Saudi Arabia, where I just spent a few days, is in denial regarding a looming disaster, pollution. Saudi society and its media and activists are dealing with this catastrophe as if it were a taboo that should not be mentioned.
On the many highways that extend for miles across the country, one sees the landmarks of an impending crisis. Garbage is being burnt haphazardly close to residential areas. Garbage is also being collected and buried in basic conditions, as if those responsible did not know how chemical substances would interact and which dangerous gases it would emit. Some of these garbage burial grounds will be transformed into large public parks where kids will play, unaware of the dangers and the pollution.
There is also a mix between residential neighborhood and industrial zones aimed at maximizing profit and lacking the basic conditions for environmental protection. The chimneys fill the sky with multi-colored fumes and the toxic liquids wastes are disposed close to private residences.
On certain days of the week, the watchful eye can see some Saudi cities covered in a black cloud, evidence of the size of the problem and its dangers.
Saudi society is responsive to global events and the press publishes many opinions that are not officially sanctioned. Even Saudi television, and especially the news channel, has started discussing previously restricted subject. However, pollution remains absent from these debates. This disease will target everyone and will not favor liberals or reformists; it doesn’t differentiate between the right and poor. Pollution in Saudi Arabia is an ogre that will destroy everything in its path, amid a silence that is difficult to explain.
I returned from Saudi Arabia fearful, pitiful and sad on the silence of its intellectuals and its media towards pollution. I am screaming in the hope someone will hear my cries.