Many wonder if this year’s journey of faith will be more environmentally friendly than in previous years. we have noted the logistical challenges of dealing with an influx of more than 3 million pilgrims into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and onwards to the Holy Cities of Makkah and Medinah, which up to how has been done by thousands of buses and private cars.
This in itself is enough of a nightmare to those involved in dealing with conveying so many people to this event, as well as insuring their health and safety during the 4 day event, which in recent years has been affected by diseases such as swine flu, as well as severe flooding from sudden rainstorms at ports of entry like Jeddah in which more than 120 people died.
Taking all of these factors into account, the availability of what is being termed as the “Mekkah Metro” –– a high speed commuter train, and recently mentioned on the Green Prophet blog, is in itself a great improvement in transporting pilgrims to and from the holy sites, even though the new train is only said to be running at 33% capacity.
When the train will be fully operational, this conveyance alone will be able to carry half a million passengers, at a rate of 72,000 passengers per hour. While this feat in itself is a great achievement, and will undoubtedly result in the need for thousands of fewer buses (and the saving of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel) there still remains the problem of transporting all the other Hajj pilgrims, which if present indications hold true, amount to more than 2,500,000 people.
All of this is in addition to the aspects of providing food, clean drinking water, proper sanitation facilities, and medical attention to so many people during the event. The Hajj is undoubtedly the largest mass assembly of people for an event in the world.
Judging from challenges faced in previous years, one of the most difficult for Saudi health and sanitation authorities who are responsible for taking care of so many people congregating in such limited space.
Previous to the start of the 2009 Hajj pilgrimage, representatives of major world religions met in London to try to use the power of faith to help reverse the effects of climate. Muslim leaders who were present at the November 3rd meeting, brought with them the idea of turning the Arabian holy city of Madinah into a green oasis; not only for future pilgrimages but as an example to the Muslim world to abide by the principles of Islam which is said to instruct Muslims to protect the earth.
Whether or not this idea is in the process of becoming a reality, it will continue to a great challenge to deal with the influx of so many Muslim pilgrims for this annual event, no matter what measures are being taken to make the pilgrimage a safer and greener experience for all involved, both pilgrims, and Saudi government authorities as well.
Wishing all our friends a safe and greener Hajj / Umrah.