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RIYADH: Raising community awareness of environmental balance is crucial when it comes to safeguarding our world, preserving biodiversity and promoting sustainability, says Saudi environmental expert Dr. Fahd Turkistani.

Turkistani, a former associate professor of chemistry at Umm Al-Qura University, was talking to Arab News about the government’s declaration of March 27 as Saudi Green Initiative Day.

He said he believed this would protect and restore the local environment, foster sustainability, educate the public and promote community involvement. It would also have a favorable impact on the economic, health and social sectors.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched two initiatives on March 27, 2021 — the Saudi Green Initiative, to boost sustainability efforts and climate action within the Kingdom, and the Middle East Green Initiative, which aims to combat climate change.

Sana Al-Shahri, chairwoman of Raisa Environmental Services Co., said the impact of Saudi Green Initiative Day would be societal as well as environmental.

Designating an annual day for the Green Saudi Initiative underscored the Saudi leadership’s commitment to making decisive environmental decisions, fostering community involvement and encouraging participation in environmental initiatives, she added.

Al-Shahri, a member of the Asharqia Chamber’s environment committee, emphasized the day’s importance in raising awareness about environmental issues, particularly among young people. 

“It is also important to motivate the private sector … as laws alone are not sufficient to protect the environment.”

Since afforestation began under the Saudi Green Initiative, Al-Shahri said she had noticed a reduction in the number of sandstorms “which used to occur four to five times a year … last year they decreased significantly.”

Turkistani stressed the initiative would contribute to improving city planning and building green and sustainable communities. It would also enhance the quality of life in cities by promoting the use of public transportation and encouraging sports and outdoor recreation.

Furthermore, he added, it would help with the management of natural resources such as water, soil and forests. Turkistani emphasized it was important to educate the public about sustainable resource utilization and waste reduction.

The Saudi Green Initiative addresses environmental challenges through a three-part strategy. The first focuses on slashing carbon emissions by 278 million tons annually by 2030, achieved through ramping up renewable energy to 50 percent. It also promotes investment in new energy sources, energy efficiency, and carbon capture programs, all aimed at reaching net-zero emissions by 2060.

The second pillar aims to plant 10 billion trees and rehabilitate 40 million hectares of land to improve air quality and reduce dust storms.

Finally, the initiative commits to safeguarding 30 percent of Saudi Arabia’s terrestrial and marine areas by 2030, working with global partners to preserve natural habitats.

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