Environmental activists are calling for the implementation of sustainable solutions at Hajj, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world.
Rabat – After months of Hajj being closed to curb the spread of COVID-19, environmental activists are inspired to pursue sustainable changes that will create a “green pilgrimage.”
“This year’s Hajj, although taking place at a difficult time globally, can be a source of hope,” ecological activist and Greenpeace campaigner Nouhad Awwad told AFP.
“It gives an idea of what could be (…) a green pilgrimage,” she added.
Pilgrims collectively produce hundreds of tons of garbage at the holy site. In addition, they are responsible for air pollution generated by the various modes of transportation people use to travel to Mecca.
On March 19, Saudia Arabian authorities suspended all prayers and visits at the two main mosques in Mecca and Medina. Typically thronged with pilgrims, the Holy city including Hajj was temporarily relieved of heavy human impact.
Strict lockdown measures, which reduced both the pollution and waste produced at Hajj, offered evidence that “green” developments could improve the local quality of life and spaces of worship.
“By investing in sustainable development and adopting green practices, we can continue to live our traditions and perform our rituals while keeping our skies free of pollution and our streets litter-free.”
Awwad imagines “Hajj with its millions of pilgrims in total symbiosis with their environment in a Mecca powered by solar energy.” The move, she stressed, aims to make possible “the future we should all work for.”
In 2019, approximately 2.5 million Muslims from around the world made the pilgrimage to Hajj.
This year, images of Hajj in the absence of its usual crowds shocked the public — as did the recent images of a socially distant Hajj experience upon the Tawaf 2020 arrival.
While Saudia Arabia has been making enormous extension works in recent decades to accommodate the millions of devotees who pass through the site each year, little has been done to address the environmental impact of the pilgrims.
Environmental activists hope that the changes witnessed regarding Mecca’s environment under COVID-19 measures will lead to more sustainable changes for the environment.