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Jebel Hafeet biodiversity trail an eye-opener

posted on 30/08/2014

The Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) has discovered hundreds of new species of insects and plants on Jebel Hafeet and in its surrounding wadis in Al Ain, with many of the finds believed to be unique.

The presence of these species in a mountainous environment with its abundance of valleys is significant. The discoveries have been made through the Abu Dhabi Terrestrial Baseline Survey, initiated by the EAD in 2012. The survey aims at collecting data about terrestrial biodiversity all year round. The programme has successfully documented hundreds of species of animals, insects, birds, reptiles and plants in the emirate of Abu Dhabi — many of them endangered.

Dr Shaikha Salem Al Daheri, Executive Director of Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity at the EAD, told Gulf News that the new discoveries have highlighted that Jebel Hafeet, one of the two highest mountains in the U.A.E., is a habitat teeming with life. The area "needs immediate protection to preserve the rich biodiversity of this unique ecosystem”, she said.

Some of the vegetation, such as the Dwarf Palm, are unique to the area, she said. Endemic plant species in the local ecosystem include Caralluma and Acridocarpus, while rare species documented in the area include the Periploca.

Dr Shaikha said the EAD's survey teams started carrying out studies in the Eastern Region of Abu Dhabi this year and the collected data has been uploaded to the EAD's environmental database. Jebel Hafeet and other areas of rich biodiversity in Abu Dhabi have been accorded great attention by the EAD since 2011.

Some 238 species of invertebrates, which were earlier not known, have been recorded in Abu Dhabi in the last few years. A total of 320 insect species listed under 93 scientific families have so far been recorded in Jebel Hafeet. These comprise of 18 insect orders and a few other invertebrates including scorpions, camel spiders, spiders, pill bugs and centipedes that constitute the major invertebrate fauna, Dr Shaikha said.

She added that EAD's experts continue to deploy camera traps around Jebel Hafeet that have helped gather information about the presence and distribution of unique mammals such as the Arabian Tahr, Blanford's Fox and Red Fox.

The mountain is also home to the rare Persian horned viper (Pseudocerastesp. persicus). This snake is found only in the mountainous parts of the emirate and neighbouring Oman at an altitude of 600 metres and above. There have been few records of this species in the Jebel Hafeet area.

Jebel Hafeet's importance from a historical and archaeological perspective is undeniable. The EAD programme has now added another dimension to the mountains, making them one of the most ecologically diverse and biologically rich areas in the whole of the Arabian Peninsula, Dr Shaikha said.

Talking about the survey, she said the U.A.E. has made a big effort to sustain the environment, protect natural resources, and preserve endangered species. The EAD has lately shifted its focus from the basic concept of preserving species to adopting a wider approach of protecting ecosystems. This approach has helped the EAD better understand, tackle and alleviate the factors that could pose any threat to wildlife in the future.

The EAD declares protected areas and carries out rehabilitation programmes to preserve endangered species. "We seek to raise environmental awareness, facilitate sustainable development and ensure environmental issues remain one of the top priorities of our national agenda,” Dr Shaikha added.

The Abu Dhabi Terrestrial Baseline Survey enjoys the support of Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler's Representative in the Western Region, and Chairman of the EAD.

The EAD, Dr Shaikha said, aims to put together a comprehensive database to serve as a platform for the long-term monitoring of all habitats. "This survey, once complete, will provide a snapshot of Abu Dhabi's terrestrial wildlife, vegetation and patterns of land use. It will also bridge gaps in available information about biodiversity, assess the efficiency of the emirate's ecosystems, and help with decisions related to conservation,” she added.

The agency completed surveying the Western Region in Abu Dhabi last year. The survey data, Dr Shaikha said, will enable EAD and its partners to make the right decisions on future projects and provide information needed for the establishment of new protected areas.

The EAD was established in 1996 to preserve Abu Dhabi's natural heritage and raise awareness on environmental issues. The agency is Abu Dhabi's environmental regulator and advises the government on environmental policy. It works to create sustainable communities, and protect and conserve wildlife and natural resources. It also works to ensure integrated and sustainable water resources management to ensure clean air and minimise climate change and its impacts. – Gulf News -


US Congress eyes investment, business opportunities in Sharjah

posted on 30/08/2014

A US Congress delegation recently attended a roundtable event at the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), said in a statement on Friday.

The roundtable's aim was to familiarise the US delegation with the range of investment and business opportunities in Sharjah. The delegation was in the U.A.E. to participate in an educational and cultural exchange, Shurooq stated.

The delegation was led by US congresswoman and chairman of the congressional Black Caucus, Representative Marcia L. Fudge, and was met by Robert Waller, US consul general to Dubai, Abdullah Sultan Al Owais, chairman of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Marwan Bin Jasem Al Sarkal, chief executive of Shurooq.

According to the statement, which quoted figures from the US government, total bilateral trade between the US and the U.A.E. has grown from about US$4.5 billion (Dh16.5 billion) in 2002 to US$24.8 billion in 2012. In the first nine months of last year, trade between the U.A.E. and US rose 12.5 per cent to US$20,56 billion (Dh75.46 billion), compared with US$18.27 billion (Dh67.05 billion) in the same period a year earlier.

Infrastructure development

"The US and the U.A.E. have enjoyed longstanding partnerships and cooperation in the areas of energy and infrastructure development, green build aerospace, defence security, media, tourism and culture, and, the two most burgeoning sectors within the region, medicine and education,” Al Sarkal said in a statement.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Shurooq and the US Chamber of Commerce was recently signed, Shurooq stated. The agreement aimed to promote investment, trade, technical and economic cooperation, enhancing export sanctions, and the exchange of visits made by trade delegations between the US and Sharjah.

Also, in October last year, the Sharjah USA Roadshow saw the largest delegation of Sharjah-based corporations, entities, organisations, and government departments in the US, representing more than 20 separate entities, as per the investment authority's statement. – Gulf News -


Ras Al Khaimah reaps benefits of International Hotel Groups

posted on 30/08/2014

Ras Al Khaimah is flourishing with newfound benefits from the rise of International Hotel Groups that are making the emirate their latest target for expansion.

The emirate has experienced an increase of tourists from their top five source markets including the U.A.E. and Germany followed by Russia, England and India. A total of 330,048 people visited the emirate in the first half of the year, generating approximately US$118.7 million.

"The driving force behind RAK's tourism confidence is affordable luxury,” says Steven Rice, chief executive officer of RAK TDA.

Based on Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Authority the average ADR of all upscale and luxury properties is US$140.83 while the average daily, at beach hotels and resorts, the average daily rate touched US$168.58, bringing in total revenues of US$103.8 million.

In the city, hotel occupancy reached 64.11 per cent and the average daily rate was US$69.85, generating revenue of US$14.9 million.

According to STR (Smith Travel Research) report for the month of June, the average daily room rate for RAK increased by US$36.93 in comparison to Abu Dhabi for June. RAK hospitality market is performing extremely well considering an increase in room inventory of 40 per cent plus. With the addition of four five star luxury properties in Marjan Island and Al Hamra area in the last nine months, the revenue numbers almost doubled and international as well as local visitors are finding more luxury options that are in line with other emirate hotels now is RAK. With little business travel reaching the emirate, most RAK hotels generate the lion's share of funds from leisure travellers.

Steven Rice adds that "The emirate's diverse nature and unspoiled beaches are one of its main selling points, especially for tourists looking for a good time. The RAK government set up Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (Ras Al Khaimah TDA) in 2011 as part of its effort to shore up tourism. It had also targeted to invest US$500 million in tourism development projects.”

As a result of the government's strategic focus on developing the emirate's tourism sector, RAK has attracted investments from major international brands and saw three new hotel openings on Al Marjan Island in the first quarter of 2014.

The hotel openings on Al Marjan Island are the 655-key Rixos Bab Al Bahr Resort, which is the largest all-inclusive resort of this magnitude in the U.A.E.; the 315-room Marjan Island Resort & Spa; the 484-key DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa, Marjan Island. – Khaleej Times -§ion=uaebusiness


RTA opens new Dubai Ferry line to boost tourist marine transport

posted on 30/08/2014

The Public Transport Agency, Roads and Transport Authority, is launching on Monday, Sept. 1st, a new Dubai Ferry line from the Marina Mall to Al Ghubaiba Station and vice versa in an effort to enhance the tourist marine transport sector in the Emirate of Dubai, offer new and multiple options for individuals and families spanning various spectrums of the community, and attract new riders to the Dubai Ferry.

Hussain Khansaheb, Director of Marine Transport, Public Transport Agency, announced that the first services on the new line would be offered at 1 pm and 6.30 pm.

"The RTA is always keen on providing safe, smooth and advanced mass transit services to keep abreast of the multitude events and bustling activities held by the Emirate of Dubai including tourist marine transport modes such as the Water Taxi and Dubai Ferry, and customising such services to suit various events in order to offer enjoyable, smooth and safe water transport services," said Khansaheb.

"The RTA is committed to take part in all sportive, social, and economic events among other events held at the local, regional or international levels by various entities in Dubai with the aim of raising the profile of the Emirate as a leading tourist, business and service hub at the regional and international levels," added the Director of RTA Marine Transport.

The Dubai Ferry service had been launched in March 2011 during the Dubai Boat Show as part of the Strategic Plan of Marine Transport in the Emirate of Dubai. The objective of introducing the service was to add a distinguished service to the marine transport network of Dubai, and accordingly bring about a quantum shift in the calibre of service offered to residents and tourists within the Creek area, tourist areas and waterfronts in the Emirate of Dubai in the first stage, and the service is set for expansion at a later stage. It also caters to the needs of residents and tourists of Dubai offering them a chance to hold their personal events on the high seas at comparatively affordable rates, and have fun aboard the Dubai Ferry.

The Dubai Ferry is considered the latest and largest marine transit mode of the RTA in Dubai used to offer additional express transit services to serve new districts, particularly along the Creek, coastal strip, Jumeirah Beach, Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Residence, and Waterfront projects. The Ferry has a capacity to accommodate 100 passengers, measures 32 x 8 meters, travels at a speed of 24 knots per hour, and offers high-class and stylish entertainment means for riders. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Dubai Cares chief aims high

posted on 30/08/2014

Tariq Al Gurg is the chief executive of the Dubai Cares charity. He is a 40-year old Emirati, educated at the higher Colleges of Technology in Dubai. He began his career at Emirates NBD before moving on to become the chief executive of Meraas Properties in 2008. He joined Dubai Cares in 2009.

What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?

I usually use my weekends to unwind at home and spend quality time with my family. Weekends give me the opportunity to play with my children, have dinner with my wife and go out as a family. I also make some time to see my friends and catch up on my favourite TV shows. At times, I use the down time to go through international news comprehensively, with a special focus on humanitarian and philanthropic news.

What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?

When I get some time off, I really enjoy watching football. I also enjoy travelling, going skiing in winter, as well as scuba diving.

What can't you live without?

My family and my passion for building awareness about social causes and lending a helping hand are the two things I absolutely cannot live without. However, on a practical level I also need my phone and internet connection!

What do you consider the secret to your success?

Tenacity – I believe it is important to never give up when confronted with a challenge. Whether it is personal or professional, I always try to find a solution by looking at the issue from different angles, analysing and assessing it and seeking counsel from others, before choosing an ideal course of action. Heading an organisation comes with a number of responsibilities and a fair share of challenges. However, these are the elements that test one's mettle. Everybody experiences ups and downs in their lives but true leaders are the individuals who rise to the various challenges and persist at solving problems.

What advice would you offer other budding leaders?

Keep your eyes on the goal and never settle for the status quo. Create a culture of achievement and positive reinforcement so that the more you achieve, the higher you raise the bar and the harder you work to achieve more. Test your limits and work hard: there's no other way around it.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

I am passionate about my job and my family, so I try to maintain a healthy balance. As chief executive of Dubai Cares, I spend about half of my time in the office; the rest is spent travelling for work. My travel schedule is usually quite hectic as I travel to our beneficiary countries on field visits to assess programmes, meet partners, government officials and community members and understand the situation on the ground. In parallel to Dubai Cares' growth in the international sphere, I also travel to attend high-level international meetings that set the global agenda for education.

My free time is largely dedicated to my family. I think it is important for my children to understand what I do; therefore, I have many photos of me with children on the field, which I share with my daughters. My eldest daughter regularly checks the photos and asks me questions such as the various countries we travel to, activities we organise, the poverty in countries we operate in and how we help children there. She is aware of poverty in developing countries and the negative impact it has on children. I have promised to take her on a field trip once she is a little older. I also try to make time for my friends and catch up with them sometimes over the weekend.

How do you relax after the working day?

I usually arrive home a bit late. And in the days when I arrive early, I spend time with my children before they sleep. After they go to bed, I spend time with my wife. I also try to relax and unwind by browsing the internet to catch up on what's happening around the world.

If you weren't chief executive of Dubai Cares what else would you be doing?

My experience includes 12 years at various senior positions within the consumer and corporate banking departments in National Bank of Dubai (now Emirates NBD). Therefore, I would still be part of the banking industry, specifically in Emirates NBD, which I consider a second home. However, I think I would still be involved in philanthropy and would be leading philanthropic efforts even as a banker. – The National -


Zayed Giving Initiative reaches out to over 3 million children, elders, conducts 7,000 cardiac surgeries

posted on 30/08/2014

Zayed Giving Initiative, a unique model for humanitarian work at local and international levels, has, since its inception in 2003, reached out to more than 3 million children and elderly people and conducted over 7,000 free of charge heart surgeries.

Muza Al Otaiba, member of the Initiative's Board of Trustees, said the humanitarian mission had attracted thousands of prominent doctors, specialists, consultants and surgeons from across the world who had made valuable humanitarian contributions to in Emirates volunteer medical camps.

In a short time span, she added, Zayed Giving Initiative has extended its surgical, curative and preventive programmes to several parts of the world, becoming the hope for thousands of needy patients in countries including U.A.E., Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Pakistan, Tanzania, Eritrea, Indonesia and Egypt.

The initiative has made valuable contributions to various areas of community services and volunteering including health, education, environment and culture.

Over the past few years, the initiative has attracted thousands of volunteers to reach out to millions of people in Arab and African countries who benefited from its various voluntary and humanitarian programmes. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Over quarter of Japan's oil imports came from U.A.E. in July, says ANRE report

posted on 30/08/2014

TOKYO: Japan's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE), has said that more than a quarter of Japan's imports of crude oil during the month of July this year, came from the United Arab Emirates, with a quantity amounting to 25.47 million barrels.

The ANRE, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) agency, showed in a report issued yesterday that the proportion of the U.A.E.'s oil reached 26.6 per cent of total Japanese imports during the same month, while Saudi Arabia has provided Japan with 32.52 million barrels, accounting for 33.8 per cent of total imports. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Dewa receives students at sustainable building

posted on 30/08/2014

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) received, at its Sustainable Building in Al Quoz, students from "Smart Summer 2014,” a summer camp organised by Dubai Educational Zone. The students visited Dewa to learn about its experiences in smart services. The visit is part of Dewa's strategy to support students, develop their skills and prepare them to be future leaders. 

"The visit is part of Dewa's corporate social responsibility strategy and initiatives to achieve the vision of Dubai Government in the social, economic, and environmental domains, enhance the sustainable development of the U.A.E., and raise awareness among all segments of society,” said Khawla Al Mehairi, VP of Marketing and Corporate Communications at Dewa.

"Dewa always supports students to promote learning and development, and upgrade education and of knowledge levels which U.A.E. society is keen to improve during the journey towards progress and development. We also seek to improve students' skills, capabilities, and talents since they'll be the leaders of tomorrow,” added Al Mehairi.

During their visit, the students toured Dewa's facilities and learned about working mechanisms at the administrative, operational, and service levels. Dewa officials provided an overview about the smart transformation of Dewa, highlighting the smart services that enable customers to complete their transactions quickly, efficiently and easily. They also presented the three smart initiatives launched by Dewa as part of the Smart Dubai initiative. These include connecting solar energy to houses and buildings, smart applications through smart meters and grids, and electrical-vehicles charging stations.

Dewa has completed smart transformation of all its services in less than a year after the smart transformation strategy was announced, enabling 24/7 access to all its services over smart devices. Dewa started adopting smart technologies in 2009 which resulted in launching its smart app with more than 150 services and features, enhancing its smart completion process. 

Students attended a presentation by the Water and Civil Engineering Sector about the different technologies used in the Sustainable Building, which is the largest government building in the world to receive a Platinum Rating for green buildings from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). 

The building uses 66 per cent less energy as a result of additional insulation in its walls and roof. Special glass has been installed to reduce heat transfer into the building. This reduces the energy consumed by air conditioning, which also reduces carbon dioxide emissions and saves the environment. Highly-efficient water-cooled chillers cut down energy consumption. In addition, renewable energy is available through an onsite 660 kW solar power plant. 

The building employs a complete rain-water management plan that ensures recycling of water for irrigation. Special regulators, sensor taps, and low-flow fixtures help reduce water consumption by as much as 48 per cent. All sewage water is treated by a grey water treatment plant and sewage treatment plant. 

The students expressed their admiration about the way Dewa's operations and processes are managed and praised the awareness campaigns and initiatives related to rational consumption of electricity, water, and the environment.

Dewa regularly hosts school and university students, and provides U.A.E. National students with advanced training programmes and scholarships to prepare them for the work field and to meet the challenges of the future. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


World's best swimmers arrive in Dubai for Swimming World Cup

posted on 30/08/2014

Some of the world's best swimmers arrived in Dubai yesterday, ahead of the second round of the FINA/MASTBANK Swimming World Cup which will be held on Sunday 31 August and Monday 1 September.

Among the arrivals was Hungary's Katinka Hosszu who collected a swag of medals and set three new world records in the first round in Doha this week. Hosszu, who is blitzing the field in almost every event she enters, collected ten medals in Doha, seven of them gold. Wearing her trademark ‘Iron Lady' shirt, Hosszu said "I am excited to be back in Dubai. I'm happy with how I went in Doha but I want to set more world records, I'm feeling good".

Also among the arrivals was Australia's Thomas Fraser-Holmes who backed up from collecting gold in the 200m at the Commonwealth Games and Pan Pacs to take four gold medals in Doha in the 200m and 400m freestyle and 200m and 400m individual medley.

Other arrivals included 1500m gold medallist in Doha, Hungary's Gergo Kis, dual breaststroke gold medallist in Doha, Jamaica's Alia Atkinson and local crowd favourite Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Hamdan bin Mohammed attends closing ceremony of World Equestrian Games in France

posted on 30/08/2014

NORMANDY: Dubai Crown Prince HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, winner of individual gold medal in the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Normandy, France, attended yesterday the closing ceremony of the biggest equestrian event in the world.

During the event, Sheikh Hamdan was crowned champion after finishing first in a field of 173 riders from 47 nation.

The WEG's higher organising committee congratulated Sheikh Hamdan for completing the gruelling, 160-kilometre race in 8 hours, 8 minutes and 28 seconds. Sheikh Hamdan dominated the race from start to finish, riding mare Yamamah to first-place in every single phase and winning the gold with ease.

On this historic, sport achievement, Sheikh Hamdan dedicated the landmark equestrian victory to President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the U.A.E. people.

'The U.A.E. lead in the international equestrian championship is a source of proud to the Arab and not to U.A.E. alone,' Sheikh Hamdan said.

The awarding ceremony was also attended by HRH Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, wife of Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum bin Juma Al Maktoum, Saeed Humaid Al Tayer, CEO of Meydan, and a crowd of endurance race enthusiasts and fans.

Celebrated every four years, the World Equestrian Games are undoubtedly the biggest equestrian event in the world. The Altech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy draws over 1000 finest athletes to compete against each other in the 8 official Federation Equestre Internationale disciplines: Jumping Dressage Eventing Driving Reining Vaulting Endurance Para-Dressage. – Emirates News Agency, WAM -


Dust-storm hits Sharjah, rain in capital

posted on 30/08/2014

A telling dust-storm swept across the emirate of Sharjah on Friday evening heavily affecting visibility. The motorists and pedestrians had a tough time. In most areas of the emirate the visibility became very low. The winds were over active stirring dust and dirt along the inland and open areas. However, the stormy day being a weekend things remained under control for most residents.

Surprisingly, the odd ones ventured out to kind of enjoy the sudden drop in temperature.

The temperature on Saturday was expected to reach 43˚C in Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah and Liwa, 42˚C in Sharjah and Umm Al Qaiwain, 41˚C in Dubai, Ajman and Al Ain and 36˚C in Fujairah, the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) said.

Meanwhile, light to medium rain fell in Zayed City in the Western Region in the afternoon generating huge puddles of water. A remarkable drop in temperature was felt turning the weather pleasant. Skies were overcast raising the possibility of more rain in the coming hours, sources at the NCMS said.

The weather is expected to remain dusty and partly cloudy in some areas on Saturday.

Some cumulus clouds may tower over the eastern part extending subsequently to the southern areas, according to the NCMS. – The Gulf Today -