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Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh in talks to engage workers in Kingdom’s green initiatives

DHAKA: Saudi Arabia is open to engaging Bangladeshi workers in its green initiatives, Riyadh’s envoy has said following talks with Dhaka’s new top diplomat.

Nearly 3 million Bangladeshis live and work in Saudi Arabia. They are the largest expat group in the Kingdom and also the biggest Bangladeshi community outside Bangladesh.

Under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, even more of them are likely to find employment in Saudi Arabia, especially if they are skilled professionals or their jobs are related to the vision’s projects.

Riyadh’s Ambassador to Dhaka Essa Al-Duhailan discussed the possibilities during his first meeting with Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud, who recently assumed office following last month’s general election.

The foreign minister is a renowned ecologist and academic specializing in environmental sciences.

“We talked about the Saudi Green Initiative and Middle East Green Initiative to have some farmers and experts from Bangladesh participate … in planting more than 50 billion trees in the region,” Al-Duhailan told Arab News after the meeting on Thursday.

He said the Saudi side was “open to any suggestion and cooperation.”

The green initiatives launched by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in 2021 are focused on combating climate change and safeguarding the environment for future generations in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East through emissions reduction, afforestation, and land and sea protection.

The planting of 50 billion trees across the Middle East is the equivalent of restoring 200 million hectares of degraded land. A fifth of the trees will be planted within the Kingdom’s borders, with the remaining 40 billion set to be planted across the broader region in the coming decades.

The Saudi ambassador said he also discussed with the foreign minister the Kingdom’s plans to streamline the employment of Bangladeshis in order to “ease the procedures for the workers,” as well as preparations for the upcoming Hajj season.

“We will, inshallah, implement the Makkah Route initiative this year, for the fourth (time),” he added.

The Makkah Route initiative is a flagship program launched by Saudi Arabia in 2019, allowing pilgrims to fulfill all visa, customs and health requirements at the airport of origin, saving long hours of waiting. Upon arrival, pilgrims can enter Saudi Arabia without waiting, having already gone through visa and customs processes back home.

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