Participants at Bahrain's inaugural international green technology exhibition said the Middle East needs to adopt green technology more than ever as pressure mounts on natural resources around the world.
At the three-day event that ended Thursday (March 15th) in Manama, officials and attendees discussed energy conservation, preserving water resources, reducing bad consumer behaviour, raising awareness about environmental efficiency, promoting alternative and renewable energy sources, and reducing pollution.
They also emphasized the element of awareness, which will be the decisive factor in guiding Arab Gulf and Arab societies towards green conservation and the reinforcement of environmental efficiency.
The conference included around 100 booths for ministries, government institutes and companies from China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, France, Egypt, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
"What grabbed my attention is that more than 90 companies from around the world are all under one roof, and they all specialise in the same field," Fatima Ali, a university student, told Al-Shorfa. She said Bahrain and the region can benefit from green technology and other initiatives discussed at the event.
The exhibition is unique for Bahrain since it serves the goal of sustainable development and conserving the environment while increasing awareness of how useful green technologies can be, she said.
Other participants said Bahrain is at the forefront of green initiatives in the region and spoke about the importance of energy conservation and environmental preservation.
Discussions are taking place about establishing Bahrain as a regional centre for green technology that would serve the Middle East and North Africa, said Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, director-general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation.
He said the proposal would support steps taken towards sustainable and environmentally friendly development and growth.
Dr. Adel al-Zayani, chairman of the forum's organising committee, said Bahrain will work in stages to promote green technology. It will first attract advanced technology and then provide funding through investments and continue to build consumer awareness.
"Bahrain recognised before other countries in the region how important green technology is for conserving the natural environment and the importance of raising awareness by using technology through official and non-official government channels," said Dr. Wahib al-Nasser, vice president of planning and development at Bahrain University.
The Bahrain government adopted a strategic plan to secure a healthy and safe environment for citizens by rationing energy consumption -- whether electricity or water -- and curbing improper behaviour on either the ministerial or individual level, he said.
"The environmental portfolio should become a matter of concern in the Arab Gulf area so that offenders who tamper with the environment are punished and those that seek to preserve it are rewarded," al-Nasser said. "This has to be done with legislation that supports this new framework. For example, someone who burns car tires or oily waste should be punished."
Bahrain University exhibited more than 25 innovative experiments including a solar car, a hydrogen car, an eco-friendly fertiliser and experiments using recycling paper and other waste products, al-Nasser said. He said solar energy, which provides almost six times the energy produced by wind, is the best green-friendly source for Bahrain's energy needs.
Muhsin al-Saffar, executive director of Tara Consulting, focused on ways to produce and conserve clean energy sources.
"The environmental issue is no longer a luxury but it has become an urgent issue. Lives are at stake because of extensive environmental damage caused by the industrialised world during the past 100 years," he told Al-Shorfa.
"The increase in the number of hurricanes, floods and volcano eruptions are all alarm bells telling us that the environment is in real danger due to pollution that people have been creating on a daily basis. Pollution during the 20th century alone is equivalent to how much the earth was polluted over hundreds of thousands of years, which has had a boomerang effect and is affecting us," al-Saffar said.
Al-Saffar said thermal insulation can save substantial energy in homes, buildings and other facilities. Attracting investment for thermal technology in the Gulf would generate "astronomical" savings and would meet environmental goals for any Arab Gulf country.
"Thermal insulation, when used, would save 60-70% of total energy consumption," he said. "Thermal insulation would allow for room temperatures to be preserved – whether hot or cold – without having to use electrical air-conditioning or heating devices as much. This would allow for a drop in the amounts used for freon gas, which is very harmful to the environment and is used in air conditioning."
Al-Saffar encouraged the use of more environmentally friendly materials and urged for the rationing of fuel and petrochemicals consumption in the Arab Gulf responsibly. The region ranks first worldwide in terms of fuel consumption, he said, because prices are so low.