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What steps must we take to protect our environment? All eyes are on Saudi Arabia for World Environment Day 2024, where the focus will be on the critical need for global investments in conserving nature, restoring lands, and pursuing sustainability.

“Now is the time to act on commitments to prevent, halt and reverse ecosystem degradation,” said Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Deputy Executive Director of UNEP, during the WED 2024 global campaign launch at a Saudi Environment Week event in Riyadh. “We are the first generation to now fully understand the immense threats to the land—and might be the last one with a chance to reverse the course of destruction. Our priority now must be on restoring ecosystems; on replanting our forests; on rewetting our marshes; on reviving our soils.”

Without intervention, 95% of the Earth's land could face degradation within the next three decades, posing severe threats to both humanity and the planet. To counter this looming crisis, nations worldwide have pledged to restore one billion hectares of land, with the goal of safeguarding 30% of land and sea for nature and revitalizing 30% of the planet’s degraded ecosystems. Aligned with the 2030 Agenda for sustainability and resilience, World Environment Day 2024 will galvanize climate action by garnering support for ecosystem restoration.

Impact of Digitalization in Environmental Goals

Embracing digital technologies will continue to play a crucial role in advancing environmental agendas and achieving a more resilient and sustainable future for our planet.

Eng. Wael Adli Ahmed Bushah, Director-General, Environmental Awareness and Capabilities Enhancement, Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture (MEWA) emphasized that “technology and digitalization can provide several smart solutions toward more sustainable cities and green communities.” Digital platforms offer unparalleled opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of environmental awareness and education programs. By reaching a diverse audience across different locations, backgrounds, and age groups, these platforms enable wider dissemination of information and engagement with environmental issues.

Furthermore, the rapid digitalization in the Kingdom will “put the sustainability initiatives on a fast track which will speed up the environmental achievements towards a circular economy,” noted Eng. Bushah. Technologies will play a pivotal role in enhancing land restoration efforts, effectively combating desertification and bolstering food security. These advancements aim to cultivate a "resilient community" capable of withstanding environmental challenges and ensuring sustainable livelihoods.

Through the use of digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), and remote sensing, environmental monitoring, analysis, and decision-making processes have become more efficient and effective.

Digital platforms are also known to facilitate communication and collaboration among stakeholders, including government agencies, NGOs, scientists, and local communities, fostering greater transparency, engagement, and participation in environmental initiatives.

Through innovative ICT solutions, Saudi Arabia has orchestrated a symphony of data-driven conservation efforts. These include satellites, which are like vigilant sentinels in the sky and will be utilized for Earth observation monitoring techniques. These technologies will monitor the effects of the Saudi Green Initiative, particularly focusing on its ambitious plan to plant 10 billion trees in the coming years. Additionally, they will oversee the health of coral reefs in the Red Sea and facilitate swift decision-making regarding the optimal placement of solar panels.

Moreover, advanced irrigation systems, driven by AI algorithms, play a crucial role in facilitating reforestation efforts and promoting biodiversity. These systems utilize smart sensors scattered throughout the landscape to monitor water usage and meticulously optimize resource allocation with surgical precision.

Contributing to the digitalization journey, telecom players have also become more vocal in their initiatives toward sustainability. For one, Ericsson and Saudi Arabian IoT digital solutions provider, iot squared, have collaborated to offer the Ericsson Connected Recycling (ECR) platform as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) in Saudi Arabia to increase awareness of the importance of waste management and contribute to shaping a more sustainable future in the country.

Ericsson believes that it is key to safeguard the world’s natural resources by turning waste into recycled raw materials rather than putting them in landfills or burning them. In line with this, they will offer ECR in Saudi Arabia for several waste streams, with an initial launch to address municipal solid waste (MSW).

Through innovation and collaboration, a new era of sustainability has dawned, echoing across the sands and inspiring nations to follow Saudi Arabia’s trail in safeguarding our planet for generations to come.

World's First Zero-Emission 5G Network

Telecom networks serve as lifelines, connecting remote conservation outposts with global expertise, enabling real-time collaboration in the face of environmental challenges.

One of the most notable examples of a project that harnesses innovation for sustainability is the zero-carbon 5G network at The Red Sea. This success story highlights Zain KSA's ground-breaking collaboration with the multi-project developer, Red Sea Global (RSG).

According to Eng. Sultan AlHadlag, Vice President of Marketing & Business Development, Zain KSA, the company designed the network following extensive studies of the Red Sea’s environmental ecosystem. “Surveys documented the area's biodiversity to minimize the impact on indigenous species, avoid disturbing the natural habitats, and ensure the protection of the region’s rich ecosystems and natural landscapes below the sea and on land.”

The 5G network, powered entirely by renewable energy via over 760,000 solar panels, emits zero greenhouse gases. For long-term sustainability, Zain KSA has integrated green solutions throughout the project with its partners to minimize energy consumption.

In fact, Zain KSA’s zero-carbon 5G network at The Red Sea boasts a purposeful tower design and state-of-the-art 3D printing was utilized to mitigate visual disruption, ensuring that the structures seamlessly blend into the golden landscape. AlHadlag pointed out that the towers were designed to be shared with other operators, optimizing future resource utilization by minimizing the need for more hardware and manpower deployments, and more importantly, saving more land.

“Essentially, the green network project models a set of pioneering sustainable connectivity solutions that can be deployed to build more green networks worldwide.  This embodies Zain KSA’s commitment to enhancing people’s lives and well-being and harnessing innovation for a brighter tomorrow,” Eng. AlHadlag concluded.

The innovative and eco-friendly 5G project aligns with the Saudi Vision 2030 goals and the Saudi Green Initiative, while also championing the UN Sustainable Development Goals of 'Climate Action' and 'Life on Land.' This project advocates for the sustainable management of terrestrial ecosystems, demonstrating a commitment to environmental stewardship and technological advancement.

Environmental Awareness

Environmental awareness throughout the Kingdom is a crucial part of the national environmental strategy to create a sustainable and responsible society. Eng. Bushah noted that the Ministry’s environmental awareness initiative was launched on June 5, 2022, coinciding with World Environment Day, making it a significant and memorable occasion for the initiative.

“Since then, the awareness initiative organized several campaigns, events, workshops, and webinars where thousands of people engaged to learn more about the environmental challenges and how to protect the environment. Moreover, the awareness campaign on social media achieved millions of reaches, engagements and impressions,” the MEWA Director General explained.

In line with its commitment to raising awareness, the Kingdom has implemented a set of initiatives under its National Environment Strategy. These include adopting the new Environmental Law, launching the National Environmental Awareness Program, and establishing five environmental centers to conserve Saudi Arabia's natural resources. Additionally, the Kingdom has introduced the National Environment Week to further promote environmental conservation efforts.

During the first quarter of 2024, the Kingdom officially announced that March 27 will be celebrated as Saudi Green Initiative Day to raise awareness and highlight the positive impact of collective environmental efforts across the country.

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