Saudi Arabia will announce in November the complete strategic and executive plan for the Saudi Green Initiative, based on an alliance of companies, scientific, and research bodies with over 60 experts in soil, water, climate change, and desertification.
Environmental experts recommended supporting green initiatives that adopt sustainable afforestation projects and plant cover development to meet the challenges of desertification.
Under the patronage of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture, Abdulrahman al-Fadhli inaugurated the International Exhibition and Forum on Afforestation Technologies at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center on Sunday.
The event is organized by the National Center for Vegetation Development and Combating Desertification in coordination and cooperation with the Ministry of Environment.
More than 80 exhibitors and 90 speakers from 20 countries and organizations worldwide will engage in 20 dialogue sessions and workshops discussing more than 50 scientific papers.
Participants called for boosting the cooperation between regional countries to achieve the desired effect of these projects and determine their proper framework to avoid the many conflicts within different experiences.
Fadhli said the Kingdom is moving towards achieving a qualitative and unprecedented leap in the Middle East in environmental protection and vegetation development with ambitious local and regional initiatives.
"The impact of the initiatives will be reflected globally in reducing desertification and boosting biodiversity, and pushes towards a cleaner and more sustainable future, thus improving human quality of life and well-being," the minister said.
CEO of the National Center for Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification Khaled al-Abdulqader warned that biodiversity loss is a great challenge, adding that planting 10 billion trees will have environmental, social, and economic benefits.
Undersecretary of the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture Osama Fakiha confirmed that Saudi Arabia had made significant efforts to implement the afforestation program throughout the Kingdom.
He reviewed the Green Riyadh Project, which started with planting 7.5 million trees and launching the King Salman Park and Saudi Green Cities, with the aim to plant more than 30 million trees in gardens and parks across the Kingdom.
Leader of the Saudi Green Studies Project Alliance Khaled al-Othman said environmental interaction has no boundaries because addressing its challenges is inseparable from the mutual ecological influences within the same region.
Othman added that Saudi Arabia is within a wide regional area that requires the adoption of a broad environmental and integrated movement as part of the approaches of the Saudi Green Initiative to stimulate regional and joint cooperation.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, he pointed out that the Saudi Green Initiative is the cornerstone of the Middle East Green Initiative, placing the Kingdom in a pioneering position in specialized studies and a leader in afforestation.
Othman stated that an alliance of companies and scientific and research bodies is devising a plan based on the scientific foundations, environmental reality, challenges, resources, and capabilities.
The plan will be part of a strategic implementation framework to understand the current situation, collect data, and conduct the necessary surveys.
He revealed that over 60 scientists and experts in soil, water, climate change, and levels of desertification are working in cooperation with the National Center for Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification.
Othman noted that the efforts would result in developing a comprehensive strategic plan and an execution plan to implement this ambitious project by defining the required financing programs, the roles of governmental and non-profit agencies, and the areas of scientific research.
The project will also determine the new technologies employed with its necessary implementation tools.
He called for exerting efforts within the framework of the comprehensive plan, rather than conflicting attempts, in plant growth and comprehensive environmental rehabilitation.
He announced that the preliminary results of the study would be announced in November, and the implementation tools will be identified, which will answer all questions about water sources and the quality, timing, and locations of crops.
Reality of the region
Director of Seismic Studies Center Professor Abdullah al-Omari said the region suffers from drought, desertification, and various environmental problems, making afforestation initiatives vital to reducing carbon emissions and global warming.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that Saudi Arabia and the rest of the regional countries, given their vast area and the lack of rain, will face various obstacles, namely the scarcity of water resources.
Saudi Arabia has sought, through its multiple initiatives, to meet its needs, face challenges, and create solutions.
Omari reiterated the importance of the participation of different countries at the International Exhibition and Forum on Afforestation Technologies to achieve these initiatives, exchange experiences, and boost cooperation.
He pointed out that water availability is essential for the plan, and solving the issue of water shortage ensures its success.
He recalled Saudi efforts in this field, noting that the Kingdom is a pioneer in desalination, artificial lakes, and rain seeding.
Saudi Arabia also constructed over 230 dams around the Kingdom, despite high temperatures and increased evaporation levels.
Riyadh continues efforts to face water waste and maintain renewable water resources, securing them for future generations, meeting possible increases in population density, and prioritizing the public interests.
Agreements and contracts
The National Center for Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification signed an agreement with the King Abdulaziz Royal Reserve to plant one million trees in the reserve.
The agreement aims to boost the cooperation and integration to develop the vegetation cover within the reserve, increase its area, and protest its diversity.
The areas of cooperation include defining afforestation sites within the reserve, including the northern and southern al-Khafs and Noura parks.
The Center signed on the sidelines of the Forum three memoranda of understanding with the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), the Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Maaden), and the Rural Development Program (Reef).
The agreements aim to combat desertification within the areas of cooperation, including protecting and developing the vegetation cover and its sustainability, raising environmental awareness, and launching afforestation initiatives and projects, such as the project to plant 20 million trees by 2040.
NEOM launched its Regreening Initiative in collaboration with the National Center for Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification.
NEOM CEO Engineer Nadhmi al-Nasr announced the project seeks to plant 100 million trees as part of the Saudi Green Initiative, stressing that NEOM will be the first region to rely entirely on solar and wind energy.
Nasr stressed that the partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture had come a long way, highlighting NEOM's commitment to the future industry, development sustainability, and keeping pace with future aspirations.
NEOM will start planting 100 million trees soon.
Nasr pointed out that NEOM, which occupies an area the size of an entire country, such as Belgium, will be a 95 percent natural area, as a result of continuous work and coordination with the Ministry of Environment and in light of many initiatives and scientific research.
It will also rehabilitate 1.5 million hectares of land and natural reserves and restore wildlife habitats.