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Is Morocco Leading on the Path Toward Pro-Environment Development?

16 March, 2017
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Climate change is forcing countries across the world to rethink their positions on energy consumption and future development plans. For one country at the far edge of the Middle East, plans for environmentally friendly development may be setting a prime example for how to combat threats growing from changes to earth’s climate.

Morocco has been undergoing and planning some big changes lately. From an environmental police task force to constructing Africa’s first eco-city, there seems to be no stopping the country on its path toward being more climate change conscious.

But there are big reasons for that. Like the rest of the world, Morocco is having to deal with the consequences of urban development and its impact on the environment. In February, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Morocco has the highest number of pollution-induced deaths for children under the age of five in North Africa, beating out heavily polluted neighbors like Egypt.

Among Morocco’s biggest plans for development is what is being dubbed as Africa’s first eco-city: Zenata. Located on the outskirts of Casablanca, the Zenata Development Company is building a city that is sustainable and environmentally friendly.

According to a report by Devex, the creators of Zenata are focusing on “an ecologically responsible design that maximizes use of natural resources at a city scale. 30% of the city’s first development phase has been set aside as green space, with a central park to promote biodiversity. Wind directions have been modeled to allow natural cooling from the Atlantic Ocean, which borders the community. A mixed sewage collection system that redirects rainwater toward retention ponds contributes to the development of the naturally green landscape.”

The project, which is part of King Mohammed VI’s national agenda that features a multitude of planned cities, is slated to take 30-40 years to develop. However, some phases have already been completed, including portions of the retail center, which features a recently-opened IKEA store, Morocco's first.

These types of expansion plans are becoming more commonplace thanks to urban expansion across Africa. According to the World Bank, urban areas in Africa are expected to grow from 36% in 2010 to 50% in 2030. 

Shiny new cities are not the only thing Morocco is working on, as the government is also looking to modify how the population appoaches the environment. At the end of February, Morocco’s Ministry of Energy, Mining, Water and Environment launched its brand new environmental police brigade in Rabat. According to Morocco World News, the environmental police brigade will seek to protect against environmental damage and raise awareness of environmental issues. The idea for such a police task force was first announced in September 2013 by the General Directorate of National Security.

Fitting within the context of Morocco’s turn toward being environmentally friendly, all of these changes come after Marrakech hosted the Climate Change Conference, better known as COP22, in November 2017. At the conference, countries from around the world gathered to discuss the implementation of the Paris Agreement, an agreement created within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  

While the Climate Change Conference came and left the city of Marrakech, plans to make the city’s infrastructure pro-environment have moved forward. Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech’s biggest mosque and one of the largest in the country, has recently been decked out with an array of solar panels. Deutsche Welle reported in February that the mosque recently had the solar panels installed thanks to GIZ, the German society for international cooperation in Morocco, and they are already proving a success. 

Adding solar panels to one of Morocco’s most famous mosques fits within a scheme developed by Morocco’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs, which aims to shift mosques to rely on renewable forms of energy. 

As part of the country’s national agenda, the king said Morocco aims to obtain more than half of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Tags Morocco Environment Africa Renewable energy