Going Green: Saudi Arabia to plant 250,000 drought-resistant trees

Al Ghadha park is the world’s largest saxaul botanical garden

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Saudi Arabia's ambitious plan to tackle climate change and desertification could soon take a big leap forward thanks to a hardy desert tree.

Saudi Arabia’s Al Ghadha park holds the Guinness world record for being the biggest botanical garden for saxaul trees — trees that produce seeds only as they become drier.

Abdullah Abduljabar, vice president of Saudi Arabia's Al Ghadha environmental association, says that in a water-scarce region, the conditions are ripe to plant 250,000 more saxaul trees this year.

The saxaul, or Al Ghadha, tree provided firewood, fed animals and sheltered many a Bedouin for centuries in Saudi Arabia’s Unaizah, an ancient waypoint for pilgrims on their way to Makkah in the region of Qassim.

Al Ghadha tree has additional benefits — its roots help bind soil and contain sandstorms.

“The saxaul is a legacy of the people of Unaizah … one of its benefits is that it holds down the sands,” Mr Abduljabar told Reuters.

Bigger than the size of US capital Washington, at 172 square kilometres, Al Ghadha park became a world record holder in December last year.

Saxaul trees typically grow one to four metres high and are indigenous to the deserts of Saudi Arabia, especially in places where the sand is thicker.

The wood from these trees can be used to make furniture and glue, and the tree itself has medicinal uses, Al Ghadha environmental association says.

Aside from its plans to plant 10 billion trees as part of its Green Initiative, Saudi Arabia has also launched a mobile application dedicated specifically for the preservation of Al Ghadha tree.

Through the app, citizens can register their clean-up and tree-planting activities and get rewarded for doing so through competitions that can offer as much as 2,000 Saudi Riyals ($532) to the winner.

Updated: February 15, 2022, 6:37 PM