Threats to Environment and Habitats

Threats to environment and Habitat

The Kuwait marine area is an unique environmental milieu. It shows large variation in summer and winter temperatures, excessively high salinity, shallow bathymetery, higher suspended particulate in northern waters, inputs from the Oil installations, Industrial Area, waste water treatment facilities and the power and desalination plant but still very productive and resilient supporting biodiversity in marine environment.

Much of the coastal area has beach rock formation that can be associated with higher organic content (often anthropogenic discharges). Few natural beaches does exist mostly in areas that are shielded from the strong currents.

Morphological changes in Coastline. Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research has studied the shoreline changes under various projects in KISR. Kuwait’s shoreline has remained stable, with minimal (net) erosion in most areas. However, seasonal erosion and accretion has been observed at several sites. Recently, significant changes in coastal morphology have been observed due to anthropogenic activities i.e. construction of ports, marinas, Sabah Al-Ahmed Sea City, Sheikh Jaber Causeway, Mubarak Al Kabeer Port among others, which might lead to accretion in vicinity of these developments. Most of these developments have no significant adverse impact on the baseline environmental condition.

Fig. 7.1. Mubarak Al Kabeer Seaport

Fig. 7.2. Changes in Kuwait Coast line between 1972 – 2007.

Water Quality. The main drivers affecting the seawater quality in the region are the oil and petrochemical industry, discharge from sewage treatment facilities, oil export activities and the Power and desalination plants. Power and desalination plants discharge high salinity brines into the marine environment. Often these releases have chemicals that are used in the P&D plant’s operational process or their reaction products including antifouling, antifoaming, anti-scaling, anti corrosion additives, besides oxygen scavengers, acid, corrosive products, mainly heavy metals.

Fig. 7.3. pH measurements between January 2007 and December 2014 in Kuwait’s territorial waters (red dashes correspond to minima,  blue to maxima, and green to the average values).

Fig. 7.4. Temperature measurements between January 2007 and December 2014 in Kuwait’s territorial waters (red dashes correspond to the  maximum, blue to the minimum, and green to the average temperatures).

Fig. 7.5. Salinity measurements between January 2007 and December 2014 in Kuwait’s territorial waters (red dashes correspond to minima,  blue to maxima, and green to the average values).

Fig. 7.6. Alkalinity measurements between May 2011 and November 2014 in Kuwait’s territorial waters (red dashes correspond to minima,  blue to maxima, and green to the average values).

The marine biota are capable to bio-accumulate heavy metals and radionuclide’s from the marine water and can be transferred via food chain. Some of these are excreted back and turnaround in environment.

Chlorine (Cl2) is used as an antifouling agent in P & D plants, usually the residual chlorine concentration at outfalls is between 0.1 and 0.2 mg/l. This residual chlorine may react with organic matter, bromide or iodide to form halogenated organic compounds. In a series of secondary reactions, the formed bromine (Br2) and iodine (I2) can form halogenated organic compounds as well.

Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) concentration in seawater range between a minimum concentration of 0.0223 ppm and maximum concentrations of 3.0000 ppm. The average TPH in water samples is 0.17958 ppm ± 0.1392. Higher TPH concentrations are often observed offshore. These high concentrations  in the offshore area can be related to the navigation traffic as well as to illegal dispense of ballast water from tankers and the heavy navigation from Mina Az-Zour , Mina Abdalla and Al- Ahmadi area. Table 1 presents TPH data in different areas of Kuwait.

Table 7.1. Levels of TPHs in Water along Kuwaiti Coastal Region

Location TPH (mg/l)

Min Max

Muderah* 0.39 44.95
Doha* 0.04 28.21
Ras Ushairji* 0.34 32.05
Shuwaikh* .60 44.42
Ras Al-Ajuza* 0.32 28.95
Ras Al-Ardh* 0.00 30.30
Al-Messila* 0.00 7.63
Al-Bida* 0.00 21.73
Al-Fintas* 0.00 22.57
Al-Manga* 0.00 24.20
Mina Abdulla* 0.11 66.82
Al-Julaiah* 0.05 16.85
Ras Az-Zour* 0.08 22.42
Az-Zour** 0.2230 0.4329

          * Marmoush et al 2000, ** Al-Samak et al., 2004

Fig. 7.7. Turbid water in blue shade.

Fig. 7.8. MODIS estimated and measured SPM at ten match up locations along southern transect

Fig. 7.9. MODIS estimated and measured SPM at ten match up locations along northern transect

Sediment Quality. The coastal sediment are usually muddy in north and sandy in south. In Az Zour area the mean grain size (Φ) has a range between a maximum value of 4.800 Φ   (coarse silt) and a minimum value of 0.366 Φ (coarse sand) with an average of 1.679 Φ ± 0.92598. Most of the Az zour area is covered with coarse to medium sand, with some muddy patches. In general the grain size of the sediment becomes finer offshore.

Heavy Metals. The Iron concentration is Kuwait territorial water is higher compared to other open water. Other metals like Ni and V associated with petroleum hydrocarbons are also higher in this region. Higher concentrations of Ni and V are observed offshore and near the oil installations (El Sammak et al 2004). El Sammak and Al-Sarawi (2003) indicated natural oil seepage between Umm Al-Mardem and Qaro islands. The high values for Ni and V indicate that the offshore area was polluted hydrocarbon. The sources of these hydrocarbons can be estimated from the offshore area, through illegal discharge of ballast water, natural seepage, and navigation as well as to the hydrodynamic conditions. Table 2 compares the concentrations of metals in the sediments within the region. It was reported that both Ni and V were present at elevated levels in the intertidal sediments from Kuwait. These elements are present at enriched levels in Kuwait crude oil, and they may therefore act as markers for oil contamination. It is also notable that both nickel and vanadium may persist in sediments over much longer period of time than the typical hydrocarbons. They may consequently provide longer lasting signatures of oil pollution in coastal environments.

Table 7.2. Comparison between the levels of heavy metals in the sediments of Az-Zour area with similar environment (1 = El-Sammak et al, 2004; 2 = Salmons and Förstner, 1984; 3 = Anderlini, et al, 1986, 4, 5, 6, 7 = Basaham and Lihaibi, 1993; 8 = Fowler, et al, 1993; 9= Rl-Sammak et al., 2004).

  Cu(ppm) Ni(ppm) V (ppm) Fe(%)
1. Kuwait Territorial waters
  Range 13.0-1.0 17.0-3.0 30-6.0 0.65 – 0.14
Avg ±Sd.DV 5.56 ± 4.5 8.9±5.33 15.4 ± 8.88 0.36 ±0.2
2. Background value
Limestone 5.1 7.0 45 1.7
Shallow Water sediments 56 35 145 6.5
3. Kuwait (1986)
Range 30-15 120-86 50-30 20-12
Average 22.5 103 40 16
4.Kuwait (1993)
Range 50-34 209-150 134-85 28-12
Average 42 179.5 109.5 20
5.Saudi Arabia
Range 6-3 28-8 11-3.4
Average 4.5 18 19 7.2
6. NE Qatar
Range 36-2.7 6.7-4.9 3.6-2.7 0.007- 0.004
Average 3.2 5.8 3.2
7. Qatar/ Bahrain
Range 4 – 3.8 12.8 – 0.2 7.4-2.7 0.01- 0.006
Average 3.9 6.5 4.6 0.008
8. UAE
Range 7-13 25-12.8 36-7.3 6 -3.6
Average 4.2 18.9 20.7 4.8
9. Az-Zour
Range 18.35 – 49.6 42.2 – 121.5 31.09 – 106.9 1.02 – 2.81
Average 32.6 69.1 58.68 1.6

Hydrocarbons in sediments. Total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) concentrations in sediment samples were analyzed for eight transects along the study area. The analysis of sediment samples for TPH provides a general indication of the level of contamination of coastal area by crude oil and petroleum products. Kuwaiti coastal areas suffer from chronic oil contaminations. The TPH concentrations in the Az-Zour offshore sediments vary between 1.584 ppm and 26.09 ppm with an average of 5.77 ppm + 5.17. The standard deviation value indicates that levels of TPH’s in sediments vary substantially  (Metwally et al, 1997) determined the concentration of total petroleum hydrocarbons in sediments samples collected from eight stations along the coastal area of Kuwait. The TPH concentrations were variable and ranged from 7.43 to 458.61 mg/g dry sediments. Al-Majed et al (2000) mentioned that along the Kuwaiti coast only the sites at Khiran and Ras Az-Zour and possibly Fahaeel, were heavily impacted by the 1991 oil spill. Total hydrocarbons and aliphatic fractions were relatively high at those sites, but were not as high as the measured concentrations neither in Doha Bay sediments nor far from the desalination plant. The distribution of TPHs in the surface areas of Az-Zour Power plant shows almost a homogeneous distribution of TPHs (Fig 39). Elevated values were found only in the inshore area, north to the existing outfall facilities is observed. However, even the highest concentrations of TPHs in this area cannot be considered as an elevated value (<27.ppm) where they are below the average values published for different region along the Kuwaiti coast and within the values observed for Ras Az-Zour area (Table 3).

Table 7.3. Results of TPH in the Sediments from Similar Environments.

Area Concentrations (ppm) Reference
Kuwait 2.0  –  310.0 Zarba et al, 1985
Bahrain 6.3  –  950.0 Linden, 1982
Kuwait 13.7  –  375.0 Literathy et al, 1986
Kuwait 27 – 432 Fowler et al 1993
UAE (Jebel Ali) 16 Fowler et al, 1993
Az-Zour area 1.58 – 26.09

(5.77 + 5.17)

Present study

Fig. 7.10. Coral habitat at Az-Zour area.

Navigation. The area is also having a port Az Zour Port (formerly Mina Saud). This is part of Partitioned Neutral Zone. The port is operated by Saudi Texaco Inc. The Port consists of two offshore berths for the loading of crude oil. Approximately 3,000,000 tons of cargo is handled annually. There is navigation movement near Ras Az-Zour area, where there is an underwater pipeline extending to Ras Az-Zour oil loading terminal. Navigation by leisure boats to and from the recreational and private chalets around Ras Az-Zour area is also quite common.

Recreation. The Az-Zour area includes several recreational activities, including: the private chalets, Public Beach, Al-Khiran resort, Sabah Al Ahmed Sea City Project. Khiran Marina has water and electricity to the berths, fuel station and other supplies. Medical services are in the resort. The basin has a lighthouse equipped with radar and radio with up to a 60-mile range for guiding boats in and out of the marina, although it has been reported that the entrance is difficult and should only be attempted with local help. Another massive Marina and parking has been recently inaugurated in Sabah Al Ahmed Sea City which has capacity to provide berth for more than 400 boats of 30 to 130 ft size.