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Environment - National day 2001

posted on 30/11/2001: 1581 views


The UAE gives special attention to the conservation and development of the environment thanks to the personal care lent by President H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of the environment and wildlife. Over the course of the last year, a number of important steps have been taken, both at a federal and a local level, which will help to promote the country's environmental agenda.



At a federal level, the Federal Environmental Agency, FEA, commenced preparing the executive order for the federal law no. 24 for 1999 on the protection and development of environment. The rules, which will be approved by the Cabinet, include more strict measures and standards on environmental issues. In its 101 separate articles, the law gives particularly strong protection to the marine life, with over 40 articles concerning marine transportation and pollution and the respective penalties applicable to a vessel found in breach of any specified offence.



The FEA has also drafted regulations for management of medical and hazardous wastes in the country. The regulations, once approved, will be incorporated into the executive order of the Federal Law No. 24 of 1999. The 15-article draft specifies the authorities, which will issue licences for each type of hazardous and medical waste and explains procedures and terms and conditions to be followed to obtain a licence or to import, transport, store and dispose of hazardous chemical materials. The draft will be submitted to a technical committee for review and approval before its incorporation into the executive order of the law.



In cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, the FEA has also prepared draft legislation on the use, import and production of pesticides and fertilisers in the country. The legislation also specifies a number of banned pesticides. The FEA has also continued work on the preparation of a programme to assess the impact of development projects on environment before approval is given for development. This programme will be carried out in association with designated local authorities, such as Abu Dhabi's Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, ERWDA. Existing projects will have two years to come in line with the new legislation. The FEA is also currently engaged in preparation of a series of draft laws on air pollution, protection of nature reserves, general environmental specifications and standards. These drafts are expected to be finalised by early next year and will be referred to the federal cabinet for approval.



During the course of 2001, the FEA has completed preparation of the national environmental strategy and the environment action plan, which have been designed as part of plans to implement the decisions of the UN conference on environment and development held in Brazil in 1992. The strategy is based on the UAE's commitment to conservation of the environment and sustainable development by application of environmental factors in planning of national development projects. The strategy also reflects the UAE's environmental agenda for the 21st century. It was drawn up in cooperation with all environmental and development bodies in the country, including the relevant local agencies. It was divided into ten sectors: municipalities, water and marine life, planning and urban development, agriculture, industry, energy, health, education, environmental awareness and oil and gas. Work on the three-phase project was completed in September 2000.

In June 2001, on behalf of the Government, the FEA signed the UN convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in Stockholm. The new convention was drafted in response to resolutions issued by the ministerial council of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) at its 19th session in February 1997, and is intended to regulate the production, circulation and use of the pollutants as well as to curb hazards posed by them. POPs are a group of organic compounds containing dangerous and toxicant elements. At the national level, the implementation of Federal Law No. 24 on the protection and development of the environment which came into effect in February last year is part of the process of tackling the threat posed by POPs to the environment.



The FEA has also carried out several studies as part of plans to create a national environmental database that will help decision-making and policy-making. The study surveyed 333 industrial firms across the country to assess environmental factors and found that chemical and physical pollutants in these firms were within the permitted limits. The FEA has also prepared the UAE national report on implementing the UN agreement on combating desertification, using data supplied by local agencies and other bodies. UAE laws to combat desertification, national strategies, and work plans have also been prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries in co-operation with international organisations.

The FEA has recruited a team of inspectors to ensure the enforcement of the new legislation. While the FEA has been responsible over the course of the last year for environmental activities at a federal level, the local agencies, like Abu Dhabi's ERWDA, the Food and Environmental Control Centre, FECC, of the Abu Dhabi Municipality and the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority, EPAA, have also been in developing their activities. In Abu Dhabi, an environment-monitoring network has been installed which has proved that harmful pollutants and radiation in the emirate were far lower than approved international levels.



The network includes three monitoring stations which focused on assessing radiation and pollution in the region, particularly ozone-depleting gases. On the directives of President H. H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi authorities have also offered financial and technical support for industrial areas to help factories in recycling efforts of industrial wastes to minimise the amount of chemical waste being deposited in landfills.



During 2001, the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, ERWDA, has made major steps forward in implementing the mandate assigned to it by Government. The Agency is chaired by HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and operates under the supervision of its Deputy Chairman, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan. One major achievement was the completion of the five-year environmental strategy for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (2000-2004), which was developed after discussions with all concerned parties in the Emirate. A joint action plan is due to be approved early in 2002.

Another important achievement during the year was the leading role played by ERWDA in the organisation of the " Environment 2001 Conference and Exhibition," in collaboration with the General Exhibition Co-operation, GEC, Federal Environmental Agency. FEA, and the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP. The conference's recommendations together with the "Abu Dhabi Declaration, approved by a meeting of Arab environment ministers held in association with the conference, will help decision-makers and environmental agencies in the UAE and the rest of the Arab world to develop sustainable environmental projects and plans to meet the 21st century challenges.



Planning is now under way for the next conference, the Environment and Energy 2003 Conference and Exhibition, to be held in Abu Dhabi from 2- 5 February 2003. Sustainable use of energy and the transfer of environmentally sound technologies. During the year, ERWDA published the first Abu Dhabi Coastline Oil Spill Protection Priorities Atlas, compiled in association with a number of other bodies, including the ADNOC Group and the Abu Dhabi islands Archaeological Survey, ADIAS. This atlas is part of ERWDA's initiative to establish an Environmental Database (EDB) for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi through developing a sophisticated Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Relational Database Management System (RDBMS). The EDB will be a major scientific and management asset for other organs of Government as well as ERWDA. In particular, the of an Environmental Information Infrastructure in the Government sector will result in a substantial efficiency improvements, by eliminating the duplication of efforts to collect data and will facilitate the provision of relevant data to decision makers.



In the field of wildlife, the Agency's National Avian Research Centre (NARC) expanded its activities recently to play a bigger role in preserving and developing wildlife, especially houbara and falcons. NARC developed during the year 2001 a comprehensive conservation strategy for the Asian Houbara. This strategy urges that concerted conservation measures between all stakeholders must be taken immediately to reduce the pressure on these birds if the art of Arab falconry is to be continued. Other activities by NARC included a continuation of its satellite tracking programme for houbara as well as the rehabilitation of around 500 houbara, confiscated by UAE Customs Officials. These birds were used mainly for captive breeding, although a number were released back into the wild in the Cholistan desert in Pakistan. NARC also participated this year in the seventh year of the Sheikh Zayed's Falcon Release Programme. A total of 585 falcons, both peregrines and sakers, have now been released since the project began in 1995. The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, operated by ERWDA, expanded its services to cover GCC countries in addition to UAE. Since it opened, in October 1999, the hospital has provided medical care for over 2,600 falcons.

In the marine wildlife a fish data collection programme, initiated in May 2000, continued has continued. Eight species are now being studied, including popular species such as hamour, zubaydi and kana'ad. The programme will help to evaluate status of the fish stocks, monitor changes in the abundance of these stocks and predictions on future trends. The Agency is also planning to conduct a fish stock assessment survey of the waters of the UAE to provide near-term assessment and obtain improved estimates of stock sizes for the major fish species, while it has continued to collect information about habitats, geographical distribution, population, and the biology of marine turtles and dugongs, both of which are endangered. ERWDA is authorised under the terms of federal laws to licence all commercial fishermen in Abu Dhabi, and between May 2000 and early November this year, a total of 970 licenses have been issued.



ERWDA has also continued work during 2001 on planning for protected areas in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. In particular, studies have been carried out on the area between Abu Al Abyadh and Bu Tinah Island, as part of planning to establish a marine protected area. This will also include the islands of Merawah, Fiyya and Al Bazm Al Gharbi, where the Agency is working with the Abu Dhabi islands Archaeological Survey, ADIAS, to protect the archaeological sites on the islands as part of the overall protection and management plan. Work is also continuing on the development of the Al Wathba Lake, 40 km. from Abu Dhabi, as a major centre for environmental education and as a nature reserve. Over 200 species of birds have been seen at the Lake, which is also the only site in mainland Arabia where the breeding of greater flamingos has been recorded. ERWDA has also continued its studies into mangroves, and is working with the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) of investigation the growth of non-native species of mangrove in saline environments.



In October, a workshop on the freshwater resources of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi was organised in association with the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, (ESCWA, and local bodies. The objective, part of ERWDA's Strategic Plan for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, is to develop and implement a management regime for freshwater resources. In the last year ERWDA has also participated, with the FEA and UNEP, in the organisation of a Round table in Abu Dhabi on Cleaner Production. This recommended the establishment of a National Centre for Cleaner Production and the adoption of the latest and advanced technology in industrial and economic sectors to reduce hazard impacts on human and environment. A major focus of the Agency's activities has been the spreading of its environmental education programme to more Government and private schools in the Emirate, through lectures and the organisation of field trips.



As part of the programme, ERWDA in cooperation with the Abu Dhabi Educational Zone organized four training courses (Training of the Trainers) for biology teachers and supervisors to update their environmental knowledge and enable them to acquaint students with environmental issues related to the area. In line with its policy, the Agency continued its cooperation with other local and international environmental institutes in the field of conservation of the environment and wildlife. Several Memoranda of Understanding, MOUs, were signed with related bodies in other countries and organisations to promote co-operation in conservation of the environment and wildlife. These included agreements with the Worldwide Fund for Nature, WWF, and the World Conservation Union, IUCN, both of which now operate locally from their ERWDA Head Office. Internationally, MOUs were also signed with the International Fund for Natural Resources (Pakistan), National Commission for Wildlife Protection (Bahrain), Oman's Office of the Advisor for the Conservation of the Environment, and the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture, ICBA. Locally, an MOU was also signed with the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey, ADIAS, on various aspects of collaboration, including preparation of data for the Abu Dhabi Environmental Database. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)

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