SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
13 March 2014
Volume 15 Issue 3

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SETAC Arabian Gulf Branch: Working Towards Regional Environmental Sustainability

Radhouan Ben-Hamadou, SETAC Arabian Gulf Branch President and Ipek Goktepe, Immediate Past President and Treasurer

Arabian branch
Site visit to a floating mangrove project in Lusail Village, Qatar during the December 2013 Arabian Gulf Branch meeting.

SETAC-AGB launching
The SETAC Arabian Gulf Branch (SETAC-AGB) was established in 2013 as a regional branch under the umbrella of SETAC Europe. SETAC-AGB is an independent, non-profit scientific and professional organization, which works as an open, multidisciplinary forum for biologists, chemists, environmental scientists, environmental engineers, toxicologists, and life cycle assessment (LCA) experts from countries in the Arabian Gulf also known as Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE. SETAC-AGB is intended to provide important opportunities for discussion among scientists and experts from academia, government agencies, business, and non-profit organizations, promoting the application of scientific knowledge to environmental policy. The branch organizes workshops, scientific meetings, and training courses on topics of relevance to this region. At SETAC-AGB, an emphasis is given to support young scientists from the GCC region (e.g., organize convenient and affordable meetings to connect with experienced scientists within the region). The SETAC AGB seeks to promote environmental quality and ecosystem preservation through science-based research and training.

Regional Environmental Challenges
During the past decade, the GCC countries experienced a rapid growth as a result of expansion in oil, gas, and construction industries. Since industrial activities, population, and infrastructure activities grew double digit, the region started facing a plethora of environmental challenges, just to name a few decline in air quality, pollution in coastal environment, and depletion in underground water sources. The oil and gas industries are the primary sources of economical wealth, but they might be also the major causes of the current environmental challenges faced in the region. The existent and anticipated environmental issues in the region are closely related to some key sustainable development targets the regional decision-makers are defining as of outmost priority such as water security, mitigating risks that threaten the safety of the marine environment and addressing the effects of climate change (including reducing carbon emissions).

The GCC countries underwent in the past years exceptional political and structural progress towards the implementation of environmental sustainability as a major pillar for their societal model. The need for advanced capacity building, regulatory reforms, resource efficiency, public awareness and waste management are identified as core elements for a comprehensive policy to achieve environmental sustainability in the region.

Considering these specific regional environmental issues and the means needed to address them the establishment of a SETAC regional branch (SETAC–AGB) was timely in regards to gaining initial support by several regional stakeholders from Academia (especially the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences at Qatar University), Industry (especially ExxonMobil, Qatar), and government agencies (e.g., Ministry of Environment).

arabian branch
SETAC-AGB Annual Meeting 2013 Closing Ceremony. From right to left: Mariem Amor Safi (AGB Student Committee), Ipek Goktepe (AGB Immediate Past President and present Treasurer), Tanya Singh, Fatin Samara (AGB Vice-President), Suhur Saeed (AGB Board of Directors member), Tahir Husain, Bart Bosveld (SETAC-EU Executive Director), Moussa Elimane Sall and Konstantinos Kakosimos (AGB Secretary).

2013 Qatar University Life Science Symposium (QULSS) in conjunction with the 1st Annual Meeting of the SETAC-AGB
For its first Annual Meeting held in conjunction with the Qatar University Life Sciences Symposium (QULSS) in 9–11 December 2013, SETAC-AGB under the coordination of Ipek Goktepe, focused on a topic relevant to this region, namely “Environmental Health Issues in the GCC.” This successful three-day symposium was an opportunity for researchers, experts, academics, government, and private sector representatives to exchange ideas and bring solutions to environmental health issues in the region, drawing discussion on contemporary matters facing the region such as environmental contaminants and related health effects, environmental monitoring and management, environmental policy and sustainable development, and climate change and its consequences on the region’s environment and societies.

More than 20 students from Qatar University were directly involved in the organization of the event and many others presented their research findings as posters. Local experts’ presentations from Qatar University included the first-time presentation of findings of a research project by Yousra Al-Faham on the composition and origins of PAHs in the Qatar coastal sediments in the Arabian Gulf; and a talk by Radhouan Ben-Hamadou on his experience in sustainability research and new ecotechnologies to mitigate environmental impacts.

Robert Diaz from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, USA, gave a brief in which he noted that “the status of hypoxia and its consequences for the environment, society, and economics will depend on a combination of climate change and land-use change.” Bart Bosveld, the Excutive Director of SETAC Europe, and Suhur Saeed, of ExxonMobil Qatar, acquainted the assistance with the mission and activities of SETAC in general and the SETAC-AGB regional branch in special.

As part of the event, a field trip was organized to a UNESCO funded project site entitled “Floating Mangrove Project (FMP)” in Lusail Village, Doha. The director of the FMP, Mark Sutcliffe, gave an overview on the objectives and success of the project and led a tour to the site. The field trip was an eye-opening experience for many international and local participants (based on their feedback) since the project is the first of its kind around the world.

Invitation to regional expertise
This event was an opportunity to promote SETAC activities in Europe and worldwide and stimulate regional experts from Academia, Government and Business to adhere to the society and contribute collaboratively to the achievement of regional environmental quality objectives through reliable scientific knowledge.

As a side event SETAC-AGB members elected the new Board of Directors now composed by:
President—Radhouan Ben-Hamadou, Qatar University
Vice-president—Fatin Samara, American University of Sharjah, UAE
Treasurer—Ipek Goktepe, Qatar University
Secretary—Konstantinos Kakosimos, Texas A&M University- Qatar
IT/Newsletter Editor—Dana El Ahdab, Virginia Commonwealth University-Qatar
Board members—Suhur Saeed, ExxonMobil Research-Qatar, Fatima Al-Otoum, Supreme Council of Health, Qatar, Farhan Khan, Qatar Gas
Student representatives—Salma AlHajri, Ministry of Environment, Qatar, Mariem Safi, Qatar University, Oyebamiji Abib, Qatar University

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