SDG14: LIFE BELOW WATER
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, "Life Below Water," emphasizes the critical importance of conserving and sustainably using marine resources for the well-being of present and future generations. In Kuwait, a nation with a rich coastal heritage and an intricate marine ecosystem, and at GUST Gulf University, there are concerted efforts to address the challenges facing the marine environment and promote its preservation.
Marine Conservation in Kuwait:
Kuwait has undertaken several initiatives to protect its marine environment:
1. Marine Reserves: Kuwait has established marine protected areas to safeguard critical marine habitats, promote biodiversity, and conserve threatened species.
2. Sustainable Fishing Practices: The government regulates fishing activities to ensure sustainability, enforce size limits, and protect breeding grounds.
3. Pollution Control: Kuwait implements measures to control marine pollution, including oil spill response plans and regulations on waste disposal.
4. Scientific Research: Kuwait conducts marine research to better understand the state of its marine ecosystems and inform conservation efforts.
GUST Gulf University's Contribution:
GUST Gulf University actively engages in efforts to protect marine life and promote sustainable practices:
1. Marine Research: GUST conducts research on marine ecosystems, biodiversity, and conservation. Faculty and students engage in projects that assess the health of coastal waters and promote sustainable management.
2. Public Awareness: The university organizes educational programs, seminars, and awareness campaigns to inform the community about the importance of marine conservation and sustainable coastal living.
3. Collaboration: GUST collaborates with governmental bodies and environmental organizations to support marine conservation efforts, including participating in beach cleanup activities and research initiatives.
4. Curriculum Integration: GUST integrates marine conservation and sustainability principles into its curriculum, educating students on the importance of preserving life below water.
Kuwait's commitment to SDG 14 is evident in its efforts to protect marine life and ecosystems. GUST Gulf University plays a vital role in complementing these efforts through research, education, public awareness campaigns, and collaborative initiatives. Together, Kuwait and institutions like GUST work towards a more sustainable and resilient marine environment, aligning with the principles of SDG 14 and ensuring the health and vitality of life below water for generations to come.
GUST OSL organizes Environment Week with K’s PATH
The GUST Office of Student Life organized Environment Week in partnership with the Kuwait Society for the Protection of Animals and their Habitat (K’S PATH), that included the setup of a mock beach at the center of campus with a photo-exhibit of different marine species that have been spotted at local beaches to attract students to sign up for the Sulaibikhat Mangrove Beach Cleanup, which was a grand success.
Mrs. Angelique Bhattacharjie, Director of Programs at K'S PATH hosted a seminar entitled “Saving Kuwait’s Sea Life,” an audio- visual interactive presentation on the impact of waste marine wildlife in Kuwait.
The Office of Student Life successfully organized part three of their Environment Day activities with a beach clean-up at Sulaibikhat Mangrove beach, where they also spotted some flamingos. A group of GUST students and staff gathered to clean this fragile habitat and were able to clear over 1150kgs of terrestrial marine waste, mostly plastic, metal and carpet from the flamingo habitation. The students teamed up in groups of six for an eco-guardian competition. After two hours of beach cleaning, Team 6 won a 20KD cash prize for each member to encourage student’s effort and hard work. Team 5 included: Sarah Sallam, Sulaiman Abouabdah, Reem Al Nasrallah, Abdulrahman Al Hadaaq and Barak Abu Qurais.
GUST celebrates Earth Day
GUST as a part of their community outreach initiatives, celebrated International Earth Day, which was first initiated on April 22nd, 1970 in the U.S., and today unites 1 billion people from 192 countries,to broaden, diversify, mobilize and raise awareness about the global environmental movement – called “Mobilize the Earth” Campaign – which aims to convey the message that our Earth won’t wait and calls for people to unite, speak and act.
The event welcomed different stations by the Kuwait Environment Protection Society, Down to Earth, Environment Preservation Industrial Co. (EPIC), the Institute for Green Business Certification ME, Al-Dhow for Environmental Projects and Green Technology Group. Each with a different aspect of the environmental issues, but all with the same goal: to educate and raise awareness of people within our community.
Eng. Khalaf Alenezi, Head Organizer of the event, welcomed Dr. Sabah Al-Quaddoomi, VP for Academic Services, Dr. Lee Caldwell, Dean of the College of Business Administration, Dr. Mesfer Mesfer from the Office of Student Life, Ibrahim Emran, Assistant Vice President for Administrative and Financial Affairs, Dr. Osama Al-Hares, Director of Alumni and Career Services and Dr. Masoud Asad, Director of Public Affairs.
Eng. Alenezi took all the guests around the different booths set up by the different companies and societies, introducing them to the intricate ways the environment works and how we can help protect it by implementing a few simple strategies, including: smart shopping, buying energy-efficient products, considering transportation alternatives, improving our food choices, developing washing and drying methods as well as heating and cooling, planting more trees, implementing bathroom basics, cleaning more consciously and never discarding items on the streets and recycling what we can.
Following the tour of the booths, there was a small Kung-Fu presentation by two young Kuwaitis, which was enjoyed by all. Followed by an enlightening presentation by Dr. Bader Alenezi, KU Professor and Essa Ramadan, from Kuwait Weather Forecast, talking to students and staff alike on the consequences and effects the things we do every day have on the environment; things that we normally won’t pay attention to at all on a daily basis.
GUST Hosts ‘Climate Talks’ Conference
GUST and the Embassy of France in Kuwait held today, a local conference entitled “Climate Talks,” in support of the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), at the GUST conference center in Mishref. This event is the first of its kind in the country, supporting a global cause that will help mobilize the Kuwaiti society towards reducing its carbon footprint.
During the opening ceremony, Dr. Salah Al-Sharhan, GUST Vice President of Academic Affairs welcomed the audience and said, “GUST is very proud to be working with the Embassy of France in Kuwait, the Kuwait Environmental Public Authority (K-EPA), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), along with the globally conscious citizens of Kuwait to support such a noble and important cause. We have always strived to be a leader in responding to global challenges by acting locally to catalyze a positive change in our students and our community. We believe that true sustainable development starts from behind classroom desks.”
The opening ceremony also included remarks by H.E. Christian Nakhlé, French Ambassador to Kuwait, Dr. Khaled Al-Enzi, Head of Public Relations at the Kuwait Environment Public Authority (K-EPA), and Ms. Dima Al-Khatib, Deputy Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
H.E. Christian Nakhlé, French Ambassador to Kuwait, said, “In preparation for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), also known as “Paris Climate 2015,” the Embassy of France in Kuwait has organized many events, conferences and activities. The event today, “Climate Talks,” organized in collaboration with GUST is an example of the different successful events organized in Kuwait. COP21 will be held in Paris from 30th November to 11th December, under the umbrella of the General Secretary of the United Nations and the Presidency of France. This yearly conference is a crucial international meeting and a top priority on France’s diplomatic agenda. The aim is to reach a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change and preservation of the planet. We thank all our Kuwaiti partners, and especially GUST, for hosting this event to raise awareness on the climate change issue.”
The conference brought in renowned, specialized speakers from local and international institutions to raise awareness on climate change and shed light on the topics and debates of COP21, taking place in France later this year. GUST’s Assistant Professor of Environmental Science, Dr. Mohamad Yassine, spoke about climate change and its implications on food, water and energy nexus; Dr. Taoufik Souami, from the Urban Planning School of Paris, discussed the best ways to change human behavior to save environmental resources. While Dr. Eric Verdeil, from Paris East University, talked about the emerging policies for sustainable transition in Mediterranean countries.
Ms. Dima Al-Khatib, Deputy Resident Representative at the UNDP, said, “In December 2015, the international community will convene in Paris to agree on a new global climate change deal, aiming to accelerate opportunities for climate change action in all countries as an important pillar in the post-2015 era of sustainable development. The Paris Agreement has the potential to galvanize countries and communities to act, simultaneously working to reduce carbon emissions, while adapting to the long-term impacts of climate change. UNDP is extremely pleased to join efforts with GUST and the Embassy of France in Kuwait as well as other national groups to raise awareness around this important global undertaking.”
After a networking break, Ms. Jenan Behzad, from the Kuwait Environment Protection Society (KEPS), shed light on the story of climate change in Kuwait’s green schools; Eng. Salem Al-Ajmi, from the Kuwait Society of Engineers, talked about the new E-Waste Plant in Kuwait and its benefits for the country and its environment; and finally, Sheikha Fatima Mubarak Jaber Al-Sabah, Vice Chairperson and Executive Director of K’S PATH, answered the question why do we clean beaches, and what are we protecting, showcasing the importance of even the most minimal actions to help the environment.
Dr. Khaled Al-Enzi, Head of Public Relations at K-EPA, said, “The EPA has adopted an approach in consolidating environmental approaches to conform with its perspective in making Kuwait among the best countries in the region, in terms of environmental protection. In addition to increasing courses in government schools and civil society institutions, the EPA strives to enhance the environmental thought and culture, and seeks to achieve sustainable development. Undoubtedly, law number 42/2014 is unique in the history of environmental action. The EPA is also carrying out a campaign in four languages to promote environmental awareness, targeting both local citizens and expatriates.”
A "Kuwait Climate Action" competition was also announced during the event, where teams must submit projects that detail actions to help reduce the impact of climate change in Kuwait. The winning team will be awarded a trip to Paris to present their project at COP21 on behalf of the Kuwait community.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), is a yearly conference that aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change, preservation of the planet, and to reduce the greenhouse effect. Due to the alarmingly increased rate of greenhouse emissions worldwide today, France is targeting an ambitious goal of reducing it by 40% by 2030, 60% by 2040 and finally 80-95% by 2050 (compared to 1990); to encourage a safer future for generations to come.
As part of its responsibility to the community, GUST endeavors in becoming more involved in causes that effect the environment, and stand to create more conscientious global citizens of its students. GUST prides itself in actively engaging in projects alongside its staff, faculty and students, which help the community and raise awareness on local and global issues.
Kuwait’s blue planet: The professor embracing marine protection
A university professor and avid diver, Dari Alhuwail is hardly your ordinary volunteer. He truly sees himself as a “guardian of the sea.” Writes Jethu Abraham.
Dr Dari Alhuwail is a modern-day hero in every sense of the word. When he is not working as an assistant professor at Kuwait University’s Department of Information Science, he is with the Kuwait Dive Team, plunging deep into the blue waters to protect the country’s marine environment.
“I am saying this in all honesty and without the tiniest bit of cheesiness or corniness: we are ‘Team Mission Impossible,’” he states with the unmistakable pride of someone who has been associated with the volunteer diving team for close to thirteen years now.
The Kuwait Dive Team is a dedicated group of diving professionals committed to protecting the marine ecosystem through salvage operations.
Officially, Alhuwail handles international relations, communicating with associations such as Project AWARE and Ocean Conservancy, but he also takes regular trips to monitor the corals and clear sea debris.
Alhuwail’s relationship with the team goes back to his high school days, when he would see press releases of the Dive Team’s initiatives for picking up marine debris, sunken boats and beach trash. “For me, their efforts symbolised something greater,” he explains.
“All of the work that we undertake essentially involves protecting Kuwait’s coral reefs because the reefs are one of the most important elements in the marine world,” Alhuwail explains. “For example, on a regular day, we lift sunken boats and vessels, move debris and ghost nets from the waters, as well as moor buoys to safeguard the reefs so that the boats don’t anchor there.”
In 2010, Kuwait experienced its worst coral bleaching season, with almost 80% of its reefs affected. Alhuwail says they are now recovering, but more efforts need to be expended to reclaim what is lost. “We have a coral transplantation project in place where we try and build new homes for the reefs, and we have artificial reef installations around Kuwait.”
Alhuwail cites amateur diving and spearfishing around the reefs as some of the human activities that can be avoided to protect these areas. “Amateur divers have lesser control over their buoyancy, and sometimes, when you swim too close, your fin breaks off a coral—it might have taken 10 or 20 years for that bit to grow.”
“No, we are not your regular 911,” says Alhuwail when trying to explain the range of work he undertakes as part of the Dive Team. However, the members respond to some calls, for example, about sunken boats, which may pose a threat to any passing vessel. Even then, many factors need to be considered before the team takes a trip.
“The sea has certain rules that need to be observed— high tide, low tide, wind speed and direction, wave height, and add to that the things we need to do our homework on— location of the operation, threat to life, additional resources requirement and so on.”
The Kuwait Dive Team’s social media pages contain a wealth of short video clips documenting its underwater projects. Most of them involve dragging tonnes of rubbish from the water and cutting through abandoned fishing nets. “It’s one thing for people to see videos online, but if you have to realise how bad it is, you have to actually swim in rubbish,” explains Alhuwail.
“Another important project that we consistently do is raising awareness about the issues we face at sea. We do regular beach clean-ups, organise talks, share our brochures and materials, and document all of our work at sea so that people get to know the importance of the actions they do. For us, it is our civic duty to intervene because this is our home, our country and our planet.”
Alhuwail strongly feels this as his clarion call for undertaking every single project or trip to the sea. “We operate in a grey zone— when it’s not clear who has to do the job, we go in.”