Dr. Mohammed Irfan-Ullah
Project Manager, Environmental Monitoring Information System of Kuwait (eMISK)
Email: [email protected]
Authentic environmental information is fast becoming a necessity, just like any other strategic information necessary for human health and sustainable use of our environmental resources. Issues ranging from reduced availability of fresh water, contamination of natural systems, waste management, sustainable use of resources, population growth, air pollution and climate changes, conservation of biodiversity and land degradation to remediation of oil spills and land mines have all remained hot topics of discussion at public forums and media conferences in Kuwait.
To tackle the above mentioned challenges through the provision of sound geo-environmental data, the Kuwait Environment Public Authority (KEPA) took an initiative in 2010 by establishing the ‘Environmental Monitoring Information System of Kuwait (eMISK)’, as a unique repository of geo-environmental information relating to Kuwait that is shared commonly with people over the internet.
eMISK’s vision and mission
eMISK is an ambitious project initiated and implemented by the Environmental Inspections, Monitoring and Emergencies Department (EIMED) at Kuwait EPA. It envisions an internationally recognised centre of excellence for analysis and dissemination of environmental knowledge, providing authoritative strategic and timely information for the government, companies, researchers and the Kuwaiti public for development and implementation of policies and decisions for a sustainable environment. It thus carries a mission to evaluate and highlight the values of the environment and put authoritative environmental knowledge at the centre of decision-making in Kuwait.
- Support KEPA in its duties and mandates for environmental monitoring
- Support the development and adoption of policies and practices contributing to conservation and sustainable use of the environment
- Create credible knowledge on the state and value of the environment in Kuwait through assessment, analysis and reporting of environmental data
- Promote and disseminate environmental knowledge to all levels of the Kuwaiti society through a web portal
- Be a trusted national repository, source and a clearinghouse for geo-environmental datasets
- Be a centre of excellence for training in geo-environmental analysis in the region
In order to achieve its goals, eMISK’s approach towards efficient environmental information management is focused on four levels (figure 1, left). In the first level, basic data is collected from different sources, prepared and integrated to create meaningful information, which is analysed to establish knowledge about various environmental issues in Kuwait. This, in turn, is deployed to support the decision-making process of all Kuwaiti society.
Figure (1): eMISK’s approach to environmental information management (left) and corresponding eMISK implementation phases.
The ‘Envionmental Monitoring Information System of Kuwait (eMISK)’ is composed of three major components namely:
- Geo-Environmental Database
- Kuwait Official Environmental Portal “www.beatona.net”
The eMISK geo-environmental database is composed of 11 domains (see figure 2, below), 39 sub-domains, 210 GIS layers and over 900 parameters.
Figure (2): Domains of eMISK geo-environmental database
Among the major contributions of eMISK to Kuwait has been the development of an official environmental portal of Kuwait, called “Beatona” (www.beatona.net). The word “Beatona” stands for “Our Environment” in Arabic language and represents EPA’s commitment towards creating environmental awareness among the people of Kuwait. Contributions from various government entities and organisations form an integral part of the information offered through Beatona, due to which it proudly boasts of being the one and only, ‘one-stop-shop’, for sharing authentic environmental information in Kuwait.
Beatona was formally released for public access on March 31, 2012. Since then, it has been maintained with continuously improving content and functionality. Beatona today shares all possible environmental information over the internet to facilitate easy access to the valid scientific information on Kuwait’s environment. The portal is envisioned to play a leading role in raising awareness of the value of the environment among Kuwait residents.
The information hosted on Beatona is made available through two main components, namely, the “Environmental Explorer” and the “Knowledge Base”. The “Environmental Explorer” holds a wealth of first-hand environmental information in the form of geographic maps, GIS layers and time series data for various environmental parameters (including; air quality, water quality, quality of marine water and sediments and many other parameters).
It can be dynamically viewed and/or analysed by the user to get answers to specific questions. This feature allows the user to compose, download and print maps for various purposes. The application allows overlaying and manipulating the appearance of the map layers to compose and print high quality, professional maps without any cost. The underlying benefit of this is that the user, at any given time, has direct access to the most updated information on any component of Kuwait’s environment. The Environment Explorer also has modules to inform public on the quality of Air and Water through modules called “Our Environment Status”, where the user can see for himself the quality of Air and Water through a time window of his/her choice.
Beatona also has a comprehensive section on environmental knowledge base that is home to all kinds of articles, news and multi-media files including videos, photographs, magazines and maps related to Kuwait and its environment. The information under this section is organised in an easy to manoeuvre interface that bares all information, grouped into easy to follow domains. All information in this section is available for free download and use.
Some of Beatona’s highlights include:
- All available information is now systematically archived and made available through a single geo-environmental database.
- The information can now be easily queried, analysed and interpreted using standard GIS-based functions.
- The information is continuously updated with latest inputs from various sources.
- The information is easily accessible for verification, allowing for improved efficiency in rectification of mistakes.
- Improved environmental awareness among the users based on scientifically valid and authentic sources of information.
Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) is an integral part of Beatona. The portal offers an excellent tool based on the concept called “Fix Our Environment”, which is designed to seek public inputs in the upkeep of environmental health and hygiene of the region. The application allows the public to directly access the website and locate issues of environmental concern using a web-based enterprise GIS system. It also allows the people to report a problem that needs attention. The information thus submitted is reviewed by the content administrator and classified and marked for attention and action by the appropriate department. Accordingly, the latest status is reflected on the web-portal for the information of the public.
The operation of the tool is designed in simple steps where the user can also upload photographs captured using mobile phones. Once the problem is addressed or needs further clarification from the reporter, the concerned staff of the respective department can directly approach the user through optionally provided phone numbers or email address. This has positively contributed in improving urban surroundings and for inciting timely action from government authorities. The service has evoked a positive response from the citizens.
In the near future, Beatona is contemplating on launching another VGI initiative with a focus on bringing volunteered amateur information on the sightings of birds and other wild species spotted within the land and marine territories of Kuwait. This particular initiative is planned to be designed for wild-life enthusiasts, bird watchers and amateur fishing and diving members of the society to report their occasional findings into the volunteered living resource registry of Kuwait.
The information thus submitted will be broadly classified into kingdoms, phylum, orders etc. and sent for ratification by the appropriate subject matter specialists for approval. Once ratified, it will be reported with the authority of the person who reported the presence along with scientific and common name of the species for the knowledge of public.
It is hoped that a freely downloadable mobile phone application would allow the users to upload geo-tagged photographs and descriptions, giving unprecedented boost to the inventory of wild animals and plants of Kuwait.