Wasting our natural resources
By : Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Saudi Arabia has a population of over 29 million and one-third of it comprises expatriates living and working in the Kingdom. It is very interesting to note that despite being ranked 43rd in terms of population, Saudi Arabia is the sixth largest energy consumer in the world — trailing behind United States, China, Russia, Japan and India.
It goes without saying that the population of these countries is much more than the Kingdom. This raises a legitimate question: Are we wasting and depleting our own natural resources?
Saudi Arabia is a country with harsh weather conditions. Summer months are long with the mercury soaring to as high as 50 degrees Centigrade. The Kingdom maybe rich in oil but when it comes to water resources it is a poor country. We mainly rely on huge desalination plants and this is also a gas-guzzling industrial means to produce water. In other words, we have to adapt and try to use energy very efficiently.
Gasoline in Saudi Arabia is available at cheap rates. It is so cheap that some neighboring countries pay 15 times what we pay in the Kingdom. Thus, there is a margin of price, which makes transporting fuel across the border very lucrative for illegal fuel smugglers. In addition to that there is massive power consumption due to air conditioning during the summers. We still don’t have a national plan to reduce the consumption of energy and we don’t have a national plan to use energy more efficiently. Yes, we have seen a very serious and productive campaign to ban the use or importing of any inefficient electrical equipment but energy conservation is a social responsibility.
Saudi Arabia is reaching a stage, which will require the authorities to increase the fuel prices by 10 percent and the funds thus generation can be used on infrastructure building.
This brings us to the need for speedy and efficient public transportation system. At this time many people travel and enjoy their train trips from Dammam, Abqaiq, Hofuf and Riyadh but the trip from Dammam and Riyadh takes about 5 hours and with upgrading the railroad tracks the trip could be achieved in less than three hours. This will be more appealing to travelers rather than using their own cars.
Saudi Arabia has one of the highest per capita in cars ownership in the world. Saudis spend billions of dollars annually on cars. But this trend is proving detrimental to the environment. We not only waste energy but we also waste water. We as a society don’t respect its scarcity. And what is more is that we might end up consuming more oil and gas than a country like India which has a population 60 times more than Saudi Arabia. So, yes, we are depleting our own natural resources. Future generation will be asking us many questions about the vast energy resources and assets. It is important to teach our children the value of our wealth, which is mainly coming from natural resources.