We chat to the Environment Friends Society about their work
Time Out Bahrain staff
Soda cans bobbing in the water at Al Jazayer Beach. Plastic bags rustling in the wind at the Tree of Life. Somebody in the car ahead of you throwing trash out of the window as you’re snaking through traffic… unfortunately pollution and other environmental problems are common in Bahrain. But the times, they are a-changing, and more and more people are joining the struggle to conserve the environment, gathering an increasing number of successes and milestones in the process.
One such party is the Environment Friends Society (EFS), an organisation established in 2001 to raise public awareness regarding environmental issues and important natural sites in Bahrain. ‘The group holds weekly lectures and seminars for adults, and also runs a children’s environmental group called REEM (the name of an endangered desert species),’ says Khawla Al Muhannadi, both a volunteer and the EFS president since it was founded, having been re-elected three times.
Al Muhannadi began working with children in 2000. ‘I thought if the EFS is here to stay then we should start preparing the leaders who will hold the flag after us,’ she says. ‘I started with a few children, whom I trained to speak with other children at environmental awareness events about destructive behaviour such as overuse of water and electricity, plastic bags and throwing trash onto the streets.’
The EFS also cooperates with schools to bring pupils lectures, workshops, exhibitions and other programmes about environmental protection, and last month, four members of REEM joined Al Muhannadi on a sea inspection trip to the Hidd area, which looked at industrial pollution. The fact that the children joined members of parliament and the Municipal Council, as well as other government and media representatives, is testament to how important Al Muhannadi and the EFS view the involvement of future generations.
Another important area that the EFS is involved in is raising awareness and changing environmental legislation and policy in the kingdom. There are three conservation areas in Bahrain today – Tubli Bay, Al Areen and Hawar – and the EFS has been involved with all three of them in one way or another. ‘We campaigned for more protection for Tubli Bay and have taken many students to see it since 2000,’ says Al Muhannadi. ‘We also expressed concern and demanded more protection for Al Areen after it had been surrounded by construction. I did my master’s degree research on the Hawar Islands, and we campaigned to protect Hawar from more development projects.’
Bahrain’s environmental challenges are manifold, so the EFS has its hands full. ‘The marine environment has been suffering a great deal from continuous dredging and reclamation in addition to pollution coming from industries, oil spills and other sources,’ says Al Muhannadi. ‘Air pollution is a great concern, with more cars and more industries, and less trees as the green belt is lost to increasing human development.’
So what can we do to help? ‘Just make it a habit to adopt certain green principles,’ says Al Muhannadi. ‘Refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, recycle, in that order, whenever it is possible. This goes for water, electricity, paper (remember that it has two sides to write on, not just one) and plastic bags (refuse whenever you can).’
More active support is also always welcome and encouraged. ‘Get involved in environmental campaigns, join us at the EFS and give some of your time, skills, capabilities and knowledge to contribute to saving our environment,’ says Al Muhannadi. ‘EFS members represent the diversity in Bahrain; we are of different genders, ethnicities, education, professions and beliefs. Join us, enrich our diversity, and make our environmental work more efficient.’
In the future, Al Muhannadi would like to see greater protection to already protected areas, especially marine ones. ‘A comprehensive environmental impact analysis to study the consequences of marine degradation in the Arabian Gulf is needed,’ she says. ‘We need to establish what we can do to reduce the damage and stop the degradation. Stronger environmental legislation and clear mechanisms to enforce the law are also required.’
There is much that has been achieved by the EFS so far, but much more that still needs to be done. Every resident of Bahrain can do his or her part to make the island greener and cleaner. Environmental Friends Society (39 433 228); www.eef.org.bh.