Saudi Arabia - Hyun Do Im
Essay of Saudi Arabia - Three Environmental Issues and IT Technology


Saudi Arabia is the country that produces the largest amount of crude oil in the world. It has strong leadership in OPEC, and cities that are placed in the seaside are highly developed. Saudi Arabia has strong economy based on their sale of oil, which make Saudi Arabia to be capable of importing large amount of goods. On the other hand, most part of Saudi Arabia¡¯s territory is composed by desert, over 98%. Because of large desert, Saudi Arabia cannot produce enough amounts of foods and industrial goods for itself. Also, because Saudi Arabia is producing the largest amount of crude oil, air pollution resulted from oil production is serious (UNDP). In addition, to fight back desertification and droughts, Saudi Arabia produces its own water from desalinating sea water. However, after the process of desalination, desalination plants throw polluted water away to sea, which causes water pollution around Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Arabian Sea.

Three Issues

Desertification, Water Pollution, and Air pollution are the most hazardous environmental issues in Saudi Arabia (PDKK). Especially, desertification is the most serious environmental issue. However, the other two issues are serious as well, and they are getting worse by time. First, air pollution in Saudi Arabia is originally come crude oil. While they are refining crude oil, it creates different kinds of greenhouse gases that create air pollution (United States Energy Information Administration). These gases also cause increment of temperature of Saudi Arabia as well. As a result, air pollution in Saudi Arabia also affects desertification because of increasing temperature (Freudenrich). Also, greenhouse from urban cities is causing air pollution as well. Second, desertification is serious problem in Saudi Arabia. According to UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification), approximately more than 98% of land mass of Saudi Arabia is desert. It is not only the problem of Saudi Arabia, but also every country in Arabian region is suffering the problem of desertification. Approximately 2,331,000 km2 of Arabian region is desert, and desert of whole Asian region increased 1,671.8 hectare in 2011. Desertification decreases food production in large scale, especially production of crops. In Saudi Arabia, because of large scale of desert, only 1.6% of land is available for agriculture. Therefore, Saudi Arabia is highly depending on import for their food and industrial goods, which is over 70% (UNCCD). In addition, desertification eliminates water table underground, which result oasis to be gone (Safrey). Therefore, this hazardous cycle goes on and on. In order to resolve this problem, government of Saudi Arabia builds desalination plants to create pure water from sea water (UNCCD). However, this solution creates another environmental problem, water pollution. During the process of desalination of sea water, machines heat sea water and gather the water vapor, which is gathered to be pure water for agricultural and industrial use. However, after the process of desalination, sea water becomes polluted with high concentration of salt. Aftermath of desalination, this water does not only contain high salt concentration, but it also contains high concentration of metal (Sabine Lattemann). This water cannot be used in agriculture and city, so mostly they throw it away to the sea. As a result, it damages ecology of the sea. Polluted water extinct hundreds of sea creatures; it damages biodiversity of Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Arabian Sea (PDKK). Water pollution, desertification, and air pollution are three important environmental issues that are discussed in Saudi Arabia, and government is seeking several solutions to resolve these problems.

Eco City

One of the solutions for environmental problems of Saudi Arabia is creating Eco-city. It is long-term project that reducing greenhouse gas and reducing pollutants that influence our environment. There are several Eco cities that are in progress. German, France, USA, and Korea already made positive results out of it. By using ubiquitous IT technologies, the computer automatically makes process of smart sewage system, smart highway, and so on. Not only in Eastern Asia and Europe, there are several countries in Arabian region that is planning to build these smart cities. Because Arabian region has high level of sunlight during the day, they are expecting high efficiency of solar power for urban use. Scientists expect that by using solar power, whole city can reduce emission of greenhouse gas in large scale. In urban use, solar energy may replace oil to produce electricity for air conditioner, lights, cars (hybrid), etc (Tigitcanlar). This would benefit Saudi Arabia¡¯s economy as well, because they will use solar energy as the source of electricity, instead of using oil to produce electricity. Therefore, they would save more oil to export. In addition, using solar power will reduce the rate of air pollution.

Eco city¡¯s function will not only resolve the problem of air pollution, but it will also resolve the problem of water pollution caused by desalination plant. By using smart sewage and water recycling system, people in Eco city can recycle water, so they can reduce the use of water from desalination plants (Tigitcanlar). Therefore, they do not have to use large amount of heat and electricity to boil sea water. As a result, Saudi Arabia does not have to dump polluted water to their sea. Smart water-recycling system will benefit Saudi Arabia¡¯s economy by reducing the size of desalination plant. Saudi Arabia is spending about 2/3 of benefit from exporting oil to build more desalination plants and secure water out of different water-producing systems (Sabine Lattemann). So, using smart water-recycling systems will benefit not only environment, but also the economy of Saudi Arabia. Then, reducing the size and use of desalination plant will reduce the rate of water pollution in large scale as well.

Eco city can influence water pollution and air pollution. However, we cannot expect whether it will reduce the speed of desertification. There is no clue that Eco city can reduce degradation of land, because there is no example. Eco city is originally designed for the city where is surrounded by environment which is relatively better than Arabian region. Therefore, we cannot ensure that Eco city project can help Saudi Arabians with desertification. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is having progress with Eco city. It is building Eco City that will function with solar and wind power. Scientists expect that this Eco city will not only reduce water pollution and air pollution, but it may also reduce desertification (Alternative Energy).


Eco city is hard project to proceed. It is very expensive, time consuming, and unpredictable. However, preceding examples from other countries encourage that it does have powerful and positive impact afterward. Thus, it can be concluded that creating Eco city would benefit Saudi Arabia not only reducing water pollution and air pollution, but it can also benefit Saudi Arabia¡¯s economy.

UNDP,, 2009
Erika Lee, Harvard-desalination plants in Saudi Arabia,, December 23, 2010
PDKK, Saudi Arabia Environment-current issues,, 21 April 2009
United States Energy Information Administration, Saudi Arabia-Environmental Issues,, August 28, 2000
Saleh A. Safrey, Groundwater Rise Problem and Risk Evaluation in Major Cities of Arid Lands ? Jedddah Case in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,, February 2006
Ammar Amin, The Extent of Desertification on Saudi Arabia,, July 2007
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification,, 2012
USGS,, October 29, 1997
Craig Freudenrich, Oil Refinement,, 2012
Sabine Lattemann, Potential Impacts of Seawater Desalination, 2005
PDKK, Environmental Issues in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with Special Focus on Water Pollution, May 16, 2009
Tan Tigitcanlar, Managing Ubiquitous Eco Cities,, August 2009
Alternative Energy, Abu Dhabi To Build First Full Eco-City,, April 7, 2010
Student ID: 49011605