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UAE strikes a balance between economic growth and clean environment

posted on 06/08/2004: 2210 views

As part of its sustained efforts to strike a balance between economic growth and healthy environment, the UAE embarked on massive environmental programmes during the year 2003. These programmes were conceived in line with the vision of President H.H Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who has always stressed the need for a sustainable development that would take into account the right of the future generations to inherit a clean environment.

It was in view of this vision that the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency (ERWDA) was set up 1996 under the law No. 4 of 1996, decreed by H.H Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Since then, ERWDA has been over-seeing a myriad of projects under a direct follow up of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the Board of Directors.

The achievements made by ERWDA are numerous indeed, but could still be highlighted in terms of numerous projects that have been undertaken. For instance, in the area of Dugongs conservation , the UAE notes that dugongs are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the IUCN (IUCN 2002). The UAE therefore, supports a dugong population of international significance.

In keeping with the government policy aimed at conserving marine biodiversity, ERWDA with funding from TOTAL completed a project to evaluate the abundance and distribution of dugongs in UAE waters.

The study concentrated upon the estimation of dugong population size in UAE waters, assessment of status and mapping of dugong habitats, determination of threat on the dugong population in the UAE and its habitat and, development of a conservation plan.

Research efforts during 2003 were aimed at consolidating and validating the results of the study obtained till date. This effort will include continuation of survey of habitat and species, study of biology and migration of species and implementing the conservation plan.

The main objectives were to quantify the distribution and monitoring the abundance and habitats of species, studying the biology, life history and migration of dugong, thereby implementing a Conservation Plan. It also aimed to train national biologists for marine wildlife including dugong research. Five zones were surveyed. Dugongs were sighted (22 sightings) mostly in zone 1, 2 and 3. In zone 2, movement of a larger group of ~20 dugongs towards NW from Al-Bazm Al-Garbi was observed by MPA rangers.

In Zone 1, a large herd of dugongs (25 numbers including 3 mother-calf pair) was observed during rising tide. In the area of fish resource assessment, a consortium led by Bruce Shallard and Associates of New Zealand carried out a survey of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) waters on board Research Vessel Flinders from 2nd February 2002 to 23rd January 2003.

The overall objective of the survey was to conduct an assessment of fish and marine resources of the UAE waters by acoustic survey supplemented by fishing operations to make available information on the abundance and distribution of fish and marine resources in the area and to estimate their potential yield.

Specific objectives of the project included assessment of demersal and small pelagic resources in order to update previous findings and provide more detailed and reliable information of these resources, establishing catch rates of major species and other species of commercial importance by area, depth and season, undertake biological studies of selected species for the process of estimating sustainable yield levels for the major species, establishing estimates of safe harvest levels for the major species, providing basic oceanographic and ecological data relevant to fish resources and upgrading the technical skills of national research personnel in fisheries survey methods and stock assessment techniques.

On environmental/oceanographic conditions, the UAE waters exhibited characteristics of two distinct water bodies. While the East Coast displayed conditions that were much more oceanic with small seasonal fluctuations in temperature and salinity, the Arabian Gulf waters had greater hydrographic fluctuations as would be expected of a shallow and confined water basin. This situation was particularly more pronounced in the waters off the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Waters off the Emirate of Abu Dhabi exhibited extreme conditions with the recording of a wide range of temperature ranging from 21?C in winter to 35?C in summer and high salinities (over 40 ppt) through out the year.

Because of the shallowness of the water basin in the Arabian Gulf, particularly in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, there is complete mixing of the water column so that temperature and salinity levels at the surface are identical to levels of these parameters at the bottom. More oceanic conditions were exhibited in the East Coast with smaller temperature and salinity fluctuations. Bottom water temperatures in the area remained almost constant year round.

The waters off the northern emirates undergo relatively moderate fluctuations exhibiting characteristics of both the Arabian Gulf waters and the more oceanic Gulf of Oman environment of the East Coast There is a close correlation between the abundance and distribution of fish resources on one hand, and oceanographic environmental conditions on the other hand.

On marine protected area, the year 2003 the focussed on the establishment of a protocol and implementation of the management plan of Marawah Marine Protected Area. The objectives of this protocol concentrate mainly on the conservation of marine biodiversity in their habitats, especially those of coral reefs, sea grasses, mangroves and coastal areas, in addition to the control of fishing and other activities according to the mandates and provisions of environmental laws and MPA regulations.

Also during the year ERWDA started to implement a monitoring, surveillance and control program which concentrates on the provision of awareness to the residences inside the MPA.

Conducting such information of the importance of the MPA and its role in the development and fisheries were found to be of great value to the fishermen and authorities working in the area.

The program also coordinates activities with other governmental authorities as the coast guard, marine police, municipality, town planning, oil companies and ports authority. Controlling the activities inside the MPA has been conducted through the ranger force that is supported by on-job training and necessary equipments. The MPA has been patrolled for surveillance and enforcements during field missions.

A total of 96 patrols achieved by 238 man-day during this year, in addition to the permanent enforcement on Bu Tina Island and its surrounding waters. Controlling fishing activities in the MPA resulted in a confined ground for fisheries, only for the people having traditional and inherited rights to fish.

In the year 2003 socio-economic survey was conducted concentrating on the fishing activities which considered as one of the most important activities inside the jurisdictional boundaries of Marawah MPA. A specific data base has been designed for this purpose and filled with all the relevant data. Furthermore, these data analysed and integrated into the GIS of the Marawah MPA.

The numeric and spatial distribution of the following parameters has been recorded and mapped: The geographic distribution of the sea shoals and bays ownerships and inherited right for artisanal fishing, Distribution of fishermen and their families and fishing boats.

The direct economic evaluation of the fishing sector inside Marawah MPA. As a conclusion, it was found that islands of Marawah MPA are currently inhabited by 107 families of 601 individuals. The total numbers of houses are 89 houses. The total numbers of fishing boats are 125 boat with 138 expatriate fishermen. It was found that Marawah MPA is supporting the direct income of fishing society with more than 2700 metric tones of commercial fish catch every year, which value more than 18.9 million Dirhams.

Zoning Plan was prepared as a primary tool for regulating the multiple uses in the MPA. The core zones were selected to protect areas that represent the full range of diversity of resources and habitats.

Other zones were also selected according to a framework of criteria to represent traditional fishing areas, multiple use areas, cultural heritage areas and others. For each of these zones, specific regulations have been selected to ensure the clear understanding of what are allowed and what are prohibited.

The expected benefits of such zonation in addition to the conservation of marine biodiversity are: replenishment the fish stock to sustain and enhance traditional fisheries, supporting scientific researches, gaining community support, and encouraging stakeholders' involvement and public participation.

A draft concept and guidelines for Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) inside and outside the MPA for Abu Dhabi has been prepared. The Municipality has been notified to stop allocation of lands in the setback of the coast of Abu Dhabi Emirate and to formulate a committee of interested parties to study and plan for the development of the coastal areas.

The first article of Marawah MPA was published with the MPA News (a specified monthly newsletter). A communication link with the UNEP - WCMC was also initiated in order to update the IUCN - UNEP information of MPA and to include Marawah area in the United Nations List of Protected Areas.

Captive breeding of the houbara bustards continued successfully at ERWDA in 2003, on schedule with ERWDA's proposed management plan. The production of whit-bellied bustard was put on hold this year as no satisfying feedback from falconers was give to us regarding the adequacy of this species for replacing houbara for falcon training purpose.

Building enhancement was undertaken during summer on two of our houbara breeding buildings allowing for an increase of cages as well as functional improvements, as needed by the record production of chicks in 2003.

One of the breeding buildings went from 26 cages to 60 cages and another building went from 66 cages to 96 cages. The 54-cage building were all occupied. Building plans continued in 2003 to allow for more housing for future production of chicks as well as a transitional building where birds can be housed during yearly building works. By the end of the year, two new buildings holding 59 cages each, that will be all occupied, were near completion.

During this season, the houbara breeding flock comprised of 67 females and 72 males which were distributed in three temperature-controlled buildings. 62 males displayed (86% of total males), among them 33 were donors of sperm (46% of total males) of which 16 had good quality semen (22% of total males). A total of 277 inseminations were made.

27 females laid eggs (40% of total females). A total of 223 eggs were laid from which 202 were incubated and 169 were fertile (84% of incubated eggs) hatching 121 chicks hatched (60% of incubated eggs) that represent a 247% increase on last year's chick production.

The rearing process of the chicks went well this year, averaging chicks that were growing on or above their targeted growth curve and needing very little medical intervention. In a nutshell, the efforts cited above could not have been made without strong legislation. Aiming to fulfil its contribution to the comprehensive environmental management system in Abu Dhabi, and continuing its efforts to collect and categorize available legislation into four distinct categories (federal laws, local regulations/bylaws, executive orders and international treaties), ERWDA has produced and distributed several multi-disciplinary guidance documents and standards codes of practices.

For instance, it has provided a technical document titled "Medical Waste Management" and another pertaining to the proper dealing with / handling of industrial and hazardous wastes and proposed a plan to further enhance waste recycling industry in the Emirate. It also liaises with ADWEA's Bureau of Regulation and Supervision to set standards for emission and discharges from the power sector.

Alongside the technical guidance documents ERWDA produced a draft proposal for the use of low-sulphur clean fuel in heavy and public vehicles backed with a detailed study of the effect of sulphur on environment, human health and structure integrity. (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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