Waste management in Gulf Countries: further efforts are required

Waste production is a real problem for the Arab countries. Many of the cities like Riyadh, Doha and Abu Dhabi manages to produce more than 1.5 kg per of waste day which ranks them among the highest per capita waste producers in the world. 

The rapid urbanization of the Gulf countries in the last few decades coupled with the increase in personal wealth has added to the problem. Researcher and environment writer Salman Zafar says in an article published in the online environment magazine Ecomena.org: “a rapid increase in urban population, with some countries, such as Kuwait and Qatar’s population being urbanized at over 90% has resulted in governments in those regions struggling to keep a pace with population growth and consequently waste production.

The research article states that at present the situation in the Gulf countries, particularly in the high waste producing countries like Kuwait and Qatar, is quite acute with less than 20% of solid waste getting properly treated and less than 5% is recycled. “The Middle East’s growing waste problem has started a debate among the region’s officials and environmentalists, some of whom are eager to see schemes such as pay-as-you-throw implemented,” says Zafar.

The problem for countries like Kuwait is acute. There were 18 landfills for solid waste in the small Arab country of which 14 have been forced to be closed down due to lack of space.. While the problem for Kuwait is not unique and applies more or less across all of the Gulf Coalition Countries, the government is yet to take any major step to ensure adequate disposal of waste.

Researchers and experts have suggested that as the price of oil, the staple revenue earner for Kuwait and other similar countries, goes down, the country should concentrate on production of energy from renewable resources. This would have dual impact of cost savings as well as generation of cheap power replacing petroleum and gas as the power generating sources.  Hence experts like Abdallah Nassour, Abdulkader Majanny, Michael Nelles note in their research work titled “Waste management: current developments in the Arabic countries” that Kuwait, with 4 million inhabitants, has become a case study material where conditions are ripe for the privatizing of the waste management process. “Logistics is realized by the local companies. Treatment and processing is still a problem. The waste management agency grants licenses for companies for the construction and operating of waste treatment plants,” say the researchers.  But this has not helped much. One of the constraints to this, according to them, is the lack of proper knowledge and technologies for efficient waste management and transformation of the waste to energy.

It is here that global environment technology firms like CNIM have the opportunity to help these countries and the local authorities in Kuwait. Companies like CNIM have a treasure trove of modern state of the art technologies that can not only efficiently manage waste but can transform the waste into useful energy and reduce dependency of Kuwait on petroleum. In recent years French firm CNIM has grown in to a global player and a solution-provider for specific environments and their domestic waste-management challenges. The high-tech eco-friendly machinery and technology also helps to reduce emission of harmful gasses during waste disposal. The acquisition of subsidiary company LAB S.A, which specializes in flue gas treatment, has enabling CNIM to treat smoke from its facilities and releasing clean air into the atmosphere. The proven capabilities of companies like CNIM in generating energy from waste have been successful in countries like France, UK, Estonia, Sweden and Azerbaijan.

The need and the usefulness of alternative means of power – among which waste to energy assumes a significant position as raw material is abundant, is stressed in his article in Bloomberg on January 19, 2016 by Claudia Carpenter. The price savings can be enormous for countries like Kuwait: “Oil prices dropped almost 70 percent the past three years, prompting some Gulf countries to plan spending cuts or eliminate fuel subsidies. Renewable energy is taking on focus in the Gulf region as some GCC states can’t meet their own needs from traditional fuels because of growing demand, with the United Arab Emirates turning to natural-gas imports,” says the article quoting a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena). Additionally such efforts can also reduce demand for water in an already parched region: “Increasing renewables generation can substantially reduce water withdrawal. Water is a very expensive commodity in this part of the world and extensively used in the energy sector. Commercial use of renewables can greatly reduce this,” said Adnan Amin, director-general of Irena.

It is here that Western firms like the CNIM can come into the fray. Equipped with modern technology and experience of running similar plants in Europe and the US, such firms can deliver what countries like Kuwait are looking out for – efficient waste management and energy generation at the same time. For example CNIM subsidiary – LAB S.A. has fitted its clean-smoke devices, which it has protected with over 50 patents, all over Western Europe, Americas and Asia. In what is it termed as a turnaround in itself, CNIM and LAB S.A., have provided a complete waste to energy solution in the city of Baku, in Azerbaijan that has an installed capacity of treat 60 tons of waste per hour.

The situation in Kuwait and indeed in the entire Gulf region is summed up aptly by Mark Radka, Chief, Energy Branch, UN Environment Programme when he says: “an increasing number of countries (in the Gulf) are becoming in the process the largest investors in renewable energy projects. Governments are increasingly realizing that they need to prepare their economies for the day when oil reserves run dry, and taking steps to remain energy leaders.