Three questions for Salman Zafar, Ecomena founder. We thank him for this interview and for the ongoing online work on environmental sustainability in the MENA region, a focal point for all those interested in high quality-information on environment, energy, water, and others in the region.
EcoMENA's mission is "to create mass awareness on renewable energy, sustainability, waste management, environment protection and resource conservation"
Can you tell us something more about how this initiative was born and which are the motivations that led you to start it?
Salman Zafar: EcoMENA came into existence in early 2012 with the primary aim to raise environmental awareness and provide a one-stop destination for high-quality free information on environment, energy, waste, water, sustainability etc in the Middle East. I have been supported by my colleague and Co-Founder of EcoMENA, Mohammad Abdulaziz Khalil, in this voluntary initiative to foster sustainable development of the MENA region.
While doing some research on environmental scenario in Middle East around three years ago I noticed lack of easily-accessible information in English as well as Arabic for public consumption. EcoMENA was launched to empower masses with updated information on Middle East environmental sector and latest developments taking place in the region as well as worldwide. Apart from being an information portal, EcoMENA also provide expert guidance and mentorship to entrepreneurs, researchers, small businesses and general public.
EcoMENA has made swift progress within a short period of time and has huge knowledge base catering to all aspects of sustainability sector in the MENA region, including renewable energy, resource conservation, water management, environment protection and waste management.
EcoMENA is now counted among the best and most popular sustainability initiatives with wide following across the Middle East. We have a strong pool of expert writers from different parts of the world, and remarkably supported by a handful of student volunteers from across the MENA region.
EcoMENA has two main features: its contents are freely accessible and it has a collaborative nature. In your opinion, which is the importance of open access in the online debate on science? And which is the importance of networking in relation to the thematic issues addressed?
Salman Zafar: One of the objectives of EcoMENA is to provide a platform for Middle East youngsters to showcase their talents. We are mentoring young students and providing them opportunities to display their innovativeness, creativity and dedication towards environment protection.
Providing free access to quality information and knowledge-based resources motivates youngsters in a big way. The young generation is spearheading the fight against climate change worldwide and the Middle East should not be an exception. EcoMENA provides encouragement to people in tackling major environmental challenges by empowering them with knowledge and by providing them a solid platform to share their views with the outside world. With soaring popularity of social media, networking plays a vital role in assimilation of ideas, knowledge-sharing, scientific thinking and creativeness.
In your opinion, which are the necessary steps to produce a real change towards a green MENA?
Salman Zafar: A green MENA requires proactive approach from governments as well as from general public. The MENA region is facing multiple threats in the form of water scarcity, food shortage, environmental degradation, desertification, industrial pollution and unsustainable living methods. Strong environmental laws, promotion of clean energy and eco-friendly projects, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, institutional support and funding, implementing resource conservation, raising environmental awareness and fostering entrepreneurial initiatives are some of the measures that may herald a ‘green revolution’ in the region. Things are slowly, but steadily, changing in most of the MENA countries and a more concerted and organized effort is required to bring about a real change in the prevalent environmental scenario.