SENSITIVE APPROACH

Qatar 2017 | GREEN ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Mohammad bin Abdullah Al-Rumaihi, Minister of Municipality and Environment, State of Qatar, on the department's responsibilities, climate action, and food security.

As this is the first year of operations for the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, what are the lines that are going to draw your strategy in both areas?

Municipal and environmental affairs are closely related. The Ministry of Municipality and Environment wants to beautify our cities, provide services to the population, and oversee land use and urban and infrastructure planning. At the same time, we have to reflect environmental and agricultural considerations in our activities. This means making sure land is used correctly without damaging Qatar's natural resources. We are a tropical desert country, but we have vegetation; Qatar has around 4,000 groves where five different types of trees grow. We need to protect those areas from human activities. Moreover, the environment and green practices are important for keeping the city clean, for example through recycling, building, and industrial waste. Environmental controls for emissions standards and diseases are also under our jurisdiction. We have a laboratory for monitoring emissions from factories, as Qatar is a strong producer of petrochemicals. Therefore, the municipal affairs, along with the environmental, agricultural, and urban development sectors are linked to our duties at the Ministry of Municipality and Environment.

One of the focuses in the development of new urban areas is the implementation of smart solutions. What are the Ministry's plans for developing the concept of smart cities across Qatar?

Parks should be vibrant places for their surrounding community areas. With this in mind, the Ministry of Municipality and Environment is working on the development of 60 smart public parks. We are installing electronic services, such as free internet access and special smart colored lighting, as well as some of them will even have cinemas. The parks will host festivities, celebrations and social events where families and friends can gather. People will also be able to do sports, as there will be tracks for bicycle, running, and walking. There will also be game areas for children as well as an F&B and shopping offering. Additionally, we have chosen some of the parks to host traditional Qatari houses to preserve our heritage. All in all, the parks will be designed in such a way that they serve the population. In terms of wider smart cities initiatives, we are working on more advanced navigation systems that give information while driving, and there will be more direct information sent by public bodies to individuals about issues affecting daily life.

How are you cooperating with private developers on the urban planning of new areas built to cater the demand of the growing population?

Besides the residential and commercial areas, there are going to be 20 civic centers within the city of Doha. These quarters will be equipped with gardens, markets, and other public services. They will include residential developments for Qataris and expatriates built around the Metro exits. In addition there are the Msheireb and Al Dafna downtown areas as well as Lusail City. These urban developments will also develop their surrounding areas, but these expansions should keep up with the architectural and landscaping style of the original project to have harmonious quarters. Our inspectors and engineers ensure developers respect the urban plan and the environment, as well as install the facilities that every neighborhood needs. Furthermore, we have the intentions to develop three new cities outside Doha with their own administrative services, industrial areas, schools, hospitals, and other public services. These cities are Al Khor, Al-Shahaniya, and Al Wakrah. We need to take the pressure of Doha's residential and commercial areas; therefore, each new city will have its own downtown area with a different focus. Al Wakrah will be more industrial because it is near the port and the airport. Al Khor will have some sea and land developments and will feature more agricultural projects. Finally, Al-Shahaniya will be connected with livestock activities.

What role is the Ministry playing in promoting sustainable and green developments as the country rapidly rolls out new construction and infrastructure projects?

The Ministry of Municipality and Environment is responsible for waste management and we intend to create energy from waste. Our target is to have approximately 400MW coming out of waste treatment and recycling. Our other responsibility, together with Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (KAHRAMAA) and Qatar Electricity and Water Company (QEWC), is to allocate land for solar plants to produce 200MW of solar energy. Qatar already has fertilizer-generated energy and we are creating new farms for energy created underground by tree roots. All in all, we are focusing on how Qatar can deal with its waste products through 100% recycling and 100% energy reuse while minimizing its emissions. We are asking companies that come here to operate with zero waste and zero emissions. We are also working on improving our waste collection methods to be underground in the new development quarters. We will be implementing a special collection program that includes advanced sorting of various types of waste products so that it is easier to recycle these materials.

How is the Ministry ensuring that Qatar complies with the COP21 Paris agreement?

Qatar signed the Paris agreement in 2015, and it was then ratified by the government last year. In Paris we submitted our Climate Action Plan to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). We have a national program to complement the international agreement, and that will be executed in phases. It is up to the signatory countries to select how they execute the program, with some parts requiring compliance and others that are non-mandatory. Overall, Qatar has chosen to participate intensively in the COP21 program.

How is the Ministry contributing to the achievement of food security in Qatar?

We have a target for self-sufficiency in food stocks. Qatar has agriculture and currently vegetables account for 40% of our production. The target under our food security program is to see local agricultural production accounting for an 80% by 2022. We also have to increase our livestock from 1.5 million animals to 3 million animals by the same year so that we reduce our reliance on imports by at least half. By 2030 we hope to be almost self-sufficient in food production in Qatar. We would only be reliant on the importation of fruit from and some specialized meats, such as beef and chicken.

What is your outlook for the year ahead?

For 2017 we need to clear some waste management areas and turn them into gardens. We also need to empower farmers to produce more organic products and be price competitive. Today local products cost around 60% of the total price of imported products. We have awarded the top three farms in terms of quality, quantity, and diversity of production at the Qatar's International Agricultural Exhibition last March. At the same time, we need to create an awareness program to educate the population and count with their participation for protecting Qatar's natural resources. We have programs to plant trees in order to regenerate our deserts and groves. We are also working to protect our plants and deserts from damage caused by grazing animals, such as cattle.