- Title: SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi Arabia clamps down on illegal firewood selling
- Date: 10th January 2014
- Summary: AL NOFOOTH DESERT, SAUDI ARABIA (FILE) (REUTERS) PHOTOGRAPHER , MOHAMMAD AL-HARBI, TAKING PICTURES OF THE AL-ARTAH DESERT TREE, WHICH THE GOVERNMENT HAS BANNED USING FOR FIREWOOD AL-ARTAH TREE IN DESERT ( SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PHOTOGRAPHER , MOHAMMAD AL-HARBI, SAYING: "People became more aware of the impact of cutting the trees, so they left the main trunk of the Al-Artah tree to let it grow again, and cut off only the dry parts of the tree. This is an awareness of how to cut firewood trees in Saudi Arabia. We're seeing trees like this still standing in the desert, which has been frequented by large numbers of people who consider this firewood a treasure and consider the legacy for the sons of the desert in Saudi Arabia." HARBI SHOWING THE GREEN LEAVES OF THE AL-ARTAH TREE SPROUTING
- Embargoed: 25th January 2014 12:00
- Location: Saudi Arabia
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: Environment
- Reuters ID: LVA2TTXUA4HYMK7EOCMYOHM0UHT7
- Story Text: Saudi Arabia is clamping down on the selling of illegal firewood and tree cutting, forcing buyers to purchase imported wood.
The Ministry of Agriculture banned selling local firewood in January 2013 after documenting a decrease in the numbers of trees.
But demand for firewood has recently increased, especially with the onset of the winter season.
Buyers still seeking illegal local firewood approach the black market sellers in the capital Riyadh, looking for wood from the famous Al-Artah or Al-Ghada trees, preferring its quality to the imported firewood.
Like some others, firewood buyer Falah Al-Gharbi is unwilling to substitute with imported wood and said that he buys enough local firewood to last him through the winter.
"We are a group of young of people who love picnics and going out to the desert. Like most young people, we came here to look for enough firewood for the winter season," he said.
Enforcing the ban, security forces have started confiscating wood from shop sellers and roadside stalls.
"We came looking for Al-Artah and Al-Ghada firewood but we did not find it, it is missing in the market because of the government's ban on suppliers to provide us with these types of wood coming from outside Riyadh. There are security barriers, they search cars and if they find any firewood, they start investigating the driver asking where? Why? And it is forbidden, and they confiscate the car," said another buyer, trying to buy illegal local firewood.
Photographer Mohammad al-Harbi, who takes an interest in environmental issues, said that locals have become more aware of the impact of cutting trees and are starting to leave more trees untouched.
"People became more aware of the impact of cutting the trees, so they left the main trunk of the Al-Artah tree to let it grow again, and cut off only the dry parts of the tree. This is an awareness of how to cut firewood trees in Saudi Arabia. We're seeing trees like this still standing in the desert, which has been frequented by large numbers of people who consider this firewood a treasure and consider the legacy for the sons of the desert in Saudi Arabia," he said.
Buyer Ahmad al-Ghtani said that no one had the right to illegally cut trees and harm the country's vegetation.
"It is not any person's right to cut trees without a permit, this hurts the environment, and I think it's not in anyone's interest," he said.
A firewood seller from Pakistan said that he is now selling imported alternatives, mainly from Somalia and Sudan.
"The local firewood has been banned by the government and the Ministry of Agriculture, alternative firewood comes from Somalia and Sudan, huge quantities come in containers, ships come to distribute to Riyadh's shops, and the people come buy it," he said.
Ministry spokesman Jabir Al-Shihri said last month they would not hesitate to name people who went against the ministerial decision and sold local firewood, as reported in the Saudi Gazette.
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