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Morocco leads the green revolution
Capital Rabat chosen premiere city for Earth Day celebrations for environmental responsibility focus.
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2010 21:51 GMT

Morocco sits on the northwestern corner of Africa. It is at the crossroads between Europe, and the Middle East.

The country's coastline spans nearly 2,000km along the Atlantic Ocean in the west, and the Mediterranean sea in the north.

It prides itself on being one of the leaders in the region when it comes to taking care of the environment, but now people who live here are being confronted with the effects of air pollution, climate change and other environmental challenges.

Along Morocco's Atlantic coast, fishermen are not reeling in as many fish as they used to. In some places, raw sewage is dumped straight into the ocean and the waters are overfished.

"When I started fishing here 20 years ago, I had much more success. Now it takes me one week just to catch two or three fish," fisherman Eloufay Masoud said.

Farmers are also feeling the effects. Times are harder than before because their crops now take longer to nurture and are not as rewarding as they once were.

Tomato farmers like Dreisy Abdelaziz blame the problems on climate change.

"We received much more rain this year than we ever have. This hurt our production severely. We need help to continue farming," he said.

Enter the 'Green Tax'

Now the Moroccan government has a plan to take on these environmental challenges. It is a multi-billion dollar series of projects that will set new standards and restrictions on pollution, and for the first time, implement so-called "green taxes" for violators.

Environmental experts say it is the most progressive environmental plan in the region.

Mayors of cities from across Africa, the Gulf region and Europe visited Rabat this week to learn more about the plan and to share their stories of how environmental challenges are affecting their cities.

Khalifa Sall, the mayor of Dakar, Senegal, said: "We will study what Morocco is doing because right now we are witnessing a city [Dakar] that is losing its soul and is having a tough time becoming a green city.

"We have a problem with water resources. Climate change has resulted in huge marine erosion."

The projects include major investments in wind power, solar energy, wastewater treatment and education.

At schools across the country, teachers have added lessons on environmental responsibility for the next generation.

One teacher, Hind Taki, said: "There are many benefits to teaching the children at this age. We want them to be aware of the importance of a clean environment now."

Premiere city

The Moroccan government's plan has been lauded by environmental groups from around the world. Along with Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Kolkatta, New York and Washington, the Earth Day network selected Rabat, the capital of Morocco, to be a premiere host for Earth Day on its 40th anniversary this week.

For the first time, an Arab country in Africa has been selected for such a presitigious ceremony.

"Rabat was chosen as a premiere city for Earth Day celebrations for its commitment to the environment and strategic vision for the future," Gerald Torres, the president of the Earth Day network, said.

Morocco is following in the footsteps of other countries that have gone "green", but unlike those nations, this country has little choice. The economy and environment are tied closer together here than in many other places.

At least 40 per cent of the people survive off agriculture. Millions of more Moroccans live off of the fishing and tourism industries.

Sayed Mouline, the director of the government's renewable energy agency, said: "It's for our future, our children and we believe that this approach is the best one today for the future and it is also a huge opportunity for the whole region."

While Moroccans and environmental groups are wondering if the government will deliver on its promises, others say they are already hitting their targets.

Susan Bass, the vice-president of the Earth Day network, said: "The government is already delivering in a big way. The commitments they made on Earth Day were already happening. 

"There are specific timelines – short term and long and we can see how they are going to make this happen."

Source:
Al Jazeera
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