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Gulf boom is spoiling environment: Study

Last Updated: Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 09:41

Washington: Manmade islands, booming populations, overfishing and heavy use of fossil fuels have wreaked havoc in the Gulf environment and more should be done to prevent further damage, a Canadian study said on Thursday.

Eight Gulf countries -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates -- were the focus of the report by the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, located outside Toronto.

By compiling data from outside researchers and combining that with observations and studies by UNU scientists, the report aimed to outline the scope of the problem and suggest ways to fix it.

"We believe there is a possibility of a positive outcome here," co-author Peter Sale told in an interview.

"There are lots of things that are going wrong. And the reason is that fundamentally there is a relatively weak environmental science capacity in the region," he added.

"These are countries which because of their wealth have been developing so very rapidly that the pace at which things are happening is tending to outstrip the pace at which capacity to regulate is growing."

For instance, many Gulf nations are engaged in furious coastal development in order to accommodate a fast-growing regional population, which at an annual growth rate of 2.1 percent is about double the world average, it said.

The UAE is building four coastal mega-islands (Palm Jebel Ali, Palm Jumeirah, Palm Deira and The World) which will add 439 kilometres of shoreline and approximately 120 square kilometres of land.

Qatar meanwhile has doubled its coastline in the past decade, from 563 to 1,239 kilometres.

That growth has strained the area`s ability to handle waste, which is "frequently dumped directly into the Gulf or riverbeds and wetlands where it then infiltrates into shallow aquifers and eventually enters coastal waters," the report said.

Providing fresh water is also a problem, because the area relies on desalination plants for 70-90 per cent of its water and those plants "deliver toxic brine into the Gulf".

The constant presence of oil tankers moving through the Gulf region, which contains 55 percent of the world`s crude oil reserves and produces 31 per cent of the world`s oil supply, also boosts pollution.

The region sees "persistently high levels of hydrocarbon pollution throughout the Gulf, predominantly along the Iranian coastline," said the report.


First Published: Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 09:41

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