The Middle East’s water obstacle is summed up in one plain figure: The region is home to 6 percent of the world’s population however has simply 1 percent of its fresh water.
Rami Ghandour, handling director of UAE-based public utility Metito Utilities, understands these and comparable figures by heart. He can tell you how much of the population of Egypt occupies water-intensive cities (97 percent) and just how much water the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region takes in per capita compared to the United States (considerably more).
” I believe the first thing is a realization that water is not free. It is something which is rather expensive. Individuals need to take care of it,” he informed Arab News.
Metito has actually been taking care of water in the region, and the world, for more than 60 years, after its foundation in Lebanon in 1958 by the serial entrepreneurial Ghandour service household whose members are still big shareholders.
It is a world-leading company in the water facilities sector, running sewage, water treatment, and desalination centers in 46 nations, and is significantly playing a leading function in the worldwide drive toward more eco-friendly and sustainable use of the world’s resources.
So, is Metito an utility, or an infrastructure company, or an environmental operation?
” You can examine all the boxes if you like. Historically, I ‘d state we were an environmental business because what we do is desalinate water, supply water to individuals, treat wastewater and recycle water, both industrial and domestic. Likewise more just recently we have actually broadened into the renewables energy sector,” Ghandour said.
The Metito group, backed by big investors such as Mitsubishi of Japan and the financial investment arm of the World Bank, is organized along 3 business lines: A design and build unit that covers the full spectrum of the engineering, procurement, and building and construction process, which to date has executed more than 3,000 projects around the world; the utilities and financial investments department uses job finance, consulting, and management services; while the chemicals unit establishes environment-friendly chemicals and specialist treatment options for consumers.
” We maintain an arm’s length plan in between the various business on purpose however have the ability to establish jobs– that is at the heart of what we do– and deliver those to individuals to make it possible for both ecological improvement and also fundamental human development and requires,” Ghandour included.
Water– low-cost, totally free, or funded– has actually long been taken for approved in the Middle East, even as the pressure on its supply has increased with rising population, agricultural and industrial use. Ghandour thinks that frame of mind has to alter.
” There are obviously jurisdictions in the area, consisting of here in the UAE, where full market value is being charged, full cost healing and taxes are being charged. However there are other locations where there are heavy aids in place and that does lead to encouraging inefficient behavior,” he said.
BORN: Beirut 1975
- Master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Cambridge
- MBA in financing and entrepreneurial management from Wharton Company School
- Process engineer, Bechtel London
- Management consultant, Boston Consulting Group, New York
- Managing director, Metito Utilities
- Director, Metito Group
Public education programs– such as motivating individuals to turn taps off and wash the automobile less frequently– clearly play a part in public awareness, however the bigger challenges are more structural.
For example, the biggest consumer of water in the area is not personal domestic intake, but agriculture.
Federal governments– consisting of that of Saudi Arabia– have had some success in encouraging more effective usage of water for farming, and brand-new innovations such as hydroponics and vertical farming can also motivate optimal usage of water resources.
Some nations too have actually taken a more radical approach, buying farmland in other parts of the world with better supply of water, growing food there, and then importing it back to the Gulf.
However Ghandour mentioned that there were other simple and efficient ways to enhance water performance. Leak and water theft were huge issues in some countries. “People are simply helping themselves and there isn’t the policy and the enforcement to make sure that it’s not an issue,” he included.
Reuse of water was likewise a location of terrific potential. The example here was Singapore, which has made fantastic strides towards recycling water in the domestic, industrial, and farming sectors.
In the Gulf, among the sights that sets environmentalists’ nerves on edge was the liberal usage of valuable water on golf courses or green public areas, in locations that would naturally be arid desert.
However, Ghandour noted that an increasing percentage of that was recycled water that might not be fit for human consumption, however which was completely acceptable for watering. Dubai, for example, has an innovative wastewater recycling facility which uses users 2 taps for different water usages.
Metito is bidding in a task in Botswana in Africa where wastewater is straight recycled back into the intake and drinking water supply, one of just two worldwide that does that.
The company was also looking at the technology behind a pioneering project in California which recycles wastewater straight into the underground aquifers that feed water back into the intake cycle.
But even if the region optimizes its use, avoids leakages, and adopts efficient pricing systems, there will constantly be a need for desalination in a part of the world as arid as the Arabian Gulf.
Desalination has been the pillar of the basic facilities that has actually allowed the region to enjoy high rates of economic development over years, but it has also come under fire from environmentalists, for 2 factors: The use of carbon fuels such as oil and gas in the costly procedure of turning sea water into functional water; and the additional salt water– salted water– expelled into the sea as a spin-off.
Ghandour said the second objection was less of a significant aspect, pointing out that the Arabian Gulf and Red Sea were open tidal seaways, and likewise that some desalination facilities in the UAE have been built on the Indian Ocean side of the nation, enabling brine to disperse into a wider body of water.
The use of hydrocarbon nonrenewable fuel sources to produce water was a various matter.
” I would decouple the power concern from the desalination. Fortunately is that the renewables business design has become much more competitive. Renewable power today is often below the expense of fossil fuels power,” he added.
The megaprojects of Saudi Arabia were the best testing ground for this new model. Metito is involved in two solar-powered desalination facilities in the NEOM advancement, which mix renewable power with sources from the nationwide grid, and it has also won an agreement for a huge desalination plant in the industrial zone at Jubail in the Eastern Province. Ghandour hinted that other huge Saudi contracts were in the offing.
There are likewise substantial Metito projects on the other side of the Red Sea, in Egypt, consisting of an ambitious plan to water the Sinai desert with treated water pumped under the Suez Canal.
Does Ghandour think these ambitious strategies are feasible, from the viewpoint of a water specialist?
He noted that the method Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries had actually tackled the task was motivating, with increasing private sector financial investment. “I would argue that is typically the most effective way to provide these projects with extremely strong ecological compliance requirements in place,” he said, with one eye on the higher standards now needed by international private sector financiers in line with ESG (environmental, social, and governance) standards.
” It has put everybody in the mindset of the ESG top priorities that are there, so everybody is taking a look at doing projects in a way that is sustainable, and absolutely the Saudis have been very much involved in that,” he added.
And does he believe the Kingdom will have the capacity to water all those trees?
” I don’t have the specifics on the strategy to water those trees, but I make certain as an outsider I would state yes. Extra desalination capability is being executed at a high rate with these public private collaboration projects.
” So, extra sources of water are there, and I go back to the wastewater that can be recycled, which is perfect for irrigating trees.