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February 23, 2024
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Gulf experts recommend increasing sustainable afforestation in cities – Arab News

RIYADH: The second day of the International Exhibition and Forum on Afforestation Technologies, held in Riyadh, witnessed numerous sessions and agreements signed as experts called for increased vegetation in urban areas.
The forum began in Riyadh on Sunday under the patronage of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It was organized by the National Center for Vegetation Development and Combating Desertification and held at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center in coordination with the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.
Dr. Amal Al-Daej, international relations and strategic partnership adviser of the NCVC, called for an increase in green areas across highly populated communities, which she said should be through “sustainable environmental practices.”
Al-Daej said the 2020 statistical report by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification showed that 70 percent of the world population will live in cities by 2050, resulting in an increase in air pollution from transportation and factories.
The Saudi Green Initiative, she explained, aims to reduce carbon emissions and sandstorms, combat desertification and lower the temperature by planting 10 billion trees across the Kingdom and restoring 40 million hectares of degraded lands. 
It also aims to plant trees within cities on highways, railways, houses, schools and mosques through initiatives like the King Salman Park, Sports Boulevard Project, Riyadh Green Initiative, and Let’s Make it Green campaign, which focuses on planting native tree species that require limited irrigation. 
“There is a need to maintain a healthy air quality through increasing green spaces and promoting sustainable environmental practices,” she noted.
“There are different types of green spaces, including forests surrounding towns and cities, district parks equipped with facilities, private gardens, trees on streets and public spaces, and other green spaces like sports grounds and botanical gardens. NCVC is working on developing sustainable management plans for national parks, forests, rangelands and desertification, and conserving resources and natural ecosystems, through partnerships, community engagement and capacity building,” she added.
Al-Daej said green spaces have sociocultural, psychological and economic benefits. They can attract social activities and outdoor events and promote a sense of belonging by involving the community in showcasing their local talents and encouraging them to have a common understanding of the value of green space.
Access to green spaces, she continued, can promote physical and mental health by reducing stress and increasing happiness. They can also attract tourism, urban development and business opportunities, which positively impact the economy.
She cautioned, however, that, “these goals can only be achieved through partnerships and joint efforts by engaging all the relevant stakeholders along with the communities.”
Dr. Saif Al-Ghais, director-general of the Environment Protection and Development Authority in Ras Al-Khaimah, UAE, emphasized that afforestation plays a key role in absorbing air pollutants, particularly those emitted by the combustion of fossil fuels in vehicles. It also helps lower noise levels, which may be one of the causes of high blood pressure, heart attacks and insomnia.
Trees in urban spaces attract wildlife species that help balance the ecosystem, such as insects and birds, and the World Health Organization recommends that each person living in a city have one square meter of unpaved area. Each community member is also expected to be able to reach green areas within 15 minutes on foot.
Al-Ghais recommended that cities, in their designs, consider sustainability, specifically in reducing the occurrence of so-called thermal islands (urban heat islands), a reference to rising temperatures in the city compared to the surrounding areas due to human activities.
He advised focusing on trees that have a low emission rate of volatile organic compounds to “reduce ozone and carbon dioxide formation” on the one hand and perennial trees to reduce long-term emissions on the other.
Last year, the crown prince announced the Saudi Green and Middle East green initiatives, worth SR39 billion ($10.39 billion), to combat climate change, to which Saudi Arabia will contribute about 15 percent of the entire cost.
Nearly 150 different entities participated in the International Exhibition and Forum on Afforestation Technologies, with participation from international and local agencies, the government, the commercial sector and environmental nonprofit groups.
Around 90 experts on environmental and climate science, sustainability and investment from around 20 countries and global organizations attended.
The dialogue sessions, workshops and research papers presented at the forum highlight the most recent advances in combating desertification and developing and protecting vegetation cover.
The exhibition covers such topics as plant nurseries, seeds, afforestation, land rehabilitation and desertification, irrigation technologies, forest management and development, water sources and technologies, and environmental solutions in plant carbon storage, pest control and agricultural waste management.
The NCVC works to protect and control vegetation cover sites throughout the Kingdom, rehabilitate degraded ones, detect encroachment, combat deforestation and supervise the management and investment of pasture lands, forests and national parks.
JEDDAH: Mitsuhiro Arita, the acclaimed Japanese illustrator of the Pokemon Trading Card Game TCG, met with his Saudi fans for the first time in Jeddah at Anime Village in City Walk, one of nine zones of Jeddah Season 2022.
The full-house meet-and-greet sessions on May 27-28 allowed Arita fans to listen to and talk with the artist behind their favorite childhood cartoon and card games.
Arita has illustrated hundreds of Pokemon cards during a 26-year artistic career sthat has also produced “Final Fantasy Games,” “Berserk: The Golden Ages” movies trilogy — a worldwide favorite of anime and Nintendo fans — and “Culdcept.”
“I supervised these three works, but all I cared about at the time was to get an excellent result in all three works, which I love equally. But my admiration goes to ‘Culdcept.’ For me it is art, and I feel proud that it is among my works,” he told Arab News in an exclusive interview while signing cards and autographs for his fans.
“Culdcept” is a series of turn-based strategy video games developed by OmiyaSoft in which the player traverses a map and uses magical, tablet-like “cards” to defeat their opponents by forcing them to land on specific spaces and pay a toll — similar to Monopoly.
Arita was born in 1971 in Fukuoka, Japan, and now lives in Tokyo, where he began his career as a professional illustrator in 1996, with Pokemon TCG as his first project.
• The full-house meet-and-greet sessions on May 27-28 allowed Arita fans to listen to and talk with the artist behind their favorite childhood cartoon and card games.
• Arita has illustrated hundreds of Pokemon cards during a 26-year artistic career sthat has also produced ‘Final Fantasy Games,’ ‘Berserk: The Golden Ages’ movies trilogy — a worldwide favorite of anime and Nintendo fans — and ‘Culdcept.’
• He has designed and illustrated over 660 Pokemon cards and has also worked on the design of ‘Final Fantasy XI’ for 11 years, as well as designing magazines and movie books.
He has designed and illustrated over 660 Pokemon cards and has also worked on the design of “Final Fantasy XI” for 11 years, as well as designing magazines and movie books.
A self-taught illustrator, Arita said that his inspiration is Katsushika Hokusai, known simply as Hokusai, and famous for the woodblock print series “Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji” and the iconic “The Great Wave off Kanagawa.”
“When I was in high school, back in 1998, one of my friends introduced me to ‘Final Fantasy’ by Yoshitaka Amano. I used to draw from time to time, and ‘Final Fantasy’ was an inspiration, and my favorite artist and role model was Katsushika Hokusai,” he said.
The talented and ambitious Arita had the chance to impress the creators of “Final Fantasy XI” when they saw his drawings in the book “Arms and Armor,” which was published in 2004. He then spent more than 11 years working on “Final Fantasy XI.”
Arita said: “I enjoyed working with the team that built the ‘Final Fantasy’ world; we used to enjoy working together.”
Saudis have long been fans of Japanese culture, anime productions and illustrations, with the first Saudi-Japanese anime film “The Journey” premiering worldwide in 2021.
Arita advised young Saudis who want to be illustration artists for anime, manga or video games to “watch different illustration works more than once so that the ideas become clear to you, and make sure to present anime works that represent your Saudi culture.”
In the past five years, Arita has traveled the world, appearing at public events in Japan, the US, China, Italy and now Saudi Arabia.
Arita said that his views about the Kingdom changed on his first visit after meeting with his enthusiastic fans, who held stickers, posters and cards for him to sign.
As a gesture of gratitude, Arita drew an illustration for the City Walk in a livestream before heading to the Anime Village from his hotel. The illustration is available for sale on his website https://linktr.ee/mitsuhiroArita
Among the fans was 35-year-old Saudi entrepreneur Mohammed Fakhry, who was carrying an album folder holding more than 200 Pokemon TCG, harking back to the ‘90s when children would take their collectible Pokemon cards to show friends at school.
“When I heard that the designer of the original card game was coming, I wanted to show him my appreciation and what I still have — it still lives on. It’s not just a trend. It’s stayed with us, it’s part of us,” Fakhry told Arab News.
“Pokemon was the first card game that I was ever exposed to. We collected, we bought, we traded cards and we had battles. I’m holding the trading card collection — it matters a lot to collectors.”
Fakhry said that he and his friends view the cards as an art form.
The long-time fan asked Arita for a unique signature, saying that it was an “unforgettable moment” for him.
RIYADH: Hanan Al-Ahmadi, the assistant speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council, welcomed to the council’s headquarters in Riyadh on Tuesday a delegation from the Italian parliament led by MP Elena Morelli, chairperson of the Italian-Saudi Parliamentary Friendship Committee, and Senator Marco Pellegrini.
Al-Ahmadi emphasized the depth of bilateral relations between the countries and stressed the importance of working to enhance the relationship between the Shoura Council and the Italian parliament in a way that will strengthen ties in the fields of politics, economics, commerce, culture and tourism, among others.
She also highlighted the recent cultural and social changes in the Kingdom resulting from the country’s Vision 2030 development and diversification program, along with Saudi initiatives to promote tolerance, moderation and dialogue, and support international efforts to promote peace and stability and combat terrorism.
Morelli congratulated Saudi Arabia on the country’s remarkable success during its presidency of the G20 in 2020, despite the challenging circumstances during the early days of the pandemic, and the efforts the Kingdom made during its handover of the presidency to Italy at the beginning of last year.
She also welcomed the empowerment of Saudi women, noting that they are increasingly assuming leadership positions in the country and representing the Kingdom at international forums.
Pellegrini pointed out that current Italian-Saudi ties are built on a deep historical relationship based on mutual respect and cooperation, and stressed the importance of strengthening economic ties and enhancing trade between the countries. He also praised the Kingdom for its environmental initiatives and efforts to promote sustainability.
Also present at the meeting were Saad Al-Sabti, a member of the Shoura Council and vice-chairperson of the Saudi-Italian Parliamentary Friendship Committee, and Roberto Cantone, the Italian ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
JEDDAH: For artist Hisham Al-Najjar, painting on canvas or papers is conventional.
Instead, the Jeddah-based artist uses pennies and other international coins as the backdrop for his impressive paintings.
“Collecting Saudi and international coins has been my hobby for the past 25 years because it has been my favorite hobby beside drawing and painting,” said Al-Najjar, who is an enthusiastic collector of international coins.
Al-Najjar revealed that he has a treasure chest with more than 100,000 coins from different regions around the world, which he collected through antique shops and rare coin auctions. He now uses them to create professional paintings.
While displaying his coin portraits in Balad as part of the Jeddah Season, Hisham Al-Najjar told Arab News that his life had taken a different direction after he assembled all the pennies he had collected over the years to make portraits of prominent figures.
He began working as a coin artist in 2015 after he retired from the trade industry in 2014.
The artist garnered attention when he started to display his work at events and festivals such as the National Day, Foundation Day, Jeddah Season and other local exhibitions.
Al-Najjar hit the spotlight after he created a picture of King Salman using coins from around the world. “The image of King Salman required 9,000 coins. It took a larger number of coins than the other portraits and it took me three months to finish,” he said.
“I then thought of (creating) artistic portraits of our crown prince and previous kings. I started with drawing their pictures and then filled them with coins.”
The artist has already made 40 other coin portraits including kings of Saudi Arabia, princes, and leaders of the Gulf countries — such as King Abdulaziz, King Faisal, King Fahad, King Khalid, King Abdullah, Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Shiekh Khalifa bin Zaid, Shiekh Mohammed bin Zaid and Shiekh Mohammed bin Rashid.
While displaying his coin portraits in Balad as part of the Jeddah Season, Al-Najjar told Arab News that his life had taken a different direction after he assembled all the pennies he had collected over the years to make portraits of prominent figures.
“Coins are really quite fascinating and as I got older, I had quite a massive supply of Saudi and foreign coins. So, when King Salman became the ruler of Saudi Arabia in 2015, I immediately thought of doing something new by using these coins to express my support to the new Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques,” he said.
The second-largest image that Al-Najjar created was of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with 2,800 coins.
Al-Najjar now hopes to sell his paintings to those interested in creative and distinctive artworks.
He also aims to make the largest portrait in the world with coins and enter it in Guinness World Records.
JEDDAH: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology has launched a nationwide awareness campaign #HereToLead to promote gender equality and reinforce women’s advancement in Saudi Arabia.
As part of the initiative, a survey carried out at KAUST among Saudi women, both staff and students, showed that participants regard the university as a fostering environment with pioneering initiatives to encourage women’s professional development and empowerment.
The campaign is expected to run throughout the year to showcase the success stories of Saudi women at KAUST, highlighting their achievements, as well as their contributions to the Saudi community and economy.
Vice-Chair of the Institutional Biosafety and Bioethics Committee at KAUST, Dana Al-Sulaiman, said the university “has been instrumental in my professional advancement, providing me with a wealth of opportunities and a vibrant environment that respects equity and inclusion. As a Saudi female faculty member, I have the chance to play a major role in educating the next generation and advancing the roles of women in the workplace.”
Linda Al-Zaben, a Ph.D. student in applied mathematics and computational sciences, said that the university gave her the opportunity to practice leadership skills, and acquire and develop coaching techniques.
“It also made me a better researcher because of the wide exposure it has,” she said.
KAUST is acclaimed for the opportunities to gives women to pursue graduate degrees. It is the first campus university offering Ph.D. degrees in engineering for women in the Kingdom and has allowed gender integration since opening in 2009.
The Saudi women who took part in the survey agree that KAUST supports their goals, bolsters their confidence and offers a path to greater possibilities.
“KAUST is an institutional role model in encouraging every woman to seek all opportunities even in male-dominated fields,” one respondent said.
Another said that “KAUST is supporting women’s advancement by running programs such as the KAUST Gifted Students Program targeting young Saudi women and other initiatives that celebrate women’s talents. Hiring women in leadership and faculty positions within KAUST inspires this generation.”
Vice President of KAUST Strategic National Advancement, Najah Ashry, said: “We have seen tremendous interest from women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Our firm belief is that through the #HereToLead platform, we will be able to give them a voice to empower and encourage more women to embark on this professional journey.”
KAUST President Prof. Tony Chan said that 40 percent of the university’s students are women, “and we remain steadfast in creating innumerable opportunities for them.”
AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center on Sunday inaugurated the 12th Voluntary Medical Project for Open Heart Surgery for Adults in Al-Mukalla as part of Nabdh Al-Saudia Volunteer Program for Cardiac Catheterization and Surgery in the city.
The program is being held between May 29 and June 3.
The voluntary medical team, affiliated with the center, has so far conducted eight open heart surgeries, all of which were successful.
Separately, the general supervisor of center said that Saudi Arabia has a long history of charity and supporting impoverished people abroad.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah delivered a lecture at the headquarters of the Islamic University in Madinah.
He told the audience that the volume of Saudi aid between 1996 and 2021 amounted to $94.6 billion delivered to 165 countries around the world.
Al-Rabeeah recalled the humanitarian history of Saudi Arabia.
He said that the Kingdom provided international humanitarian aid in 1950 to the victims of the Punjab floods, despite the limited income of the Kingdom at the time.
In 1974, the Kingdom established the Saudi Fund for Development with the aim of stimulating economic growth in developing countries, benefiting 55 countries within four years.
In 1999, the Kingdom made official donations to the victims of the Kosovo War, and in 2004 donated to victims of the Boxing Day tsunami.


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