Qatar is one of the liveliest countries in the Middle East. Sunny weather, delectable cuisine, beautiful culture, and amazing opportunities make the country an attractive location for tourists and residents alike. With one of the highest GDPs in the Arab world, it comes as no surprise that the citizens of the country lead extravagant lifestyles. But it is important to remember that the lifestyle choices we make as individuals have a significant impact on the community and, in turn, the entire country. Qatar’s city-life offers comfort, convenience, and luxury. However, the appeal of all this diminishes when you realise that the pomp we choose to indulge in has caused Qatar to become the country with the highest carbon intensity per capita in the world.

Air Pollution – What is it exactly?

Air pollution is perhaps the most common threat to the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants. The presence of large quantities of unwanted particles, including dust, smog, and greenhouse gases, amongst other pollutants, depletes the quality of the air. Breathing in polluted air can cause an array of health conditions, including breathing difficulties, heart disease, obstructive pulmonary disease, respiratory infections, strokes, and even cancer within the respiratory tract. Major air pollutants include ammonia, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide.

Causes for the Deterioration of Air Quality

It’s not surprising that lifestyle choices that are not particularly eco-friendly are the main culprit behind the air quality (or lack thereof). However, the deteriorating quality of air is not the result of the efforts of one or two contributors. Several natural and anthropogenic agents have intertwined to cause this.


More Cars Than We Need

Emissions from vehicles are a major cause of air pollution. The average number of passenger vehicles per household in 2010 was 3.95. This number is likely to have increased significantly. With a typical passenger vehicle emitting about 4.6 metric tons of CO2 per year, it’s safe to say that cars alone in every household contribute significantly to the country’s declining air quality. Is it really necessary for five people, going to the same store to buy groceries for the same house, to drive there in five different cars? I don’t think so. While it is certainly not practical to completely omit cars from our lives, it is not too difficult to carpool or share vehicles. Consider running as many errands as possible on the same journey instead of having to make several journeys to complete just a day’s worth of errands. As a bonus, you’ll save a little bit on gas money!

The Energy Sector

Qatar is the third-largest exporter of natural gas. The country’s own oil and gas reserves prove sufficient for domestic energy generation. In addition to supporting the economy of the country, natural gas is crucial for energy generation, particularly electricity and heat. In Qatar, citizens are blessed to have access to free water and electricity. Though it might be nice to not have to pay an electricity bill, it makes it easier for people to use energy mindlessly. The overconsumption of electricity wastes energy and adds to the CO2 emitted since large amounts of natural gas will need to be used to meet demand.

Seawater Desalination

If there is one thing that is scarce in Qatar, it would be freshwater resources. It is an urbanized desert, after all. This calls for the need to desalinate seawater. Qatar’s desalination plants are by far the largest consumers of electricity in the country. 99% of the fresh water we need in the country is satisfied by the desalination of sea water. Desalination is a process that has a high energy requirement. This means that we would need to generate a legion of energy to meet our desalination needs. The more energy generated, the more greenhouse gases emitted.

Dust Storms

Dust storms are the most common natural calamity that Qatar experiences. These can occur at any place where there are lots of loose particles that can be blown around by the wind. I have a childhood memory of getting ready for school and waiting for my school bus, wondering why the bus was so late and confused as to why the sky was orange. That was when I found out a public holiday was declared on account of a terrible dust storm. Though eight-year-old me was ecstatic (Holiday! Yay!), I don’t think I would have the same reaction now that I understand the importance of breathing in quality air.

What Can We Do?

As you know, polluted air in Qatar is caused by a mixture of natural and anthropogenic causes. Though some may be out of our control, there are some measures we can take to make an impact, no matter how small.

  • Carpooling is a simple and practical way to reduce emissions. Picking up a colleague on the way to work is not something difficult to integrate into life.
  • Consider using public transportation for your commute.
  • Drive electric cars as opposed to ones that run on petrol or diesel. Electric cars may be the future, but they create their own challenges (more on that in my next blog).
  • Don’t underestimate the power of plants! They filter out pollutants, give you the oxygen you need, and keep your surroundings cool.
  • Be mindful of the consumption of energy.
  • Use water mindfully. A lot goes into obtaining the water you use to drink or take a shower.
  • Consider using environmentally safe paints, and paint with a brush rather than a paint sprayer.
  • Stop, or at least try to limit smoking. It’s better for both you and the environment. A win-win situation.
  • Instead of a charcoal barbecue, try using one that runs on a cleaner fuel, like natural gas.
  • Manage your waste properly. Compost biodegradable waste and upcycle things like tin cans, ice-cream tubs, and plastic bottles.


Air pollution is a threat that is very prominent but, unfortunately, overlooked. Small, simple steps taken by each one of us can have a huge impact on our society. Our planet does so much for us. It is only right that we return the love it gives us. The purpose of this post is not to shame or make anyone feel guilty about their habits and practices. It is meant to spread awareness and educate the members of our global community for the betterment of our society, one electric car at a time.

Souparnika is a high school student in Qatar and an environment enthusiast

Souparnika Rajkumar

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