Climate Change Poses Challenges for Saudi Arabia’s Ambitious Hajj Plans

Saudi Arabia’s goal of attracting millions more pilgrims to the annual Hajj pilgrimage is threatened by the impact of climate change in the region. According to an ABC news report published this week, scorching temperatures and increased sustainability concerns due to the surge in pilgrims and infrastructure expansion pose significant challenges.

Under the Vision 2030 plan, the kingdom aims to accommodate 30 million pilgrims for the Hajj and Umrah, necessitating extensive infrastructure development. However, the rapid warming of the region and the environmental impact of the pilgrimage, including greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, call for sustainable measures.

Saudi authorities have taken steps to address sustainability, including the establishment of national centers and an environmental police force. However, the sheer number of pilgrims and the reliance on cars and buses still pose environmental challenges.

Experts warn that climate change will further exacerbate the harsh conditions of the Hajj, with extreme heat affecting elderly pilgrims. Efforts such as installing awnings and misters have been made to cool pilgrims, but more strategies may be required, including limiting pilgrim numbers during high-heat years.

Grassroots initiatives promoting a “green Hajj” encourage sustainable practices and the use of renewable energy, biodegradable materials, and smart logistics to reduce the ecological footprint. The younger generation’s awareness of the need for change offers an opportunity to showcase sustainable practices to a global audience during the Hajj pilgrimage.

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