a founding member of the Environmental Green Horizons Society — a group of Saudi-based environmentalists — suggested eight proposals that the group hopes will reduce deforestation in the Kingdom.
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Excess logging in the Kingdom has become a serious concern for environmentalists over recent decades. Only 0.5 percent of Saudi Arabia is forested land, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, while 95 percent is sandy desert — leaving a delicately balanced ecosystem that is now severely threatened by often-illegal logging.
“The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture confirmed that 80 percent of the Kingdom’s natural vegetation has deteriorated over the past four decades,” he added.
Al-Sogair underlined the importance of natural vegetation for the ecosystem, as it protects soil from erosion and landslides, provides food and medicinal value to humans and animals, promotes biodiversity, and reduces the effects of climate change.
“The poor handling of trees and vegetation in general is a major cause of many of the difficulties related to the increase in dust storms, a phenomenon that is particularly acute in dry areas of the world — including the Kingdom — and has led to many environmental, health and economic problems,” he noted.
Al-Sogair proposed eight solutions to reduce environmental degradation and to preserve wild trees and stop excess logging and said that any successful campaign must start with raising awareness among local communities of illegal logging and the dangers it poses to the environment, including humans. Among his other solutions were the provision of imported wood and coal at appropriate prices; tighter controls over the sale of local firewood and coal; and the cooperation of all relevant authorities throughout the Kingdom.
Retired Maj. Gen. Ali Al-Asmari, an adviser at the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, noted that the ministry has made serious attempts to prevent illegal logging of local wild trees in line with its “Let’s Make it Green” campaign and its afforestation campaign.
Al-Asmari told Arab News that both campaigns are aimed at preventing deforestation and suggested that many people who cut down trees may not realize their importance to the local environment.
He explained that the ministry is protecting forests, farms and pastures with special patrols. “The ministry has established a new force — the Special Forces for Environmental Security, in affiliation with the Ministry of Interior — to apprehend violators,” Al-Asmari said. He also praised citizens who are cooperating with the authorities by reporting those who cut down local wild trees.
Under the Pastures and Forests Law, violators found cutting down trees or moving them for local use can be fined a maximum of SR50,000 ($13,328).
Al-Sogair welcomed the establishment of the Special Forces, calling it “an important achievement in protecting the environment and biodiversity and applying penalties to loggers and local firewood traffickers.”
He went on to suggest that the Kingdom could “take advantage of untapped agricultural areas by encouraging and motivating farmers to plant wood-producing trees in marginal areas of farms.”
“This would lead to several benefits, including reducing storm and wind hazards, improving soil properties, enhancing soil fertility, enhancing biodiversity, feeding farm animals, and contributing to the provision of nectar and bee pollen to boost honey production in the region, which would add millions of useful trees to the Kingdom’s afforestation system,” he said.
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