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Iviews > Articles > A Call: Campaign for Zero Misplaced Litter in KSA in 5 Years
 Articles
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People go to fast-food restaurants and don't even bother to put away their trays after they are done. They drop cigarette butts and packets everywhere, inside and outside. Juice and water bottles are dropped indiscriminately in front of mosque, office, souk, their own houses, ...

A Call: Campaign for Zero Misplaced Litter in KSA in 5 Years

10/25/2014 - Religious - Article Ref: IC1410-5961
Number of comments:
Opinion Summary: Agree:  Disagree:  Neutral:
By: Dr. Shafi A. Khaled
IslamiCity* -


In 1958, as a tiny tike in Little Angels School, Azimpur, Dhaka, I memorized a Bangla rhyme. Its translation runs:

A piece of paper over there
trashes the area, pick it up


Now, I am wondering whether, through a five to ten years long campaign, Saudi residents and visitors could be made to stop indiscriminately trashing her with litter.

In December 2000, my wife, three sons and I came for Qiyamul Lail for the last 10 days of Ramadan. It was, until then, the event of a lifetime for all of us. The rush was immediate and immense, that is until the 9th day, a Thursday, when we went to Madinah and returned the same day to catch Tarweeh at Ka'ba and the Jumu'atul wida of Ramadan the following day.

The road between Makkah and Madinah had geological ancient time writ all over it. The ever-changing color of the dirt and of the rocks - red, brown, yellowish and black, the occasional extinct volcano-like formations of the hills, sand, and the mountains formed of layers of boulders or stones - that reminded me of a verse from the Qur-an. We sat on the same side of the bus up and down our trip (safar). That meant, inadvertently, we chose to face the blazing sun. So, we suffered. Time to time, I lifted up the curtain and squinted and blinked to catch memorable views of our drive. Al hamdulillah!

However, that was not the only thing that caught my eye. As far as my eyes could go I saw plastic bags fluttering in the wind stuck to rocks or fences. I was appalled and upset.

In the hotel, during Suhur, I saw the Amir of Makkah receiving guests and visitors. I thought that I should pay him a visit and bring my observations and suggestions toward a cleaner Haramain, including washing the streets in the neighborhood once a year with Clorox and soap. The deep black dirt needs to be dissolved and scraped away to give a better smell to the environment. But I did not do that. I did not have time.

Now, in January 2011, I came back after 11 years, this time to Jeddah as a Business school professor, I saw that the environment was literally melting away. People go to fast-food restaurants and don't even bother to put away their trays after they are done. They drop cigarette butts and packets everywhere, inside and outside. Juice and water bottles are dropped indiscriminately in front of mosque, office, souk, their own houses, over the open window of pricey Lexus, Jaguars, BMWs, Range Rovers, and what not.

The first time I came this time around, I went to my campus and saw the cars in the parking lot. I returned to my office from the convenient on-campus mosque and proceeded to create an MS-Excel workbook to record ill-parked cars. I gave up the data-collection drive soon afterwards thinking what's the point? What will my data say that people don't know already? Anyway, my first sample size on January 23, 2011, was 21, of which 9 cars or 42% were wrongly parked. 

Then rain came and the roads around our campus were flooded. I tried to take the sidewalk to the main road, but to no avail. The tree (shajarah) or the garbage dumpster stood in the way defiantly. A student gave me a ride to get me out of the troubled waters. When I brought up the matter of shajarah, thinking I would get immediate hearty recognition, I was met with double doses of denial that the sidewalk has a purpose, it is potentially health-giving if access to it is made easy, safe and clean, and that it belongs to the government (nizam). I was told that the people have cars. I replied so do the Europeans. Then I was reminded that there are so few trees in the kingdom. The disconnectedness with global Green Movement was so overwhelming that it had ceased to be funny.

BTW, at semester's end, I did two more surveys about vehicular traffic. On June 13, 2011, in the same parking lot as earlier, 17 out of 28 cars or 61% were wrongly parked. Later, on June 18, 2011, in Salamah and Rawdah districts of Jeddah, around 11:00 AM in the morning and later around 7:00 PM in the evening, I counted, respectively, 8 out of 36 cars or 22% and 3 out of 19 or 16% used the turn signal when changing course. I observed that people generally park about 6-8 feet away from the curb. So, the tails of their cars are sticking out on the busy roads. They park where they stop, not adjusting by backing up, etc. This way they think they are stopping other cars from blocking them off. Such is the situational reality.

So, seeking a healthier future for the environment, I submitted the following agenda to a top official of the Kingdom. So, if anyone is into 'Rabbi zidni 'ilman nafi'un or 'amalan mutaqabbilan', then this vision is for that person, too. This applies to all Muslims, guests and otherwise great and gracious residents of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. After all, regardless of our differences, KSA is very dear to all Muslims. They would like to take pride in its success and to participate in bettering its future in however little way they can. Unfortunately, for me, I did not stay long enough in the Kingdom to bring this plan to the notice of more people in authority. May Allah guide them to do what is right and to do it in the right way!

1. Some Facts & Inference


a. Approximately 25 million people produce garbage in public spaces in KSA for 365 days every year.

b. During Hajj another 5 m hajjis add garbage to the environment for 15 days, on the average. That is like adding 3 days of garbage by 25 m people. So, the hajjis add 0.8% to the existing problem.

c. Hence, the problem has to be dealt primarily by the people of KSA.

d. Of the seven days a week, from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM, people outside their homes do the littering. People at work or traveling are mostly responsible for the typical problem. Of the labor force, those 15 years or older and working, about 16% are women and 84% are men.

e. So, leaving aside household garbage that scatters in the wind and those done by children and retired people, about 16% comes from female workers and 84% from adult male workers.

f. Consequently, the educational campaign must have a male component for out-of-home behavioral rectification and a female component of teaching and training those at home to refrain from littering.

g. Knowing and understanding that we do not yet understand the pros and cons of adopting western technologies.

h. Thus, we did not understand the downside of using antibiotics and vaccination in an economically challenged society. It led to massive and disorienting population explosion. The adoption of motorized vehicular traffic, i.e., cars, buses and trucks. Our driving and parking behavior still leave a lot to be desired. Adoption of western styled hospitality and travel industry (air travel, in particular) as well as electronic media and the business model that has been attached to them is downgrading our value and culture by mindlessly accepting allowance for drinking, gambling, free-mixing story-line, etc. as necessary pre-conditions for business success. 

i. Similarly, now, adoption of modern packaging industry has made for convenient consumption and easy portability, but it is destroying the environment because we failed to anticipate and plan for its downside. The fact that we are a consumer society is readily proven by these misadventures.

j. Like tackling most problems, there will have to be a defensive part - to stop making the environment worse than it is now and an offensive part whereby the existing damage is reversed.

k. With the above point in mind, a two-pronged proposal is presented: i. A complete cessation of garbage disposal in public areas in five (5) years by the good citizens of the nation and their guests; and ii. In ten (10) years, a near complete reclamation of public areas from the blight of existing environmental disaster.
l. The garbage in public space now takes up four general areas: i. Big cities and small townships; ii. Special sites of historic, cultural or national value; iii. Open areas and areas adjoining roadways; and iv. Coastal water bodies.

m. The most prolific garbage production happens in the big cities. The small townships will be the easiest to clean. The historic, cultural or national sites will carry symbolic and moral value if they are attended to very early in the campaign. The roadside, open expanse and water bodies will be the hardest to reclaim.

n. With the above issues in mind, in the ambit of the overall strategy, we could have a focused, very short-term (3 year-long, for example) agenda to learn and to motivate the nation by restoring, say, 5 small townships (25,000-50,000 population) across the land and 3-5 special sites (say, Jibaal At-Tur, Ar-Rahma and An-Noor, and sites such as Uhud, Khandaq, Masajid al Quba and al Qiblatain as well as the Saba' Masjid).

2. Strategy: Appealing to Faith and Hayya, Making the Goal Assailable by Sharing the Responsibility and Spreading the Time Frame to Target - Sifr

a. However, as a matter of motivation and spirit, it can start by appealing to the population during the month of Ramadan and to all hajjis during Dhil Hajj.

b. Ramadan is the month of restraint. So, people's sense of piety should be tapped in appealing to them to hold back destroying the environment in that holy month.

c. Being the guest of Allah (swt), Muhammad (sm) and the people of KSA, the Hajjis should leave the country and the Haramain the way they found it. They should not toss their garbage at random, but collect them and put them in designated bins.

d. Further, as a matter of Sadaqah-e-Jariah, if the Hajjis so choose, they can stop their buses/transports on their way to Makkah or Madinah in pre-designated spots and help pick up some of the garbage lying around for a designated period of time, say, 1-2 hours. Also, they need to reflect what donning the Ihram and pronouncing Labbayak signify. They cannot kill even a single insect and that they seek tazkiyah as if they are about to die. So, no damage whatsoever to whatever or whoever can possibly pass through their fingers at this time.

e. Further, after 5 days of Hajj, they cannot fall back to their old ways with littering for that would signify hypocrisy or nifaq.

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