International Conference on Water Resources, Arid Environments begins in Saudi Arabia

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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdulrahman Al-Fadli inaugurated the 10th International Conference on Water Resources and Arid Environments on Monday.

Held under the patronage of King Salman, the conference is being co-organized by King Saud University, represented by the Prince Sultan Institute for Environmental, Water and Desert Research and the Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud Foundation, along with MEWA.

The speakers expressed thanks during the opening ceremony to the king and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for their policy of helping to bring about radical development in all areas of the Kingdom, as well as sponsoring scientific events which will contribute toward achieving the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 programs.

Abdulmalik Al-Sheikh, the chairman of the Supreme Supervisory Committee of the conference supervising PSIEWDR, stressed the importance of workflow in implementing many ambitious initiatives adopted by the Kingdom and launched by the crown prince.

He said that among projects the conference will highlight is the Saudi Green Initiative, which was launched by the crown prince last year, while policy aims included protecting the environment, energy conversion and sustainability programs in the Kingdom, achieving comprehensive goals of offsetting and reducing carbon emissions, increasing the use of clean energy, and combating climate change.

Al-Sheikh, who is also the secretary-general of the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water, gave an overview of the prize, which coincided with the 20th anniversary of its inception by its founder, Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

He said: “The conference aims to develop knowledge and exchange information within its five pillars, which are water and dry environment; water rationalization and conservation; the use of modern technologies in studying the dry environment and its natural resources; exchanging expertise between decision makers, experts and specialists; and finding solutions to water and environmental challenges, especially in arid and semi-arid regions of the world.”

President of King Saud University Badran Al-Omar said King Salman “graciously sponsored” the conference two weeks after sponsoring the Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water award ceremony, which was held at the UN headquarters in Vienna.

He said the conference was vital as it addresses water resources that form the basis of sustainable economic and social development, food production, and the integrity of environmental systems.

Al-Omar said that the world is going through political, economic, and environmental crises, which require unifying efforts and focusing on serious scientific research to develop creative solutions, adding that the UN and the World Meteorological Organization warned last year that water and food are the main reasons why these crises have exacerbated.

He reviewed the role of King Saud University in preserving the Kingdom’s natural resources through its general strategic plan and initiatives, especially those related to water resources management and development.

He said the university also conducts and publishes scientific research through many scientific research chairs and institutes that deal with water issues, including PSIEWDR, and among the pilot projects it has implemented is developing effective methods to harvest and store rain and torrential water, which it has successfully applied in the basins of more than 20 dams throughout the Kingdom.

The institute is currently preparing the first environmental atlas for Saudi Arabia, which highlights the diversity of the local environment and issues related to it, he added.

Al-Fadli affirmed the state’s support for motivating scientists and researchers to work on developing research, innovation and technologies, and said this contributes to finding practical solutions to many challenges in environmental, water and desertification issues.

He said the Kingdom is working on developing a national strategy for water and the environment, which includes many strategic goals, programs and initiatives that adopt research and innovation, and are among the options and enablers to support and enhance the management of water resources, to raise environmental commitment and reduce pollution.

He added: “The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has adopted many initiatives and programs to develop the natural plant sector and combat desertification, most notably the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative, in addition to the water resources initiative, which has 15 initiatives, including developing renewable groundwater resources, which is the main focus of this conference.

“It resulted in many projects that contributed to enhancing the utilization of renewable water, including the construction of dams, whose storage capacity amounted to about 2.6 billion cubic meters, and developed rainwater harvesting projects, agricultural terrace rehabilitations, and rural development programs.”

Al-Fadli said the environmental field has achieved many targets to reduce carbon emissions in the desalination industry at a rate of 26 million tons annually, as well as programs to rehabilitate pastoral sites, seedling production, and afforestation and seed field development to protect and develop vegetation cover.

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