Environment in Bahrain Essay

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With a land area of only 665 square kilometers, the island of Bahrain is home to 698,585 people, including 235,108 nonnationals. Bahrain’s strategic location in the Persian Gulf among larger and more aggressive nations forces the government to balance its own needs against the demands of its neighbors. The ruling amir, who proclaimed himself the king in February 2002, launched major economic and political reforms in Bahrain. Since oil reserves are rapidly declining, Bahrain has shifted its economic focus to petroleum processing and refining, which provide around 60 percent of export receipts and government revenues. In addition to oil, natural resources include associated and nonassociated natural gas, fish, and pearls. The development of Bahrain as an international banking center has also helped to replace lost oil revenues.

An unemployment rate of 15 percent has been a major cause for concern, particularly because it is concentrated among young adults. With an annual per capita income of $20,500, Bahrain is ranked as the 50th richest nation in the world. In 2004, Bahrain and the United States signed a Free Trade Agreement that, if ratified by both governments, should further boost the Bahraini economy. All of Bahrain’s urban residents have access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation. The United Nations Development Program Human Development Reports ranks Bahrain 43 of 232 countries on general quality-of-life issues.

Bordered by the Gulf of Bahrain, the archipelago has a coastline that extends for 161 kilometers. The land area is comprised of low desert plains rising to a low central escarpment. The arid climate of Bahrain produces mild winters and hot, humid summers. Periodic droughts and dust storms have combined with desertification in Bahrain to produce degradation and loss of arable lands. Less than 3 percent of total land area is devoted to agriculture, and only 1 percent of the workforce is engaged in this sector. Since the islands lack freshwater resources, sea water is used. Bahrain is within the route by which petroleum is transported to the West. Consequently, coastal areas are suffering from degradation caused by oil spills and discharges from tankers, oil refineries, and distribution stations. Extensive damage to coral reefs and sea vegetation has also occurred.

With 90 percent of the population living in heavily industrialized urban areas, carbon dioxide emissions have climbed in Bahrain from 22.6 per capita metric tons in 1980 to 30.6 per capita metric tons in 2002. The islands produce 0.1 percent of the world’s supply of carbon dioxide emissions. Consequently, the Environmental Impact Assessment has formulated stiff requirements for improving air quality in Bahrain.

In 1977, the government of Bahrain began enacting a body of environmental laws designed to protect natural resources and promote responsible land use and development. In 1980, the Environmental Protection Committee and the Environmental Protection Technical Secretariat were established to work with other government agencies by coordinating environmental policies and enforcing laws and regulations. In 1996, the Environmental Affairs Agency, which includes the Directorate of Assessment and Planning and the Directorate of Environment, assumed the responsibility for promoting sustainable development through the implementation and enforcement of a series of environmental policies related to human health as affected by environmental practices, the protection and rehabilitation of natural resources, and the control of biodiversity.

Bahrain is home to hundreds of flora and bird species and possesses the largest colony of cormorants in the world. Special interest has been focused on conserving the mangrove forests of Hawar Islands, increasing supplies of safe drinking water, and improving waste management. In addition, Bahrain has participated in the following international agreements: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, and Wetlands.


  1. Timothy Doyle, Environmental Movements in Minority and Majority Worlds: A Global Perspective (Rutgers University Press, 2005);
  2. Kevin Hillstrom and Laurie Collier Hillstrom, Africa and the Middle East: A Continental Overview of Environmental Issues (ABC-CLIO, 2003).

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