Planting the seeds of sustainability at Expo 2023 Doha

Interview with Mohamed Ali Alkhoori, Secretary General of Horticultural Expo 2023 Doha

Planting the seeds of sustainability at Expo 2023 Doha

Bureau International des Expositions

Having opened its gates on 2 October, Horticultural Expo 2023 Doha brings the world together under the theme “Green Desert, Better Environment”. Aimed at building greener and more sustainable communities, the Expo has already inspired hundreds of thousands of visitors in its opening weeks. The Secretary General of Expo 2023 Doha, Mohamed Ali Alkhoori, reflects on the significance of this event and the opportunities it presents for Qatar.

Expo 2023 Doha is the first Horticultural Expo to take place in the Middle East. What is the significance of this?

Mohamed Ali Alkhoori: The Middle East, particularly Qatar, faces unique environmental challenges stemming from its arid climate. These pressing challenges are not limited to this side of the world but a growing issue for most nations and especially to those who do not have adequate resources – we are advocating for this cause and will continue to do so.

This brings us to Expo 2023 Doha, the very first International Horticultural Expo in the Middle East, which holds significant global and regional weight. Hosting an event of this scale highlights a paradigm shift towards sustainable agricultural and horticultural practices, and it has the potential to make a real-world impact by addressing desertification and propelling green initiatives in regions facing similar environmental challenges. It offers an opportunity for the Middle East to lead by example and set a precedent, showcase its commitment to environmental sustainability, and share pioneering horticultural solutions on a global stage. In turn, Expo 2023 Doha has the potential to serve as an inspiration for other regions to take similar strides.

How is the theme of the Expo, “Green Desert, Better Environment”, woven into the visitor experience?

Mohamed Ali Alkhoori: Our commitment to sustainability has been carefully woven into every aspect of this event and we have integrated into most if not all of our operations. We have reintroduced a more holistic approach to recycling, having implemented a full recycling policy at the event, encouraging visitors not to just recycle on-site, but also to carry this practice into their daily lives.

We will also implement efficient waste management practices, with the goal of inspiring businesses and governments throughout the region to adopt similar strategies and drive real change. For instance, cafés within the Expo showcase a process of turning coffee grounds into biofuel, a sustainable energy source to power various systems.

"Visitors can witness first-hand how sustainable agricultural practices and horticultural innovations can turn arid regions into thriving, green ecosystem"

The event also features various sustainable 3D printed structures, including features such as children's playgrounds, break areas, and biodegradable furniture. By using more sustainable materials, reducing carbon emissions from production, and facilitating the recycling of products, 3D printing technology offers many environmental benefits. For instance, our Expo benches are crafted using plant-based biodegradable materials, which, once they have degraded, leave seeds in the soil, contributing to the enhancement of greenery of the Al Bidda park area.

Finally, Al Bidda’s park’s convenient location in the heart of Doha and its proximity to the metro station empowers visitors to reduce their carbon footprint by opting for public transportation over taxis or personal vehicles. Visitors can witness first-hand how sustainable agricultural practices and horticultural innovations can turn arid regions into thriving, green ecosystems. This interactive experience, at the core, is about getting everyone involved in making our environment better for tomorrow and generations to come.

What are some of the standout innovative approaches or technologies for mitigating desertification that are showcased at the Expo? How can these solutions be applied in the real world?

Mohamed Ali Alkhoori: In our increasingly urbanised world, countries are embracing creativity to keep green spaces alive and bring horticulture into our bustling cities. This yearning to reshape our living environments is fueling a dynamic wave of horticultural innovation, ready to make a real impact in our everyday lives.

Technological innovation plays an interesting role in our goal of greening the desert. At Expo 2023 Doha, we showcase a range of solutions for a more sustainable world, including hydroponics, waste recycling, underground water utilisation, renewable energy, and plant-based food options. These innovations are integral to our commitment to fostering environmental sustainability.
It cannot be stressed enough that our mission is all about global collaboration. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; we need to hear from everyone, be it climate enthusiasts, researchers, young people, and governments from around the world to exchange ideas and strategize on de-desertification and climate change solutions.

"Technological innovation plays an interesting role in our goal of greening the desert"

Horticulture and the cultivation of plants stand as foundational pillars of sustainable living. At Expo 2023 Doha, we are not only here to stress the significance of this integration but also to exemplify practical methods for its realisation. In doing so, we place horticulture at the forefront of the battle against climate change - paving the way for a global agricultural transformation.

How is Expo 2023 Doha fostering the transmission of knowledge and the sharing of ideas, particularly among younger generations?

Mohamed Ali Alkhoori: Empowering young voices in climate change discussions is not just an option; it is a necessity. These bright minds hold the key to educating all of us about sustainability and fostering the transmission of knowledge and the sharing of ideas will help leaders drive policies and decisions against climate change.

At Expo 2023 Doha, we are making sure young people are encouraged to take a proactive approach to sustainability. We have set up school visits in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, to ensure that they are part of this crucial conversation from the get-go, and this will carry on post Expo 2023 Doha.

"Every one of us has a role to play in preserving our environment and conserving natural resources"

We have also partnered with renowned universities and private companies to develop sustainable agricultural systems, specifically tailored for desert climates. The research kick-starts right alongside the Expo 2023 Doha, and the insights gleaned will be compiled into a report. This report will be shared with countries dealing with desertification challenges to help them increase greenery and combat desertification more effectively.

Our goal is to send a resounding message to our communities: every one of us has a role to play in preserving our environment and conserving natural resources. Together, with the younger generation at the helm, we are taking concrete steps towards a greener, more sustainable future.

In addition to the pavilions, gardens and exhibits, how is the events and cultural programme contributing towards the Expo’s impact and outreach?

Mohamed Ali Alkhoori: The events and cultural programme woven into the exhibition's fabric are pivotal in enhancing its impact and outreach. By serving as a platform for dialogue and the exchange of new ideas, the exhibition will host a diverse array of educational initiatives.

These include the interactive "Eco-Majlis" panel discussions, drawing in participants from diverse backgrounds, including environmentalists, policymakers, and business leaders. The exhibition will also screen documentaries on climate change and sustainability for the public, further contributing to its mission of fostering awareness and knowledge exchange. These carefully curated programmes will enrich the exhibition's influence and outreach, making it a dynamic hub of engagement and enlightenment.

What legacy do you hope Expo 2023 Doha will leave for Doha, Qatar, and the broader international community in terms of promoting sustainable horticultural practices and addressing environmental challenges like desertification?

Mohamed Ali Alkhoori: Expo 2023 Doha is set to catapult Qatar to the forefront of horticultural and agricultural innovation, sparking a trend that we hope the entire region will eagerly follow. Our vision extends beyond the Expo's duration; we want to inspire neighbouring nations to take bold steps in the fight against desertification and embrace greener, more sustainable futures.

We are on a mission to transform mindsets. One of the primary objectives of the Expo is to cultivate lasting change and awareness among our citizens and residents regarding the immense potential of plants and sustainability. Through engaging educational and entertaining initiatives such as public talks, workshops, and engaging activities – we are already planting the seeds of sustainability deep within the hearts and minds of the Qatari people. The Expo aims to create a legacy that resonates long after the gates to the world close.

"We are already planting the seeds of sustainability deep within the hearts and minds of the Qatari people"

As for our Expo gardens, they are a continuous gift and the vibrant greenery brought in from around the world will breathe life into Al-Bidda park, turning it into the lush heart of Doha. Once the Expo is a chapter is closed, the Expo House, a remarkable embodiment of green architecture, will persist as a venue for events, assuring that Expo 2023 Doha's influence endures for years to come.

 

Expo 2023 Doha is open until 28 March 2024. For more information, visit the Expo's official website.

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