Only the Arab cities in the Gulf Arab established sanitation rules with the objective of separating three types of water: rain water, which was essential for life; grey water, which originated from domestic activities, and waste water
Saudi Arabia, the largest petroleum producing country in the world and home to Islam’s holiest shrines in Mecca and Madina, is undergoing rapid changes in terms of modernisation, especially under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia has a population of 33 million people, of which 11 million are expatriate workers in the private sector. One of the major changes in government policy is to diversify the economy and make it less dependent on the oil exports. At the same time, there is also the attempt to allow private sector to participate more in providing social infrastructure. It is in this context that Saudi Arabia had signed an agreement for three sanitation projects with the private company Atkins to provide advisory services to state-owned National Water Company (NWC) to improve sanitation infrastructure in the cities of Jeddah, Dammam and Northern Border Regions.
According to Francois-Xavier Basselot, the company’s marketing director for water in the Middle East, “With strong economic development and rising population, the current sanitation infrastructure across the Kingdom is not adequate and needs to be expanded. Through these flagship projects, the NWC, with support from the consortium, will bring much-needed improvements to the environment, ecology and public health for the citizens of Saudi Arabia.”
At the moment, only a small amount of wastewater is collected and treated by the existing network. The build-operate-transfer/build-operate-own (BOT/BOO) model would be used for these projects to finance the wastewater treatment facilities. The private sector will be involved in building the facility and then it will be transferred to a public entity. This is the first time that NCW has outsourced the work to a private enterprise.
In 2003, Saudi Arabia has allocated to the Ministry of Water and Electricity to look after the policy and regulation of water and sanitation services. While the National Water Company, in collaboration with private companies looks after the water and sanitation of cities like Riyadh, Jeddah, Mecca and Taif, regional directorates under the ministry look after the water and sanitation needs of the rest of the country. The government is looking to connect 95 per cent of the urban households by 2040. In 2014 contracts were given for the construction of four new wastewater treatment plants with a combined capacity of 70,500 million cubic metres per day. In 2014, Ministry of Water and Electricity has issued a decree to manage and sell Treated Sewage Effluent (TSE). The National Water Commission has launched a TSE initiative to create an environmentally-friendly and financially sustainable programme and to conserve non-renewable water resources like ground-water and to save expenditure on extracting drinking water from desalination plants. In 2015, 256 million cubic metres of TSE was used and helped in preserving ground water, reduce carbon emissions and save on expenditure on desalination plants, which resulted in a saving of 900 million Saudi Arabia Riayls.
Treated Sewage Effluent is restricted for use in district cooling, construction, mining, industrial, agriculture, irrigation and landscaping.
According to a Euro Monitor International, there would be increased waste water reuse and wastage-to-energy generation in Saudi Arabia and the estimate is that there would be a 2.4 per cent compounded average growth rate (CAGR) during 2016-21. This growth will be fuelled by increased in service demand from urban populations and industries, and also expansion of waste and wastewater treatment capacity.
It is reckoned that sewage collection systems in Saudi Arabia cover only 50 per cent of urban population, and the rest are dependent on septic tanks. Household demands are raising by 10 per cent, and as standard of living improves, generation of waste rises too which gives an opportunity for wastewater and waste management enterprises to expand their business.
Saudi Arabia faces the peculiar challenge. Its oil revenues make it one of the rich countries. But it has to deal with a large population, especially the rural segment, is scattered. In the urban habitations, the lack of public toilets poses a particular challenge. This becomes more difficult when people travel from city to city. It is only recently that Jedda has pay-and-use public toilets, with the rate ranging from 2 Saudi Arabia Riayls to 7 Saudi Arabia Riayls.
A greater task for the sanitation planners in the country is that they have to think of prudent water management because of the scarcity of natural water resources. While plentiful availability of water in other countries requires a different kind of sanitation management, planners in Saudi Aarbia have to reckon with the fact that water is a scarce resource in the country. It is also forced to create acceptable sanitation systems in the country because nearly half the population in the country consists of expatriates, who work in different industrial and business sectors which serve as engine of economic growth in the country.
The other major challenge that Saudi Arabia in terms of sanitation is that every year millions of people visit the two holiest places of Islam – Mecca and Madina. The authorities have to make necessary arrangements in terms of hotels, toilets and water supply. The government is opting for public-private participation to deal with the sanitation works in the country.
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