How Saudi Arabia cleans up after 2.5m Hajj pilgrims

How Saudi Arabia cleans up after 2.5m Hajj pilgrims

MINA (Rahnuma): Hajj authorities in Saudi Arabia face the daunting task of cleaning up after 2.5 million people as the holy pilgrimage comes to an end.

Rubbish bins and the streets around Islam’s holiest sites overflow with empty plastic bottles and other trash during the short Hajj season.

Some believe that most of the mess is caused by undocumented pilgrims – those without official permits. Those living and working in Makkah say that some people manage to slip through the pilgrim paperwork checkpoints set up by authorities.

The undocumented pilgrims are usually without bookings or places to stay, instead setting up camp on sidewalks or secret locations.

But there is also the issue of density.

All the holy Hajj sites are closely located to each other and the whole area covers eight kilometers square, or around 80 football fields. Maintaining cleanliness among a population of millions on the move becomes a huge feat.

Saudi Arabia spends more than SR2 billion ($530 million) on maintaining the holy sites of Makkah, making it the Kingdom’s largest environmental maintenance program.

“The city of Makkah is not big, but the work that goes into it is massive,” Abdullah Al-Sibai, president of the Institute for Hajj and Umrah Research, told Arab News.

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