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Environment 2001 to cover significant regional issues

posted on 31/01/2001: 1438 views


Majid Al Mansouri, Acting Secretary General, Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, ERWDA, said that the forthcoming Environment 2001 Exhibition and Conference is an event of great significance as it represents the first time that the issue of environmental protection is being tackled on a scale that covers the whole of the Arab world.



In an interview with Emirates News Agency (WAM) Al Mansouri also referred to the enormous importance being attached to the Abu Dhabi Declaration to be issued at the conference. "It will lay down guidelines for how the Arab countries should tackle environmental issues, in particular of the sustainable use of resources, for the 21st century. Here in the UAE, we have been closely involved in the work leading up to the Declaration, and we will be committed to implementing it. It will represent a regional model for environmental policy, and we hope that other regions of the world will produce and implement, similar declarations,” he said.



The following is the full text of the interview:

Q: The ENVIRONMENT 2001 Exhibition and Conference is the first major environmental event to be held in the Arab region. Can you comment on its significance?



A: This event is of great importance. There is no doubt now that the global environment is under a growing threat. Thousands of species of wildlife are in danger of extinction. The latest data released by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, earlier this month warns us that global warming is a fact, and one that can be linked directly to the activities of man. Sea-levels are rising, threatening to flood low-lying land around the world. And two recent items of news show us directly how Man is involved: the oil spill threatening the unique biological resource of the Galapagos Islands and the decision by the European Union to ban all fishing for cod in the North Sea because of the disastrous collapse in population stocks as a result of over-fishing. International action is needed, and needed quickly. For such action to be effective, there must be a global approach, and also action in each region.



This Exhibition and Conference are important because they represent the first time that the issue of environmental protection has been tackled on a scale that covers the whole of the Arab world.



Q: And what about the Abu Dhabi Declaration?



A: Obviously, this is also of enormous importance. The Ministers of Environment for the whole of the Arab world are to meet in Abu Dhabi next week to adopt this declaration. It will lay down guidelines for how the Arab countries should tackle environmental issues, in particular of the sustainable use of resources, for the 21st Century.



Here in the UAE, we have been closely involved in the work leading up to the Declaration, and we will be committed to implementing it. It will represent a regional model for environmental policy, and we hope that other regions of the world will produce, and implement, similar declarations.



Q: So what is the role of the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, ERWDA?



A: ERWDA was established on the instructions of President H. H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and is charged with protection of, and research into, the environment and wildlife of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The Agency also has the responsibility of advising Government on environmental policy, while the powers assigned to it by Emiri decree give it the authority to oversee or approve any activity that has an impact on the environment and wildlife of the Emirate, both onshore and offshore.



Under the Chairmanship of H. H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and with the guidance provided to the Agency by its Deputy Chairman, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, ERWDA is now actively engaged in these tasks. As far as the Environment 2001 Exhibition and Conference are concerned, ERWDA has been assigned the task of organising the Conference.



This is being held under the theme: ‘Challenges and Solutions for Sustainable Development.' We are delighted to have attracted a large number of highly qualified speakers to this event, including the representatives of key international organisations, like the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Wide Fund for Nature.



There are also many leading scientists taking part, who will examine topics like the protection and management of the marine environment, waste management, environmental management in the oil and gas industry, and technology and conservation. We hope that their discussions will help us all to understand more clearly the issues that have to be addressed, and to come up with concrete suggestions on ways in which we can tackle those issues. In particular, we hope that the Conference will help to outline a strategy for the region that will permit the guidelines of the Abu Dhabi Declaration to be implemented.



Q: What about ERWDA's own field projects?



A: Since it was established, ERWDA has launched programmes and projects in a number of fields. The Agency has its National Avian Research Centre at Sweihan, which is working on captive breeding and other ecological studies of houbara and of falcons, so that these key species can maintain sustainable populations in the wild. At the Al Wathba Lakes, just 30 km. from Abu Dhabi City, the Agency is responsible for the management of one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the Arabian Peninsula, which we plan, in the future, to develop as a key educational resource, to inform people, particularly young people, about environmental matters.



Offshore, the Agency is undertaking research into the status of the country's fishery stocks, and is developing proposals for a sustainable fishing industry. Other projects are also being launched. ERWDA has also developed close collaboration with leading international non-governmental organisations, like the World Wide Fund for Nature, WWF, the World Conservation Union, IUCN, BirdLife International and Wetlands International, so that we can benefit from their expertise and experience. All of this work comes within the framework of the Agency's planning for a policy for management of the environment and wildlife resources of the whole of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.



Work is now well under way on the creation of an Environmental Database for the Emirate, while, in collaboration with both governmental and non-governmental organisations, we are nearing completion of an Environmental Strategy for Abu Dhabi. There is much to be done, of course, but the Agency is already making a real contribution to the implementation of the environmental conservation policy outlined by President Sheikh Zayed.



Q: What are your hopes for ENVIRONMENT 2001?



A: Naturally, I hope that the event will be a success. ERWDA is strongly committed to achieving this. Thanks to the personal interest and commitment of President Sheikh Zayed, the United Arab Emirates has deservedly won a reputation for being a country where conservation of the environment is a topic that is high on the national agenda. Indeed, the UAE was an environmentally conscious country long before environmental issues became fashionable.



I hope that ENVIRONMENT 2001 will help to spread this approach throughout the region. In ERWDA, we are pleased to be involved in this event. We are also grateful to the General Exhibitions Corporation, under the Chairmanship of Lt. General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chief of Staff of the UAE Armed Forces, for all the efforts that they have put into the organisation of the Exhibition.



Hundreds of companies from around the world are taking part, providing a unique opportunity for sharing of knowledge about the latest research and new technological developments that can, together, help us to tackle the environmental challenges that lie ahead. ENVIRONMENT 2001, and the Abu Dhabi Declaration that will be issued by the Arab Environment Ministers in association with the event, will show, once again, the commitment of the United Arab Emirates to the task of protecting the environment, not only that of the UAE, but that of the wider Arab region, and of the world as a whole. The event, I believe, is of crucial importance to us all. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)

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