
"Israel reopens Gaza fishing zone days after it was closed"Al Jazeera (29 April 2021)
Israel closed the fishing zone off of the Gaza coast in what it says was a response to Hamas rocket fire.
"Open season in Sudan as trophy hunters flock to shoot rare ibex"The Guardian (23 March 2021)
A YouTube video posted by an Austrian hunting tourist company showed Western tourists posting with shot Nubian ibex, causing outcry by environmentalists against what they call an overly lax hunting permit system.
"Sudan threatens legal action if Ethiopia dam filled without deal"Al Jazeera (23 April 2021)
Sudan’s Irrigation Minister declared on Twitter that Sudan could take legal action at the International Court of Justice if Ethiopian filled the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam before a deal was struck between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
"Suez canal: Syria 'rations' fuel as efforts to free stuck ship fail"The Guardian (28 March 2021)
The blocking of the Suez canal led to fuel rationing in Syria as oil imports from Iran were delayed behind the stuck ship.
"Syria's oil and gas exploration deal with Russia threatens maritime dispute with Lebanon"Middle East Eye (19 April 2021)
Bashar al-Assad’s recent deal with a Russian oil country to drill for natural gas off of Syria’s coast has angered Lebanon, claiming that 860 square kilometers of the contract fall into Lebanon’s sovereign waters.
"Fire extinguished on oil tanker off Syria after suspected attack"Al Jazeera (25 April 2021)
The Syrian government accused a drone attack coming from the direction of Lebanese waters of exploding an oil tanker outside of Syria’s Banias refinery, killing three workers.
"From the archives: Remembrance of tastes past: Syria’s disappearing food culture"The Guardian (28 April 2021)
This republished podcast episode chronicles Syrian refugees’ food practices and memories.
"For Erdogan’s Istanbul Canal project, critics see few winners"Al Jazeera (16 April 2021)
President Erdogan has initiated construction on a canal connecting the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea to begin later in 2021. Critics have raised concerns over the geopolitical implications of treaties governing shipping in the straits as well as the environmental and financial impacts of such a megaproject.
"Endangered Gazelles Make a Comeback on the Edge of a War Zone"The New York Times (
Mountain gazelles, thought to be extinct in Turkey due to hunting, have seen a possible comeback in the Turkey-Syria border region, thanks to stewardship from both local Kurdish villages and the Turkish army.
"Turkey beach welcomes endangered sea turtles"Middle East Monitor (29 April 2021)
Loggerhead sea turtles laid eggs on Turkey’s western beaches, according to a reprint of a report from the state news agency Anadolu Agency.