DOHA: An air quality monitoring station at Qatar University shows a high presence of fine particles in the air (air pollutants) around — a phenomenon that is attributed to the vast expanse of desert and insufficient rainfall.
The level of fine particles has been found to be almost six times the permissible limit, figures released by the air quality monitoring station at the university show.
However, the presence of pollutants like silver oxide, ground-level ozone, carbon dioxide and nitrogen in the air were found to be much lower than the permissible levels — as measured by three air quality monitoring stations, including the ones at Aspire Zone and West Bay.
Data show that the presence of fine particles in the air, which are a concern for people’s health, as measured by the Qatar University air quality monitoring station was 296 micrograms (one-millionth of a gram) per cubic meters.
The level that is permitted is 50 micrograms per cubic meters, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported yesterday, citing official figures. The wire agency added that this was due to the vast deserts and insufficient rainfall.
This is the first time that such environment-related indicators have been released in the country.
The presence of silver oxide in the air was 34.7 micrograms (annual average) for each cubic meter as measured by the Aspire Zone monitoring station. It was 8.9 micrograms as indicated by the Qatar University station, and 10.6 micrograms in the West Bay. The permissible level of silver oxide in the air is 80 micrograms per cubic meters.
The annual average of ground-level ozone was 47.5 micrograms per cubic meters while the permissible level is 100 micrograms.
Nitrogen levels present in the air were also much below the permissible levels—70.4 micrograms per cubic meters in the West Bay (near Movenpick) and 39.1 micrograms as measured by the Qatar University station. The permissible level is 100 micrograms per cubic meters.
A major challenge Qatar faces is the rising use of desalinated water due to a severe lack of natural groundwater. The country received between six and 62 millimeters of rainfall over the past three years.
Some 81 cubic metres of rainwater seeped underground — a level that is considered to be quite low from the viewpoint of groundwater levels, and that explains Qatar’s increasing dependence on desalinated water, which has an adverse impact on environment.
Also, the use of energy to produce desalinated water is immense and has an adverse effect on the environment, too.
In barely six years, from 2005 to 2011, the production of desalinated water has increased an incredible 54 times, from 157,000 cubic metres to 8.5 million metres.
Per capita domestic, construction and industrial waste is also quite high — 1.4 kilogram per person daily, the QNA report said.
In 2010, for instance, 12 million tonnes of garbage was collected and 47 percent of it comprised waste from the construction industry.
According to the QNA report, total reserve areas in the country were 30 percent of its land, while wildlife reserves accounted for 24 percent, and natural reserves were 10 in number. Two of these reserves were mixed — inland and sea.
Meanwhile, Qatar has improved its position several notches in an Environment Performance Index (EPI) of the Yale Centre for Environmental Law, Yale University, and the Centre for International Earth Science Information Network, Columbia University (both in the US).
Qatar was ranked 122nd in the EPI in 2010 with a score of 48.9, one notch above India and right below China.
However, in last year’s EPI, the country’s ranking improved to 100th with a higher score.
An idea of what score those countries that top the list have can be had from the fact that Iceland had a score of 93.5 and ranked first in 2010, while Mauritania, Central African Republic and Sierra Leone were at the bottom of the list with scores of 33.7, 33.3 and 32.1, respectively.
In the 2012 EPI, Qatar ranked 100th, while India slipped to 125th position and China improved its standing to 116th. Qatar’s GCC neighbors, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, ranked 77th and 82nd, respectively, whereas Oman and Kuwait were at the 110th and 126th positions, respectively.
Qatar’s National Development Strategy (2011-16) talks at length of environmental challenges and acknowledges that declining air quality results from chronically high levels of dust mixing with chemical pollutants.
An NDS document confesses that air pollution contributes to high rates of asthma and respiratory illnesses in the country.
The NDS for the first time explicitly aligns the growth of national prosperity to the realities of environmental constraints. The NDS also incorporates the spirit of Qatar National Vision 2030 which warns that overly aggressive economic development could result in many negative risks, including harm to the environment.