Bahrain youth join climate change fight

A GROUP of youngsters in Bahrain has joined the fight against climate change by uniting with UN-Habitat Bahrain and other entities on a project aimed at making the island a sustainably green haven for all.

More than 30 high school students and university graduates, aged 18 and above, participated in a two-day data training workshop earlier this week with Budaiya Hub at Brinc Batelco to learn how to assess different aspects of parks and green areas of Bahrain to support the national afforestation plans.

More than 56 public spaces across the island have been selected for collecting data.

“We have brought in tools to support data collection at the country level of Bahrain,” said UN Habitat Associate Programme Management officer Joy Mutai, who is associated with UN-Habitat’s Global Public Space programme and who ran the workshops.

“The tools help to understand the afforestation areas including the number of trees it features, the survival rate of the plants and the quality in the public spaces, as well as the quantity and distribution around the country.

“The tool is called the Bahrain National Wide Public Space Afforestation Areas Assessment and one of the aspects is to really understand it.

“The training that happened on Sunday and Monday were to equip youngsters with the methodology and the understanding of what they will assess of the public spaces and the afforestation area.”

As of yesterday, the youngsters put their training to the test in different areas and then will share their feedback tomorrow.

“We selected 56 public spaces across Bahrain for them to collect data,” continued Ms Mutai.

This data training is part of a major project entitled ‘Greener and Sustainable Cities’ that is being run by UN-Habitat Bahrain, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Municipalities Affairs and Agriculture Ministry.

The UN-Habitat Bahrain office has been focused on supporting Bahrain’s sustainability goals, announced by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, at the landmark UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) held in Glasgow, the UK.

“This is a year-long project that started in March/April of this year,” said UN-Habitat, Head of Country Programme Bahrain Dr Fernanda Lonardoni.

“Since 2021, Bahrain has really enhanced its commitment to global climate goals, setting up very bold initiatives, with the two key pillars being increasing the number of trees and green coverage of Bahrain and in the area of mangroves.

“We have come in to support the implementation of the national afforestation plans.

“I’m very confident to say that in some extent here in this project, Bahrain will probably be the first country that has mapped the quality of trees and so on, and this is something that should be acknowledged,” said Dr Lonardoni.

In 2021, Bahrain announced its ambitious target to bring carbon emissions to net zero by 2060.

In a Cabinet meeting in February 2022, HRH Prince Salman approved increasing the National Initiative for Agricultural Development target from 1.8 million trees to 3.6m trees by 2035.

“We want to make sure it’s not only about the number of trees but also building better sustainable cities for people and what the trees will bring in terms of well-being, health and comfort, and so on,” added Dr Lonardoni.

“This has a number of components, such as how improving data and information collection can support decision-making.

“We needed to have on-the-ground field data and we are engaging with the youth of Bahrain where they will learn about the benefits of trees and support their neighbourhoods and communities.”

Dr Lonardoni also brought Global Chief Heat Officer to UN Habitat and the Arsht Rock Resilience Centre Dr Eleni (Lenio) Myrivili to Bahrain to check out different areas, participate in workshops and help people understand the effects of heat and how to protect ourselves from it.

This is her first country to visit to assist on this issue.

“We wanted to bring Dr Eleni because it is the best time to assess how the trees are reacting to the heat and then do a comparison when it’s more pleasant weather,” added Dr Lonardoni.

“She will help people understand the large spectrum of benefits that trees can bring if connected with heat, health and the economy, and so forth.”

According to Dr Myrivili, who is working to build heat resilience in cities around the world, her aim is to make sure that public spaces in Bahrain are more accessible and more desirable for people to visit because they are cooler and greener.

“We know that keeping temperatures down in the public spaces can really make a difference on many aspects of urban life from health to social predictions to economic life,” said Dr Myrivili, who is also one of the experts on the EU Mission Board for Adaptation of the European Commission.

“All these are very much affected when temperatures go up. So it’s best to see public spaces as a cooling mechanism for Bahrain and all cities around the world, but especially Bahrain in the summer.

“The problem is that we know countries in this region are increasingly going to experience unprecedented types of heat and temperature for longer periods of time and more frequently.”

Although, she added that people living in certain regions such as North African and southern Mediterranean are used to heat and don’t think it is a big deal.

“But the truth is we are starting to experience temperatures that we are not used to,” added Dr Myrivili.

“Our bodies aren’t, our cities aren’t and our infrastructures aren’t. One of the main things that we need is for the municipalities and governments to start creating backups for the main systems that keep people alive. We have to make sure we have energy system backups to deal with extreme heat.

“This year, for example, is the first time for Bahrain to have the highest consumption of energy in August. I think it spiked the first week of August. Thank God there was no black-out. We have to make sure we have the right energy system backups to not lose energy.”

She also advised to ensure safer work timings for anyone working in labour-intensive jobs whether in the food industry or construction.

She added that social cohesion are some of the best weapons we have against extreme heat.

“Finally, the most important thing is to bring a lot of nature into our public spaces and use nature to lower temperatures along with other technology and material, which the region has a great wealth of knowledge of,” said Dr Myrivili.

“Nature is the best and most wonderful way to lower temperatures together with water elements so people can go out into the open. Because even though we have air-conditioning, we also need to go out for our physical and mental health.”

Aside from that, Bahrain has also taken several steps to combat climate change with a number of interim goals to be achieved by 2035 including reducing emissions by 30pc through decarbonisation and efficiency initiatives, quadrupling mangrove coverage, doubling tree coverage, and directly investing in carbon capture technologies.




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