Monday, May 26, 2008

Kuwait and the Environmental Public Authority

To give you the background information about what the Environmental Public Authority is before I discuss about it, here is a statement I drew from the EPA website:
"EPA provides leadership in the nation's environmental science, research, education and assessment efforts. EPA works closely with other federal agencies and local governments, to develop and enforce regulations under existing environmental laws. EPA is responsible for researching and setting national standards for a variety of environmental programs , and monitoring and enforcing compliance. Where national standards are not met, EPA can issue sanctions and take other steps to assist the state in reaching the desired levels of environmental quality. The Authority also works with industries and all levels of government in a wide variety of voluntary pollution prevention programs and energy conservation efforts ("

When I began my study of Kuwait and the environment and my internship with Equilibrium, (, I quickly discovered that in spite of Kuwait's wealth and the great development in Kuwait and throughout the Gulf region, there was a large gap between the problems Kuwait is facing with regards to environmental issues and true steps of action by the government in addressing them. However, I have noticed that recently, the amount of articles related to environmental issues has greatly risen. One article in particular that struck my attention was regarding the governmental body of Kuwait, the Environmental Public Authority.

I agree that the establishment of the authority was a great step taken in the right direction with regards to Kuwaiti policy, however there is still a lot of room for development and improvement. The EPA is limited in what it can do with regards to enforcing action against companies and individuals exploiting the environment. I posted earlier suggesting some steps towards improving the situation, but I also came across another great idea suggested by a senior official of the EPA. It was encouraging to find an article about someone thinking in this way within the leadership of the EPA itself. It unfortunately helped further confirm my concern that the EPA is not yet where it should be. While EPA seems to be doing a lot for the environment if you look at their web site and you read everything they have posted there, there is little concrete information regarding actual changes they have made in addressing the environmental issues in Kuwait, and possibly because of lack of authority because of lack of sufficient environmental legislation among other factors.

One of my suggestions with regards to Kuwaiti Environmental Policy was building more bridges between the public and private sector and finding ways to promote the private sector and sustainable growth in terms of the environment. The General Maanager of the Department for Monitoring Air pollution, Dr. Saud Al-Rashid was the one who proposed that the EPA become privatized and independent of the government so that it can play a "more effective" and complete role. He also suggested similar to what I did earlier that the government create a department such as the "Ministry of Development, Panning and Environment," although I think there should also be a permanent Environmental Affairs Committeee in the National Assembly.

He stated that the problems that he saw with the EPA at present were its "lack of clear organizational structure and lack of regional and strategically located offices for monitoring the situation in Kuwait properly." He also gave a great suggestion with regards to involving youth, and it would be excellent if someone could come up with an actual implementable plan to get more youth to join the efforts of the EPA and even become an active part of it.

Another suggestion he made was to increase the budget so they can buy the equipment and technology the EPA needs to properly monitor and assess the situation of the environment in Kuwait. I think this would be something that could connect with promoting the private sector. I have met a few people who have created innovative tools for waste management that would help to turn the situation around for Kuwait and even all of the Gulf countries. The doctor was also concerned that the EPA lacks a strong foundation with regards to strategy and addressing the environment, and he also stressed that the last time the committee for environmental affairs was last active in 2006 as well as the Higher council for the Environment, which is a great concern in itself.
Al-Sayed, Hamed, Al Watan News, May 25. 2006

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How Can Sustainability and Social Responsibility Contribute to the Future of the Middle East?

With their potential for economic growth and their financial wealth, Kuwait and the rest of the Gulf countries have the potential to become front runners in the Middle East in considering the environment and social responsibility, and I hope to help them to start that foundation.
The Middle East is a fascinating place with so much cultural richness and financial prosperity. People of the region are increasingly growing aware of the changing climate of business and of the world as a result of globalization and as such there is growing potential for development here. We can see already a substantial amount of growth and innovation in a very short period of time through the example of Dubai. Unfortunately, one area that still lacks a greater awareness is the environment and how it is being impacted by the current practices of companies and individuals. This problem affects all aspects of life from physical health to the natural beauty of the region. This problem however can also be viewed as a treasure box of opportunity for those who have vision and initiative and wish to consider sustainable concepts and how they can adopt them in their businesses.

I chose this cause because I love the Middle East. I am originally from Latin America and study in the University of Washington and I am studying abroad in Kuwait. I had so much success here and fell in love with the region so much that I was looking for a way I could give back to a place that had given me so much. I realized quickly that the region overall had great issues with regards to the environment. The beautiful beaches of the gulf were littered with garbage, there were little if any recycling programs, no awareness campaigns and lesson plans for the schools with regards to the environment, all of the landfills were unplanned and unlined and the waste seeping into the soil and polluting the storm water drains. Yet I could not understand how such a wealthy country with the financial means to take care of this issue and with a government committee assigned to the environment was allowing this to be this way. I decided I would try to see how I can help make a change for the better just as many countries have also done with regards to such issues as waste management such as the UK.