The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) released its annual report for 2014 in both English and Arabic, highlighting its efforts and commitment to protecting and enhancing air quality, groundwater, marine water quality, soil and the biodiversity of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi’s desert and marine ecosystem. The report outlines the various partnerships the EAD enjoys with the public and private sectors, non-governmental entities and environmental organisations at the local and global scale.
The EAD’s top accomplishments implemented throughout 2014 are summarised in the report, and include the inception of a new sustainable fresh water reserve in Liwa. EAD also developed new policies to protect marine water quality and support environmental sustainability in the Emirate, and also conducted the Abu Dhabi Emirate Terrestrial Baseline Survey which provided valuable information on the important species and their distribution, with the information having contributed to declaring new protected areas.
By the end of 2014, EAD developed the marine and terrestrial protected area network representing 13.2% of the marine biome, and the terrestrial protected areas (TPAs) representing 10.5% of the terrestrial biome of Abu Dhabi Emirate. In addition, it successfully completed the mapping of Abu Dhabi’s Terrestrial and Marine Habitats Land Use and Land cover.
In his message, H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in the Western Region and Chairman of EAD, said: “We live in a world where our environment and climate is globally connected. Mankind is altering the climate through emissions – particularly greenhouse gases, which in turn are altering sea levels and the chemistry of our oceans. The quality of our air and marine water today is a result of not only our own actions, but those of our neighbours with whom we also rely on food and other resources.
“Therefore, it is becoming increasingly important that at a Federal level, as an Emirate and as individuals, we act as noble global citizens, minimising our environmental impact and providing regional and global leadership where we can. The role of the EAD to support this work has never been more important. We also see globally more and more species becoming threatened through direct persecution and loss of habitat,” HH Sheikh Hamdan added.
“EAD contributes to global conservation efforts in a number of ways. We play a significant global role in supporting dugongs and raptors by supporting the work of the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS). The Arabian Gulf, and in particular the waters of Abu Dhabi, are home to one of the world’s largest populations of dugongs. The UAE is also home to a range of 42 species of African-Eurasian migratory birds of prey, including the endangered Saker Falcon, Sooty Falcon and the Egyptian Vulture. The development of a Global Action Plan for the Saker Falcon is very encouraging and we hope it will help in developing sustainable falconry in the UAE and promote long-term conservation of the species, which is an integral part of our tradition” HH Sheikh Hamdan noted.
Referring to the EAD’s achievements in 2014, HH Sheikh Hamdan said “EAD’s work in ex-situ conservation continues to go from strength to strength. Abu Dhabi holds one of the largest populations of Scimitar-horned Oryx in the world with over 3,500 individuals. We are now ready to implement ‘a first-of-its-kind’ reintroduction of the Scimitar-horned Oryx from our collection in Abu Dhabi to the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve in Chad”.
HH Sheikh Hamdan concluded with a message on fisheries saying: “As in many parts of the world, the fisheries in Abu Dhabi waters are on the brink of collapse and more than 85% of fish being caught are from over-exploited species. We need to act now, so I am pleased that EAD, working together with the Federal Ministry of Environment and Water and other key stakeholders, has developed the UAE Fisheries Change Management Programme. This five-year strategy will mean a significant restructuring of both commercial and recreational fisheries to bring our fish stocks back into balance and then recovery. Creating the space for our fish stocks to recover is essential for the long term viability of our fisheries and to protect our fishing heritage.”
In his foreword to the report, H.E. Mohammed Al Bowardi, EAD’s Managing Director, said: “Population, economic growth, and industrial diversification in Abu Dhabi have continued at a rapid pace. To ensure that Abu Dhabi remains a great place to live for our families and future generations it is important that such growth is sustainable and that we balance economic, social and environmental interests through informed decision making”.
“To do this we continue to look to EAD to provide real-time information, both qualitative and quantitative, on how the environment is responding to our social and economic development. We also look to EAD to provide us with thought leadership and advice on best practices in sustainable growth. This is particularly important in areas where continuing with ‘business as usual’ may have negative consequences such as over abstraction of groundwater and high per capita consumption of electricity and water,” HE Al Bowardi added.
HE Al Bowardi stressed: “It’s important that environmental protection remains a key pillar of the Government’s vision as our population, economy and the built environment grow. The Abu Dhabi capital region is currently home to around 1.4 million people. By 2030, this number is predicted to grow to 2.4 million, putting significant pressure on habitats, particularly around the coast, on limited resources such as water, on marine water quality and air quality, and on our waste infrastructure.
“EAD is prepared and ready to take on these challenges. In 2014, EAD launched a new corporate strategy to ensure the organisation continues to focus on its key priorities and the increasing pressures on the environment. Working with key stakeholders, and on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Government, EAD has led the development of the Abu Dhabi Environmental Policy Agenda and is supporting environmental strategies for climate, air quality, waste, water, biodiversity and marine water quality. Collectively, these strategies form the environmental green growth agenda for Abu Dhabi and will contribute positively to the achievement of the UAE Vision 2021 and the Federal Green Growth Strategy,” HE Al Bowardi added.
Commenting on EAD 2014 achievements, H.E. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, EAD’s Secretary General, said: “We live in a time of significant change;, in Abu Dhabi we are seeing rapid economic growth and development. As an environmental regulator, we need to stay ahead of this change, to enable growth that is sustainable, within resource limits, and that does not pollute and deteriorate our environment.
“Our regulatory role is a key part of our mandate. An open, transparent and consistent regulatory approach is important not only to protect the environment and human health but to help attract inward investment- investors like a low risk operating environment,” she added.
H.E Al Mubarak said: “During 2014, we took a number of actions to strengthen this regulatory role to meet the needs of the future. For example, EAD and the Judiciary Department have started a common initiative to activate the role of environmental courts in Abu Dhabi, following international best practice.
“At the Abu Dhabi level, EAD completed the development of the Abu Dhabi Environmental Policy Agenda and supporting strategies for Air, Climate Change, Water, Biodiversity, Waste and Marine Water Quality. The Policy Agenda and strategies have been used to inform the development of the urban master plans for the Abu Dhabi Capital, Al Ain, Al Gharbia and the Plan Maritime, as well as the update of the economic plan” she said.
She noted: “Sometimes, however, we need to significantly rethink the way we do things to ensure growth is sustainable. Our fish stocks have been exploited well beyond the sustainable limit, so we are developing strategies to restore our fisheries. EAD has also developed the ‘water budget’ approach as a way for Abu Dhabi to plan growth within a given volume of water. This approach allocates water to specific sectors in the economy, using the same principles of financial budget allocation”.
“Through effective implementation of our core mandate, and bold thought leadership where it is required, we can protect the environment whilst safeguarding human health and future economic growth” she concluded.