A proposal by five Abu Dhabi higher education students to separate and repurpose the water used in the process of Wudhu — the washing of the arms and face in the mosque before prayer — won first place, and funding of up to AED 18,350 (USD 5,000) for implementation, at the conclusion of the inaugural Sila Abu Dhabi conference. Conceived and organized entirely by students, and hosted by the NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Institute, the conference brought together more than 50 students from eight universities across Abu Dhabi this weekend to brainstorm and develop proposals for sustainable local projects tackling environmental issues in the areas of energy, water, and recycling and waste management. The participating students from Abu Dhabi University, Higher Colleges of Technology, Khalifa University, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, NYUAD, the Petroleum Institute, Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, and Zayed University were divided into 12 teams, encouraging collaboration between students from different institutions.
The “Green Wudhu” team — comprising Ameera Almarzooqi (Khalifa University), Hamad AlHammadi (Zayed University), Margaux Hein (Paris Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi), Rida Gul Qadir (Abu Dhabi University), and Mandy Tan (NYUAD) — informed its project development through speaking to the Imam of a neighborhood mosque who gave the students valuable insights about water usage in the mosque and encouraged them to pursue the project.
Determining that one individual can use up to nine gallons of water a day through the process of Wudhu five times a day, and accounting for the approximate daily visitors to the mosque, the team calculated that the local mosque they visited used 2,628,000 gallons a year. By changing the course of the Wudhu pipelines to a separate collection tank, the team proposed that this still relatively clean water could be reused for watering the landscape around the mosque — resulting in saved water, energy, and money. Starting with a pilot project in one mosque, and following with a study of its results, the team plans to eventually reach out to other mosques in Abu Dhabi to implement the same technique.
“We wanted to do something related to our environment locally in Abu Dhabi,” Almarzooqi explained. “It’s really great to see something that is our idea actually being implemented, especially as it’s something that will benefit my country.”
The first runner-up team developed a project called “Ethra’a” that proposes to create a fertilizer from camel manure and charred palm tree fronds to produce a biochar substance that can be mixed with soil, allowing it to retain water up to six times better than the average soil, thus leading to significant groundwater savings.
“It was hard work, but I managed to be part of a great team. We’ve already been approached by people to develop this project, and we will still make this project happen,” Zayed University student Abdulla Al Hashidi said.
The project “Dhabi Share” was second runner up for its proposal to create a web platform, targeted to local university students, to encourage safe carpooling throughout the emirates.
Sila Connection, the organizing group of the Sila Abu Dhabi conference, will continue to plan similar conferences concerning different local and global issues in the years to come.
NYUAD student and founder of Sila Connection Alf Lim said: “The event has been a great success; the fact that students from universities across Abu Dhabi came together to develop these amazing projects has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Industry leaders who attended the event have already said that they are interested in funding some of the runners up.”