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Environment Day and increasing threats to environment
June 10, 2018, 9:56 am

Last week, countries around the world observed 5 June as World Environment Day. Kuwait was no exception, as we joined the global chorus in paying lip-service to environmental issues, while continuing to support and engage in activities that directly or indirectly contribute to the pollution of our surrounding water, air and land.

To mark World Environment Day on 5 June, the Kuwait Environment Protection Society held a series of events and activities aimed at creating awareness on the importance of protecting the environment and encouraging action in preserving and sustaining the ecosystem for the welfare of society and people.

Speaking on the occasion, the Secretary-General of Kuwait Environment Protection Society (KEPS), Jenan Behzad, pointed to the emerging environmental trends that were embraced by the KEPS. She elucidated on this, by referring to an academic activity the environmental body has organized with the aim of acquainting students with the perils of plastic waste, and included, but was not limited to, cleanup campaigns and field trips.

Plastic pollution has morphed into a major environmental issue that endangers the lives of all organisms, Ms. Behzad explained, citing environmental reports indicating that an estimated 8 million metric tonnes of plastic waste gets dumped in the world's oceans every year.

On potential solutions to this environmental dilemma, she encouraged the practice of recycling plastic waste, pointing out that even the most fledgling of nations are taking part in World Environment Day celebrations this year.

No doubt, all of this is highly commendable and worth emulating, but we cannot forget the role that each of us play in degrading the environment. We contribute to environmental pollution through increased use of fossil fuel combustion in our vehicles, factories and power plants, all of which pump large quantities of air pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, ozone and nitrous oxides, into the atmosphere.

Our activities are also largely responsible for an increase in temperature around the globe, primarily due to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that we contribute to emitting. The increase in temperature caused by such emissions is resulting in transforming large crop growing areas into barren land and depleting areas where certain fish or animals can be found.

The loss of farming land and bio-life has a huge impact on production of food resources vital for feeding an increasing global population. Meanwhile, the desalination plants that help provide ample drinking water for all of us, also increases the salinity of surrounding waters that destroy many species of marine life. We also undermine aquatic life by introducing large quantities of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus to our water sources, mainly through fertilizers.

Th over-abundance of these nutrients reduces the water quality by causing overgrowth of certain bacteria and algae that use the oxygen necessary for other species to survive. A recent study on global risks, released on the sidelines of this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, underlined that environmental risks have grown in prominence in recent years and is likely to continue this year.

The report titled Global Risks Report 2018, noted that the year 2017 was characterized by high-impact hurricanes, extreme temperatures and the first rise in CO2 emissions for four years.

The study also highlighted that the already precarious rate of extinction of species was being exacerbated with biodiversity being lost at mass-extinction rate. Other high-risk areas identified in the report included agricultural systems that were increasingly coming under strain, and the pollution of air and sea that was becoming a pressing threat to human health.

The report pointed out that deterioration in the quality of air, soil and water from ambient concentrations of pollutants and other activities and processes are also at dangerous levels. The report warned that the dangers are clearly undeniable and cannot be ignored or relegated to the back-burner any longer. The massive loss of biodiversity identified in the Global Risks Report 2018, is being clearly manifested in the waters off Kuwait.

Overfishing and illegal fishing were increasingly emerging as a threat to the marine life in these waters. Amid the euphoria marking World Environment Day on 5 June, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR) has said that illegal fishing was increasingly having “a grave consequence on biological diversity and sustainability of fish stocks” in Kuwait waters. Head of the aquaculture program at KISR, Dr. Mohsen Al-Husseini blamed greedy fishermen who were not abiding the fishing laws and regulations for much of the present situation. These fishermen were making unfair gains at the expense of their law-abiding peers, he said.

In a press statement on the International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, Dr. Husseini lamented that such fishermen also encouraged others to violate the law. He pointed out that such practices negatively impact ecosystem and marine life due to the fishing of young fish, shrimps and other marine species especially in the protected areas.

Al-Husseini stressed the need to stop such practices which were threatening the fish stock. Efforts by the international community to ensure the sustainability of fisheries are being seriously compromised by illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities are responsible for the loss of 11-26 million tonnes of fish each year, which is estimated to have an economic value of US$10-23 billion. Each of us needs to do our part in protecting the environment.

There are many simple solutions that we can engage in to limit our contribution to polluting the surrounding waters, land and air. Taking public transportation, biking or walking instead of driving help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Reducing the amount of fertilizer applied to lawns, gardens and vegetables will lessen the likelihood of water pollution of nearby lakes and rivers as well as underground reservoirs.

Rationalizing the amount of water, we use or misuse, for our daily needs would go a long way to conserving essential water, being made available to us through the energy consuming and environmentally unfriendly water desalination plants Switching to more energy efficient LED or CFL lamps, switching off the lights, fans and air-conditioners when they are not in use, all contribute to lessening the amount of energy we consume and helps decrease the amount of air pollution from our fossil-fuel burning power plants. Any activity which reduces water and energy consumption can lead to positive impacts on our environment.

- Staff Report

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