Viewpoint: Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak
The landscape of Abu Dhabi was very different 20 years ago. But with a rapidly expanding population, infrastructure and economy, we too have changed beyond recognition since our original mandate as the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency. Our beginnings were rooted in environmental research, and in many ways this has remained the backbone of all that we have achieved to date.
Very little data existed on our natural environment, and over the past 20 years the EAD has collected, aggregated and analysed data to grow our collective knowledge on the state of our environment and human-made impacts. An understanding of our environment has enabled us not only to conserve our biodiversity but also led us to fulfil our role as the Emirate of Abu Dhabi’s environmental regulator.
An ever-deepening understanding of the state of our environment informs our efforts in environmental quality related issues; such as the improvement of marine water and air quality, the protection of our precious groundwater, understanding the potential impacts of climate change and how to mitigate against these, and the development of appropriate policy instruments to ensure our growth is as sustainable as possible.
We have registered various successes in terms of environmental protection and conservation. These include the implementation of a number of policies that serve to protect our natural and national resources. We have administered groundwater monitoring and preservation, marine water quality measurements, and regulations to limit discharges from industrial activities, coastal development and human waste, which could all be potentially harmful. In addition, we have developed and implemented compulsory environmental impact assessments and regulations for industries and developments that have the potential to negatively impact the environment. As Abu Dhabi has grown, the EAD has been consulted on many of our landmark developments to ensure they meet the stringent environmental standards in place. We are also working very closely with new industries to develop appropriate policies and monitor frameworks and regulation. All of this is being done while working with the judiciary department of Abu Dhabi to establish laws and environmental courts to adjudicate over cases relating to the environment.
With regard to biodiversity, we have mapped the land use and habitats of Abu Dhabi to a higher degree of precision comparable to anywhere on earth. Subsequently, policies have been introduced which govern land use and soil quality, as well as the provision of protected areas as safe havens for at-risk species. The EAD has conducted detailed studies of fish stocks for the past 16 years in Abu Dhabi’s waters, which account for the majority of the marine area of the UAE. Our ongoing work has brought attention to the serious challenges we face in the sector, leading to the launch of the UAE Sustainable Fisheries Programme in 2015, in partnership with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment. On the terrestrial side, we have seen conservation efforts bring the Arabian oryx back from the brink of extinction, while our work with the government of Chad has facilitated one of the most ambitious reintroduction campaigns ever in the scimitar-horned oryx.
As we build upon the successes of the last 20 years, we will continue to contribute to the realisation of the Abu Dhabi Plan – seeking to contribute to an improvement of our water quality, adopting ever more rigorous measures to protect our air quality, conserving our precious groundwater reserves and continuing to protect our wildlife, including our commercial fisheries, through the expansion of protected areas, species-specific plans and appropriate regulation. We will also continue to build the capacity of our citizens and residents as environmental protectors through our education, awareness and stakeholder engagement initiatives. If residents of the UAE place sustainability at the heart of their lifestyle, they will surely be rewarded with a better, healthier environment, now and for future generations.
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