QUESTION: What are the main objectives of EPA in Kuwait?
ANSWER: In 1995, the Law No. 21/1995 was issued and amended by The Law No. 16/1996 to establish the Kuwait Environment Public Authority (KEPA) to carry out all activities and functions necessary to ensure the protection of the environment in the State. The main objectives of the KEPA could be summarized in the following:
* Set and implement strategies, policies and plans to safeguard the environment in the State
* Combat and control environmental pollution of all kinds.
* Cooperate and coordinate action with all relevant organizations to draft laws, prepare legislation, set environmental criteria (standards), and promulgate regulations to ensure environmental safety, protection and development.
* Set and implement strategies and action plans to ensure sustainable development of the environment and society.
* Study and review accession to and ratification of the regional and international conventions related to the environmental affairs in coordination with relevant authorities.
Q: What are EPA’s major achievements so far?
A: In 1999, the KEPA eliminated the only point source of mercury pollution to the marine environment by removing completely about 30,000 tons of marine soils (clays) heavily contaminated with mercury from the offshore area of the Oil-Sector Complex built along Shuwaikh coast. Two years later, the Executive Bylaw (known as Decision 210/2001) for the Law establishing the KEPA was issued including environmental regulations and standards. Recently, the new Environmental Law of Kuwait was submitted for approval to the Kuwaiti Parliament, while a separate decision was issued on April 1 (Decision 4/2012) to update to the two major air quality regulations (Article 76 for ambient air and Article 79 for stationary source emissions, KEPA Executive Bylaw) to be in line with the World Health Organization and USEPA (US Environment Protection Agency) international standards. In the year 2002, the Agenda 21 Program has been implemented, covering Kuwait’s most important achievements in sustainable development. In addition, the Environmental Strategy of the State of Kuwait was established. Moreover, 14 major international agreements were ratified during the period from 1992 to 2006. Almost 80% of these agreements have been implemented through KEPA environmental laws, regulations and standards and through national action plans and programs. In the year 2009, the KEPA established a GIS-based Environmental Monitoring Centre to provide a database for information about environment and to help in environmental monitoring of industrial activities in the country through online monitoring programs linked to the Centre.
Furthermore, KEPA in collaboration with relevant Kuwaiti governmental organizations, academic and research institutes, and companies in the private sector has set new strategies, policies and action plans to achieve a number of important national goals, including:
• Treating all industrial waste water (IWW) illegally dumped in landfills between 2003 and 2008 (about 1,200 million gallons/year) by Wafra Emergency Treatment Plant, which was commissioned in 2010 and designed to receive 15,000 cubic meters of IWW a day.
• Treating IWW in industrial installations during 2009-2011 by installing onsite IWW treatment units or closed loop systems in all factories violating KEPA environmental laws, regulations and standards, and upgrading Umm Al-Hayman waste water tertiary plant to treat the IWW generated from factories, as well as planning the installation of Central Treatment Plants in new industrial areas in the next 5 years.
• Reducing atmospheric emissions, particularly in Kuwait Southern Region through the following measures:
• Environmental Compliance (EC) of industrial installations following the massive inspection of 800 factories in 9 industrial areas, between 2009 and 2011.
• EC of oil companies through carefully planned programs such as KOC Project (2011-2016) for the development of an Enforcement/Compliance Management System, including Regulatory Air Compliance and Audit Management Systems aiming at reducing considerably gas emissions and flares from Kuwaiti oil fields as well as Waste, Flaring and SO2 Emissions Reduction Programs set and implemented by EQUATE Petrochemicals between 2011 & 2012.
• Setting and implementing an action plan to ban the use of sulphur-rich diesel fuel in all industrial installations in the next 5 years and replace this fuel by electricity, natural gas and/or alternative renewable fuels (Plan set 2010).
• Setting regional and local programs for monitoring Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and Coral Reefs (2009).
• Developing integrated management programs/systems for air quality, coastlines and chemicals (ongoing projects since 2010).
• Establishing the Green Buildings Concept and Technology in Kuwait (National Committees formed in November 2010).
• Supervising and following up the implementation of two environmental projects by “Al-Dhow for Environmental Projects” and “Kuwait Cement” private companies to apply Air-Water Windmill Technology for the enhancement of ambient air quality in Umm Al-Hayman Residential Area and use Tire Derived Fuel (fuel derived from burning used tires) as an alternative for the conventional fossil fuel in operating Cement Kilns.
Q: We know that EPA also works in the industrial sector and the government in variety of voluntary pollution programs and energy conservation. What kind of difficulty does the organization face?
A: In 2009, the KEPA launched its first massive inspection campaign with 125 factories inspected by 40 officers over a period of 4 months (from November 2009 to March 2010). Heavy penalties were inflicted on 80 factories in violation of KEPA legislation. Some of these factories have old production lines since the 1970s, and hence must be replaced with new lines friendly to environment, some have heavy or medium impacts on the environment resulting from releasing pollutants to air, land and/or water, while others lack funds to install onsite wastewater treatment units, stacks, fans, sensors for online continuous monitoring, and to have modern environmental and waste management systems as a prerequisite for reaching settlement with KEPA.
In order to overcome these difficulties the KEPA 3-phase EC Plan to improve environmental conditions in Kuwait Southern Region (approved by the Supreme Council for Environment and the Council of Ministers in 2010) has strongly recommended the establishment of a National Fund for Environmental Compliance. While the World Bank has been already asked by a National Committee to provide an action plan for its establishment, the National Fund will enable governmental organizations and factories owners to achieve the following components of the KEPA EC Plan throughout the country:
• Relocating heavy and medium impacted factories in other new remote industrial areas.
• Installing Central IWW Treatment Plants in new industrial areas.
• Planting green belts covering buffer zones between industrial and nearby residential areas.
• Removing violations, evaluating existing environmental conditions and preparing on-line monitoring programs for all factories through KEPA authorized environmental consultants.
• Conducting annual Regulatory Air Emission Inventory and Health Surveys in Industrial & Residential Areas.
Q: Please elaborate more on Environmental Monitoring Information System of Kuwait (eMISK).
A: Environmental Monitoring Information System of Kuwait (eMISK) is an ambitious system initiated by the Environment Public Authority (EPA) of Kuwait. eMISK aims
to establish, build and maintain a comprehensive geo-environmental database of Kuwait along with an enterprise level GIS system for access, update and analysis of the environmentally relevant data. This geo-environmental database is made available through eMISK to the decisions makers and stakeholders from within EPA, and through ‘www.beatona.net’ to outside agencies and to the public at large. eMISK aspires to raise awareness at all levels of Kuwaiti Society of the values of the environment, and to place authoritative scientific information at the center of decision-making, for the universal well being of the society. eMISK spans over 3 phases, the 1st of which has completed in February 2012, which has already established a comprehensive geo-environmental database for Kuwait, including the required infrastructure, and human resource capital within EPA. The Phase 2 of eMISK is aimed at the development of domain-specific environmental analysis, models, and simulations to help address specific environmental issues of Kuwait. The third and the last phase of eMISK will focus on the development of Spatial Decision Support Systems (SDSS) for issues specific to the environment of Kuwait.
eMISK is all set and running. It is powering the official environmental web-portal of Kuwait EPA and can be accessed through www.beatona.net. Beatona stands for “Our Environment” in Arabic language. It is the official environmental portal of Kuwait which is developed and managed by the environmental monitoring information system of Kuwait (eMISK), Environment Public Authority (EPA), Kuwait. Beatona.net represents KEPA’s commitment towards creating consciousness about the environment among the people of Kuwait. Beatona is eMISK’s public venture for the people of Kuwait. The main mandate of beatona is to generate awareness and share authentic content and valued scientific information with the citizen in a use friendly manner. It is supported by a group of committed and specialized people including local and international technical experts, consultants and scientists, who work together to ensure compliance with the global standards of data integration and information sharing. Contributions from various government entities and organizations comprise the valuable contents and information offered to the environmental community in Kuwait through Beatona.net.
Q: What are the biggest challenges Kuwait is currently facing owing to its climate and geographic placement?
A: The State of Kuwait is located at the northwestern corner of the Arabian Gulf, where it is part of the Mesopotamian Delta Plain and is bordered by Saudi Arabia from south and SW and by Iraq from west and north.
Kuwait is also situated in the northeastern area of the Arabian Peninsula between Latitude 30° 06′ & 28° 45′ N and Longitude 46° 30′ & 46° 36′ E. This location places the country in the Arid Region, particularly in the Zone of Dry Deserts.
Consequently, the desert ecosystem, mainly composed of sands and gravels, constitutes about 80% of the whole country. Grazing is the major land use in this ecosystem. Rangelands constitute about 96% of the State of Kuwait.
The vegetation of Kuwait’s desert ecosystem is very sparse, dominated by woody shrubs <2m high. The sandy soils are covered with a green carpet of annual grasses during wet seasons only (e.g., 1995-1996).
In general, precipitation is scant in Kuwait, reaching a mean annual total of about 112 mm, while evaporation is very high and varies with location and season. Low precipitation and high temperature result in high seawater salinities throughout the year (38-42%), which have drastic impacts on biodiversity and marine fauna productivity. In addition, the winds have a pronounced influence on the oceanographic and sedimentologic nature of the area as well as on the quality of ambient air, seawater and land in Kuwait. Northwesterly (Shamal) and, to less extent, southeasterly (Kaus) winds prevail throughout the year. The prevailing dry northwesterly (sometime northerly or northeasterly) winds blow southward from areas lying to the north and northwest of the Gulf and are associated with dust storms that reach a maximum in summer, particularly in June and July. They bring large quantities of terrigenous material associated with a variety of organic and chemical pollutants to the Gulf, particularly to Kuwait offshore areas. During dry season (May-September), the prevailing northwesterly winds cause remarkable soil deflation, thereby destroying the vegetation cover. Also, coarser eroded materials by NW winds/storms (mainly sands from topsoils and quarries) cause severe sand encroachment.
Other mechanisms of land degradation in Kuwait include overgrazing, camping and recreation in open desert areas and military activities, which lead to clearance of natural vegetation and soil compaction.
Of important note is the role of the strong NW winds in transporting large volume of air pollutants from their point sources, such as Power and Desalination Plants (DPDs), factories, and oil-fields and oil-industries, to residential areas downwind, particularly in Kuwait Southern Region.
Being located in arid region, water resources are very limited in the Arabian Gulf countries, particularly in Kuwait where fresh groundwater is restricted to a small water field in Umm Al-Aish Area in the far northern part of the country. Consequently, brackish groundwater has been extensively used for irrigation in large farmlands such as Al-Wafra and Al-Abdally, and hence degraded soils which became saline in some areas.
Q: Can global warming and drastic climate changes be reversed by taking the right measures towards environment protection?
A: Before answering this important question, I would like to attract your attention to the fact that climatologies use the term “Climate Change” to refer specifically to climate change caused by human activity, as opposed to changes in climate that may have resulted as part of Earth’s natural processes. In this sense, especially in the context of environmental policy, the term climate change has become synonymous with anthropogenic global warming. Also, in the context of climate variation, ant hropogenic factors are human activities which affect the climate.
Of most concern in these anthropogenic factors is the increase in levels of carbon dioxide (C02), a well known greenhouse gas (GHG), due to emissions from fossil fuel combustion, followed by aerosols (liquid substances stored under pressure and released as a fine spray) and other factors such as land use and ozone depletion. Consequently, taking the right measures towards environment protection by reducing GHG emissions, minimizing the use of aerosols and banning chemical substances causing ozone depletion can definitely reverse the drastic impacts of global warming and climate change.
The following is a summary of measures taken by the State of Kuwait and KEPA to minimize human activities leading to global warming and climate change:
(1). The State of Kuwait has signed and ratified the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer (Vienna, 1985), Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (Montreal, 1982), and Amendments to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, London (1990), Copenhagen (1992), Montreal (1997) and Beijing (1999). These agreements have been implemented through KEPA environmental laws, regulations and standards as well as national action plans and programmes, and resulted in banning the use, production and export of chemical substances (including aerosols) that deplete the Ozone layer.
(2). In November 2010 the KEPA formed “the National Committee of Green Buildings” under the Decree No. 497/2010. The Committee gathers under one roof all governmental ministries and organizations, academic and research institutes, and private companies and consultancy/engineering offices dealing with such concept.
The main goal of this committee is to lay down the foundation for an applicable scope concept of green buildings (GBs) in Kuwait, to establish a local movement in the country for GBs friendly to environment, water-and-energy saving and GHG emissions reducing, and to set a local code compatible with international standards and backed up by incentives to encourage investments from individuals and private sector in this field.
Being a member of the aforesaid committee Kuwait Municipality has formed a committee in July, 2011 to review the present construction codes and introduce a new code for GBs. Other aspects of GBs will be handled by Working Groups formed by the National Committee to undertake the task of setting and implementing action plans and programs with specific time schedules to establish the GB culture and technology in the country.
(3). Among the EC programs set by EQUATE Petrochemicals and implemented under the supervision of KEPA is the “Green Carbon Project”:
About 700-900 T/day of CO2 are vented to atmosphere from two new Ethylene Glycol Plants (EG1 & EG2).
Being the first of its kind in Kuwait, the project started in 2010 and aims at:
• Minimize Green House Gas Emissions.
• Develop and encourage local innovative industrial business opportunities
• Support the economy by creating added-value for downstream industries in Kuwait.
• Provide green carbon Company with 450 1/day of CO2 for downstream industries.
Q: What steps can individuals take to reduce their carbon footprints?
A: Every individual can make changes at a personal level by limiting our carbon footprint by doing things differently each day and these can be done by the following ways:
• Saving Energy:
• Change your light bulbs. Replace incandescent bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL). You will use only 30% of the energy and still get just as much light.
• Look for the Energy Star logo. The symbol designates appliances that are energy-efficient. If you purchase only those that are certified, you may pay more initially for these items. Over time, however, you’ll save on energy bills while helping the environment.
• Save energy by carpooling, taking public transportation, riding a bike, or walking. Another way to reduce your carbon emissions is to combine errands when you do drive.
• Cars & Renewable Fuels. Highly fuel efficient cars, hybrids, and vehicles that use cleaner alternative fuels help reduce greenhouse gases emissions.
• Unplug appliances. Many electronics and small appliances merely go on “stand-by” when switched off. This means they could still be using energy. Take a moment to unplug these energy-stealers when you are not using them.
• Re-Use and repair. Don’t just toss items out if they can be fixed, and keep them out of the trash and landfills. Use and re-use your own canvas grocery bags and avoid the plastic disposables.
• Use the recycle bin. Keeping unnecessary items out of the landfill and allowing them to be re-used as raw materials is very earth-friendly. Make sure to recycle toxic items like motor oil properly and safely according to the rules in your area.
• Use Renewable Energy. Solar energy can be used to heat homes, buildings, water, and to make electricity. Today, more than 200,000 houses in the United States take advantage of the sun’s energy.
• Be Smart with Power Management. Unplug your appliances when not in use. Your battery charger uses energy while plugged into the wall even when you’re not using it to charge your phone, laptop.
• Turn off the tap while cleaning your teeth, shaving or washing your face. This can help to save 9 litres a minute.
• Having a short shower rather than a bath could save up to 400 liters per week.
• Listen for dripping faucets and running toilets. Fixing a leak can save 300 gallons a month or more. Report leaks or water waste to maintenance personnel.
• Have maintenance personnel regularly check your facilities for leaks, drips and other water waste.
• Shut oft water to unused areas of your facility to eliminate waste from leaks or unmonitored use.
• Scrape dishes rather then rinse them before washing.
When you are washing your hands, don’t let the water run while you lather.
• Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap.
• Collect the water you use for rinsing fruits and vegetables, then reuse it to water houseplants.
• Upgrade older toilets with water efficient models.
• When cleaning out fish tanks, give the nutrient-rich water to your plants.
• Don’t use running water to thaw food. Defrost food in the refrigerator for water efficiency and food safety.
• When doing laundry, match the water level to the size of the load.
• Teach your children to turn off faucets tightly after each use.
• Bathe your young children together.
• When you give your pet fresh water, don’t throw the old water down the drain. Use it to water your trees or shrubs.
• If you accidentally drop ice cubes when filling your glass from the freezer, don’t throw them in the sink, drop them in a house plant instead.