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live AQI index
|Air pollution level||Air quality index||Main pollutant|
|Moderate|| 59 US AQI||PM2.5|
PM2.5 concentration in Riyadh is currently 3.2 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value
|Tuesday, Sep 19|
Moderate 92 AQI US
|Wednesday, Sep 20|
Moderate 74 AQI US
|Thursday, Sep 21|
Moderate 77 AQI US
Moderate 59 AQI US
|Saturday, Sep 23|
Moderate 93 AQI US
|Sunday, Sep 24|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 101 AQI US
|Monday, Sep 25|
Moderate 93 AQI US
|Tuesday, Sep 26|
Moderate 99 AQI US
|Wednesday, Sep 27|
Unhealthy for sensitive groups 123 AQI US
|Thursday, Sep 28|
Unhealthy 154 AQI US
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Riyadh is the capital city of Saudi Arabia and is the largest city on the Arabian Peninsula. It is situated near the centre of the an-Nafud desert. In 2019 it had an estimated population of 7.6 million people.
At the end of 2020 the quality of air was very poor. With a US AQI number of 106, the air quality was classed as “Unhealthy for Sensitive groups”. The main pollutant was PM2.5 with a concentration of 37.6 µg/m³ which is almost 4 times the level recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). With air quality as bad as this, the advice is to wear a good quality mask when going outside, close doors and windows to prevent the dirty air from entering, reduce outdoor exercise and use an air purifier if you have access to one.
Riyadh which is the largest city in Saudi Arabia is also its most polluted, with 15 times what a healthy average annual PM 2.5 should be. The city attributes the high pollution days in part to sulphur dioxide in the air, which predominantly comes from industrial activity.
Saudi Arabia is the largest oil exporter in OPEC and contributes to the huge environmental impacts associated with oil drilling. This includes hydraulic fracturing, oil spills, and air pollution. With an abundance of cheap gasoline at around $0.18 per litre, there is no incentive to economise or be frugal in its use. With 0ver 50 per cent of the population being under 25 years there is a huge car culture where the rich young men take pride in their expensive gas-guzzling cars. Many Italian supercars find their way over to Saudi Arabia.
The government openly encourages energy use through subsidies. These currently amount to US$43 billion per annum. Inexpensive oil products almost supports excessive usage which leads to high rates of domestic oil consumption. The hot arid climate in Saudi Arabia causes widespread use of air conditioning system as a means of controlling the oppressive temperatures. This obviously leads to large energy consumption and increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2).
Urbanisation causes large amounts of pollution to the ground, water, and air. Increasingly urban areas call for more desalinated water. Desalinisation plants produce greenhouse gasses and are highly inefficient. The oil extraction also contributes to air pollution by emitting high rates of carbon dioxide. Excess greenhouse gas emissions deplete the ozone and help raise global temperatures.
The expansion of agricultural requirements and energy consumption both contribute to deforestation. Wood is often looked on as a disposable product and therefore used carelessly. Deforestation occurs both legally and illegally as the demand for more agricultural land increases. Mass monocultures do not utilise the natural resources often leading to an acute lack of water. This can eventually lead to desertification.
Outdoor air pollution is a mixture of chemicals, particulate matter, and biological materials that react with each other to form tiny hazardous particles. It can contribute to breathing problems, chronic diseases, increased hospitalisation, and premature mortality. Minor symptoms include coughing and wheezing, itchy eyes and nose and it can even cause skin rashes, depending what pollutants are in the air. It also exacerbates asthma and emphysema.
When considering air quality, the concentration fine particulate matter is often quoted as a guide as to how polluted the air really is. This is because PM2.5 and PM 10 are the two most common types of pollutant found in the air. The PM2.5 particles are particularly dangerous as they can easily get around the body’s defence system and penetrate deep inside the lungs. Once here, they can easily pass into the bloodstream and eventually reach the heart.
The guidelines and levels suggested by the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend levels no higher than 10 µg/m³ for PM2.5 and 20 µg/m³ for PM10. These are average annual figures to be looked on as a recommendation as any level of air pollution is not 100 per cent safe.
A metro is also under construction in Riyadh, with six lines under construction and is scheduled to open in 2020.
Currently, there are no programmes which encourage the reduction of fossil fuel use. The government, however, does provide substantial subsidies for oil consumption. This exponential demand for oil has forced the government to rethink its approach towards renewable energy. Because of this new approach, Saudi Arabia is ranked as number 6 in the world where potential is shown for the increased use of solar energy. In 2019 Saudi signed an agreement to inaugurate major wind powered projects too. It plan is to incorporate 5 GW of energy into the national grid.
Concerns of inefficiency and expense are holding Saudi Arabia back from fully embracing renewable energy. It is therefore possible to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and at the same time encourage the use of renewable energy.
The current wealth obtained through oil and mounting pressure from international organisations could encourage Saudi Arabia to move to a more sustainable source of energy, after all, natural sources such as coal and oil will not last forever. They are finite!
In 2019, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture organised an environmental awareness week. The event took place in 13 of Saudi Arabia’s provinces where over 230,000 native trees were planted to offset some of the deforested areas.
Saudi has started to make plans to drastically reduce its reliance on fossil fuels as a source of power generation. Plans are to build what will be the largest wind farm in the middle-east. The installation has already commenced in the Dumat Al-Jandal, Al Jawf region. $500 million has been earmarked for the construction of a wind farm with a capacity of 400 MW (megawatts). Once completed it is hoped that enough energy will be generated to provide 70,000 homes with all their needs and carbon emissions will be reduced by 880,000 tons per year because of it.