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Statement by Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan - National day 2001

posted on 02/12/2001: 1599 views

Environmental protection a priority: Sheikh Hamdan

The UAE federation under the wise leadership of the President H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the support of Their Highnesses, Supreme Council Members and Rulers of the Emirates, has made a record progress and shown tremendous achievements towards building a modern nation, in which citizens enjoy prosperity and stability. In a statement to mark the 30th anniversary of the UAE's National Day Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Deputy Chairman of the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency, ERWDA, said that the National Day is an occasion to celebrate what has been achieved, and reaffirm our commitment to achieve more for the country that we love. Sheikh Hamdan said, "While seeking to provide its people with the benefits of the modern world, the UAE government, inspired by H.H. Sheikh Zayed's appreciation for the environment and wildlife, has never lost sight of the vital need to protect our natural heritage."

He added, "Over the last few years a number of government organisations have been established with the objective of studying and protecting wildlife, and of adopting a focused approach to environmental protection and wildlife management, to restore the balance and ensure that resources are used both sustainable and equitably. "This environmental work has been developed by drawing up a comprehensive strategy at the national level as well as issuing a Federal laws on environment to provide the legislative framework for environmental protection," Sheikh Hamdan said.

Sheikh Zayed's deep commitment to wildlife conservation has been honoured over the years in a variety of ways, including major awards such as the of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Gold Panda Award, which he received as a recognition of his individual efforts and the commitment of the country as a whole to the cause of conservation.

In line with this policy, ERWDA was established with Sheikh Zayed's encouragement, in line with his firm belief that its objectives of the "enhancement of sustainable development of Abu Dhabi's wildlife and environment", are as important, if not more so, "than many of the major industrial projects that gain international attention," Sheikh Hamdan stressed. In the five years since ERWDA was established, much of its effort has been devoted to developing and implementing programmes and projects to protect natural resources and wildlife, and to address other areas of environmental concern.

ERWDA has carried out its work under the wise guidance of H. H. Sheikh Zayed and the support of H .H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. Sheikh Hamdan said that the five-year environmental strategy for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (2000-2004), which has been developed by ERWDA in co-ordination with all concerned parties in the Emirate, seeks to set priorities for environmental action addressing the true needs of the Emirate. The working groups that prepared the strategy worked in close co-operation with specialised units in the Agency to draw up the plan. Data collected are currently being analysed to outline a joint action plan to be submitted to the ERWDA Steering Committee at the first quarter of the year 2002.

In line with its mission, ERWDA has also carried out a study of the environment and wildlife management programmes and research to conserve endangered species. The Agency's programme is particularly focused on the conservation of marine turtles, dugongs, houbara bustard, and the Arabian oryx, as well as other threatened wildlife species. The marine turtle survey project that was launched in 1999. The project is studying the nesting habitat of marine turtles in Abu Dhabi Emirate, especially the green and hawksbill turtle, which are regularly observed in UAE waters. By gathering basic information about the species found on the UAE coast and offshore islands, ERWDA researchers will be able to develop a strategy for conservation.

ERWDA has initiated a four-year programme to study the status of dugongs in the UAE waters. The programme consists of surveys of coastal waters rich in seagrass meadows close to some of the islands in Abu Dhabi. The survey has identified important dugong habitats, and has allowed ERWDA to estimate population of the species, and its habits in UAE waters. The results of the study will be used to set up a national dugong conservation plan, and to develop guidelines for future research. The Agency is also planning to conduct a fish stock assessment survey in the waters of the UAE, to provide near-term assessment and obtain improved estimates of stock sizes for major fish species.

In line with its mission, the Agency's National Avian Research Centre (NARC) has been able to play a major role in preserving and developing wildlife, especially houbara and falcons, Sheikh Hamdan said. Recently the Centre has developed a comprehensive conservation strategy for the Asian Houbara, which is seriously threatened by a combination of detrimental factors, including excessive hunting in its wintering grounds and heavy illegal trapping. The Strategy for the Conservation of the Asian Houbara recommends that concerted conservation measures be taken immediately to reduce the pressure on these birds, without which the traditional Arab sport of falconry will not be able to continue.

ERWDA is also supporting the UAE government's intensive efforts to conserve the Arabian Oryx. These efforts have resulted the establishment of a Co-ordinating Committee for the Conservation of the Arabian Oryx, based at ERWDA, with the task of enhancing co-operation across the Arabian Peninsula. A meeting for the committee was held in Abu Dhabi last October, where the UAE was named as the host of the General Secretariat of Arabian Oryx. The selection came in recognition of the efforts by HH Sheikh Zayed in protecting the environment and conserving wildlife, especially the Arabian Oryx, within the UAE and abroad.

On the issue of protected areas, Sheikh Hamdan said: "ERWDA commenced in February 2001 a survey to assess the area between Abu Al Abyadh and Bu Tinah island, proposing to establish and manage a marine protected area between the islands of Abu Al Abyadh and Bu Tinah, including the islands of Marawah Fiyyah and Al Bazm Al Gharbi. In addition, ERWDA is implementing a comprehensive plan to develop Al Wathba Lake into a major centre for bird-watching. The area will become an important educational centre. Over 200 species of birds have been recorded at the lake, he noted. In the area of environmental protection, the Agency has identified sensitive marine and coastal areas and other sensitive ecological systems in the Emirate, which should be given priority in the event of an oil spill. This data has been published in the Abu Dhabi Coastline Oil Spill Protection Priorities Atlas, which is the first of its kind for the Emirate.

The atlas is part of ERWDA's initiative to establish an Environmental Database (EDB) for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi by developing a sophisticated Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and was prepared in association with the oil industry and other bodies. Sheikh Hamdan stressed that the EDB is to be a major scientific and management asset for the Emirate and for ERWDA which can be used to integrate available information, to address specific natural resource and environmental issues.

The Agency is fully supportive of the UAE government's efforts to implement international and regional conventions ratified or signed by the State for environmental protection, pollution prevention and the preservation of natural resources. Among these environment-related conventions is the "Climate Change Convention".

Recently, ERWDA was part of the UAE delegation to the seventh session of the Climatic Change Conference that was held last month in Marrakesh, Morocco. The delegation, chaired by Hamad Al Midfa, Minister of Health and Chairman of the Federal Environment Agency said at the meeting that the UAE will take all the necessary steps to minimise the negative effects of climate change.

ERWDA also participated with FEA and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) earlier this year in the organisation of a Round Table in Abu Dhabi on Cleaner Production to support efforts to conserve the environment and to adopt the latest and most advanced technologies in the industrial and economic sectors to reduce hazards impacts for humans and their environment. The meeting recommended that a National Centre for Cleaner Production should be established in the UAE for this purpose.

Early this year, as part of its efforts to enhance sustainable development of Abu Dhabi's wildlife and a clean environment through finding solutions for the challenges of the 21st Century, ERWDA participated in organising the "The Environment 2001 Conference and Exhibition", in collaboration with the General Exhibition Co-operation (GEC), FEA and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The conference's recommendations together with "The Abu Dhabi Declaration," adopted by a meeting of Arab Environment Minister held in associated with the conference will help decision-makers and environmental agencies in UAE and the Arab world to develop sustainable environmental projects and ways to deal with environmental issued in the 21st century.

Sheikh Hamdan noted that the Agency is currently preparing, with other concerned agencies, for the Environment and Energy 2003 Conference and Exhibition, set to be held in Abu Dhabi from 2 - 5 February 2003. The event will be held under the theme "Environment and Energy: A framework for the future". The mission of this conference is to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and information among decision-makers, scientists and economists involved in the environment and energy sectors. Sustainable use of energy and the transfer of environmentally sound technologies among countries and institutes will be emphasised. The Agency is also seeking to develop its Library into a comprehensive and specialised environmental library, the first of its kind in the country.

The Library will house books, periodicals, and scientific papers on the environment. It will be also be equipped with electronic and multimedia systems. Raising environmental awareness is one of the main priorities of the Agency. ERWDA has developed over the last few years a number of awareness programmes, targeted mainly at school students and teachers. More programmes are being developed, among them the Spellathon Programme, developed in co-operation with the WorldWide Fund for Nature (WWF). This is an ambitious project aimed at raising environmental awareness among primary students.

On this occasion we pray to God to grant H.H. Sheikh Zayed and Their Highnesses, the Supreme Council Members and Rulers of the Emirates good health and long life. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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