For the Environment of Arabia

Interview with Ms Halel Engineer, MD, Environment Arabia

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Environment Arabia, the first of its kind registered in the Kingdom is an established and respected environmental and sustainability consultancy based in Bahrain with an established track record of undertaking environmental assessment projects in the Arabian Gulf and MENA region that meet the requirements of national and local government, investors and international partners. Ms. Halel Engineer was more than happy to share her experiences as the managing director of Environment Arabia.

  • What are the guidelines you follow to measure environmental sustainability? How do you attain them?

We refer to local (Bahrain), regional and international environmental laws and legislation, in addition to guidelines from the World Bank which help us determine the impacts of any proposed project or development on the environment and human health.  We sometimes use a range of standards depending on the requirement and parameters to be assessed.  International standards are referred to in the absence of local standards.  Depending on the project itself, we could look at air quality standards, water & sediment quality standards, groundwater quality standards, guidelines for noise, guidelines and standards for soil quality, etc.

  • Biggest challenge so far in introducing the measures of environmental sustainability.
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The biggest challenge for us is trying to convince the authorities and developers to develop sustainable concepts.  In Bahrain we face a situation where we are provided with a location of a project, and we have to assess the impact on that particular location.  Ideally and as best practice, we should have options to look at (in terms of location, size of project, type of project, suitability of project to a particular location, etc) to be able to advise the authorities of the best environmental option once it has been assessed.  When we are faced with a project that has been approved to go ahead, the challenge for us in this case is to try and work with the developer in minimizing or mitigating any impacts that may happen as a result.

  • How can we raise the public awareness on this?

There is a great public interest now when compared to my initial days of business.  I can see that the public interest for environmental protection has increased very much.  Awareness needs to start at home and in schools as kids are tomorrow’s generation.  Workshops and awareness campaigns for teaching the young children how to take care of the environment they live in has to be initiated by parents and schools authorities. For example, teaching children how to recycle is a simple and fun way to get them interested and it will be a part of their lives.  Taking students out on field trips and showing them real life environmental problems, and also showcasing what we still need to protect, will get them interested in the subject and increase their awareness.

Of course local educational TV programmes, posters and signs around the country that the general public will be able to see will also help in increasing awareness.

  • How much are we responsible to the environment we live in?

We are all responsible for the environment we live in.  Action starts with one person. We should all be doing our part for the environment.

  • Which all are the major projects done so far by Environment Arabia?

We are mainly involved in Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) for major projects in Bahrain and these include reclamation & dredging, industrial facilities, Sewage Treatment Plants, Waste to Energy, oil & gas (including oil and gas exploration), etc.  We also do environmental monitoring and auditing of projects during the construction and operation phases; environmental surveys (marine and terrestrial); soil & groundwater contamination investigations, artificial reefs.  We have also worked in all Gulf countries on similar projects.

  • Can we have some information on artificial reefs and its importance?

The Government of Bahrain appointed us to work on the Bahrain Artificial Reef Project for two years between September 2011 and 2013. The aim of this project is to increase the productivity of fish habitats around Bahrain.  As a result of a decline in productive marine habitats over the years, due to reclamation, dredging, overfishing, etc. and the loss of live natural coral reefs, artificial reefs provide a habitat similar to that which has been lost.  If placed correctly in the sea, in the right areas (e.g. suitable substrate) and with the right configuration, they can create a home for fish and marine life.