The Qatar National Day (QND) 2021 slogan, “Ancestral Meadows: A Matter of Trust”, reflects the Qatari people’s attachment to their environment, heritage and legacy. Qataris used to mirror the simplicity of their environment, and the gentleness of their morals and humility is rooted in the gentleness of their land.
Being a Qatari research and graduate studies university, Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) acts as a catalyst for positive transformation in Qatar and the region while having a global impact.
The university pays considerable attention to conserving the Qatari environment, culture and national legacy through its colleges and research institutes. For example, the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) has a myriad of projects and initiatives for conserving the environment, the College of Islamic Studies (CIS) develops distinctive programs for conserving the Qatari environment, culture and architecture, and the College of Health and Life Sciences (CHLS) plays a vital role in maintaining the Qatari culture and heritage through its efforts to enhance equestrianism and veterinary equine care.
Since its launch 10 years ago, QEERI has supported Qatar in tackling its challenges related to energy, environment and water. The institute works closely with national and international partners to provide tangible solutions to Qatar’s fight against climate change and in advancing sustainability in the country and beyond. Such support includes cutting-edge research and innovation in areas including energy, air quality, and water, in line with Qatar National Vision 2030 and the National Research Strategy.
QEERI also plays a pivotal role in helping the country to integrate sources of clean energy in the national power system and in developing a sustainable energy market in Qatar. QEERI contributed to the Siraj-1 photovoltaic (PV) solar power plant (also known as Al Kharsaah), by providing solar radiation data and monitoring the construction with the help of drones, among other activities. This solar plant is a groundbreaker in Qatar and serves as the first step towards the country’s long-term objective to produce 20 percent of its electricity through solar energy by 2030.Earlier this year, QEERI released the first Qatar Solar Atlas, a tool that quantifies the country’s solar resource and its geographical distribution.
In addition, an innovative methodology was developed to clean dust from PV panels with the help of automatic robots in desert environments. It is managed under the institute’s Solar Consortium and is the first of its kind and cements QEERI’s reputation as a global leader in PV research.
QEERI has assumed a leading role in addressing the environmental and water challenges faced by Qatar. The institute has developed a number of new types of filtration technologies, which address environmental problems from removal of small oil droplets from seawater (thus protecting desalination plants), to home filter units which can avoid bacteria and other contamination in household water supplies. QEERI has also developed a seawater desalination pilot plant that is showing higher efficiency and better environmental friendliness than conventional technology – both in energy recovery to reduce thermal energy consumption, and cost effectiveness. Additionally, a pilot for polishing of treated sewage effluent from wastewater treatment plants has been established to help to maximize the circular water economy, encouraging increased reuse of high quality treated water. A collaboration with NASA’s OASIS project will see the application of satellite data for groundwater mapping in the coming years, with a focus on water security in the region.
QEERI is at the forefront of national efforts to enhance environmental sustainability in Qatar. The institute established multidisciplinary research programs in sustainability, climate change, environmental chemistry and microbiology, and air quality, aimed at understanding the complex interaction between the atmosphere, water and land systems and leveraging that knowledge to develop technology and policy solutions to preserve and enhance environmental and human health in the country. In 2021, QEERI participated in the development of the Qatar Environmental Strategy (QES), now spearheaded by the new Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MoECC), and will play an instrumental role in its execution in years to come.
QEERI also brings its scientific expertise and extensive capabilities to support national stakeholders to achieve their objectives for Qatar. For example, QEERI works with the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) to monitor the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in municipal wastewater to better understand the levels of community infection, which is critical in developing the appropriate intervention strategies. QEERI is also executing a project for the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SCDL) and the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 LLC (Q22) to deliver hyperlocal air quality measurements at all stadiums during the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021 and the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. This data provides tournament organizers the opportunity to make informed decisions to improve air quality at the stadiums by better managing emissions sources within the stadium grounds.
Conservation of local culture and heritage forms a core mandate for the College of Islamic Studies (CIS) in general, and its master’s program in Islamic Art, Architecture, and Urbanism (IAAU) in particular. This can be illustrated through a recent project conducted by its current cohort of students, who ideated a set of design proposals for a garden in Qatar that was informed by the local culture and Islamic heritage.
Commenting on this project, Dr. Akel Kahera, Professor of Islamic Architecture and Urbanism at CIS, said: “The idea of the garden was inspired by the history of the “Islamic Garden,” most notably the Alhambra palace gardens and Safavid gardens. Students consider these themes as a design strategy in order to effectively respond to behavioral and cultural values as well as human aspirations for Qatar’s specific urban context.”
All of the decorative and architectural elements deployed in the planning of the garden use a range of symmetries that can be classified as belonging to Qatar and to a distinct Muslim aesthetic tradition. The subtlety and beauty of the garden designs that the students proposed responds to the culture of Qatar.
The plan promotes leisure and education, with an unparalleled mode of thinking about landscape design. The plan also explores the use of water, local plants, vegetation, edible fruits, floral trees, and shrubs, encompassing a breadth of local natural elements to enhance the human experience and to emphasize the landscape design as a direct response to the local climatic conditions.
Through its Master of Science (MS) in Islamic Art, Architecture and Urbanism program, CIS equips the next generation of curators, historians, and designers with a critical and informed understanding of the outstanding Qatari and Islamic art and architecture. The program qualifies experts who are able to combine heritage with contemporary techniques and trends by providing innovative architectural and urban design solutions that promote self-identity in the region. This program encourages research towards safeguarding the Qatari and Islamic cultural heritage by examining the contextual history of Islamic art, architecture, and urbanism.
Arabian horses hold a cultural significance for Qatari people that is deeply rooted in their heritage and traditions. In line with the national attention paid to equestrianism as a leading component of the Qatari culture, CHLS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Equine Veterinary Medical Center (EVMC) in February 2019 to collaborate in areas of research conducted to expand veterinary competencies.
EVMC is a state-of-the-art equine veterinary center with the latest technologies in imaging, surgery, internal medicine, sports medicine, rehabilitation and reproduction. Its mission is to deliver exceptional diagnostic and therapeutic veterinary services, create outstanding research and educational initiatives, to serve and engage the community.
Commenting on the collaboration between CHLS and EVMC, Dr. Edward Stuenkel, Founding Dean of CHLS, said: “Our cooperation with EVMC, which has been in place since the inception of the center, provides us with an opportunity to expand the research performed at the systems and stem cell levels of the life sciences performed on equines. Our shared objectives will allow the application of state-of-the-art medical treatments and genomic science advances in veterinary equine care.”
Aside from being a veterinary hospital, EVMC has a strong research and education component, therefore it was a natural progression for EVMC staff to seek adjunct academic appointments at CHLS, to fortify the academic foundations of EVMC and bring solid fundamental research to enhance the welfare of the equine population at a national and international level.
Dr. Stuenkel was a major player and supporter in the development of the animal ethics committee at EVMC. He has been the chair of the committee since its creation, bringing knowledge and expertise to advance equine veterinary research by setting up high international standards. Dr. Tatiana Vinardell was also an essential player who brought the CHLS and EVMC together so as to foster the best research and care for Arabian horses.
HBKU is proud to support Qatar in these initiatives and its students, faculty, staff, partners, and leadership all share a common belief in the power of higher education and research to make a positive impact in the development of the nation.
The university is committed to building national research capabilities that drive collaboration with the world’s best institutions, cultivating leaders for the future, propelling Qatar’s knowledge-based economy and shaping novel solutions for a global impact.