Environmental Successes and Challenges in the United Arab Emirates
The beauty and environmental wealth of the UAE benefit citizens of the country. Although there are ongoing environmental challenges in the Emirate, there are also opportunities to protect and preserve the UAE’s rich natural heritage and safeguard the health and well-being of its citizens. The agencies and businesses working in the UAE have the best of intentions regarding environmental protection and have set up successful environmental programs to address many of the challenges. Emiratis are committed to their work and the missions of their organizations. This paper suggests a number of ways UAE can act to enhance its ability to protect its people and natural assets to ensure a more sustainable future. Strengthening communication about the state of the environment and impacts on the environment is a key principle, as is enhancing the legal and regulatory framework for environmental protection. UAE can also make commitments to support compliance and enforcement functions of the oversight agencies who work with the environment. In addition, UAE can upgrade the research function to support science-based decision making.
Although many protected areas previously existed, Wadi Wurayah (in Fujairah Emirate) was declared in 2009 as the UAE’s first protected mountain area. In addition to deserts, forests, mountains and wetlands, the UAE is endowed with a long coastline featuring picturesque beaches and pristine mangroves. There are hundreds of islands along the coast, and shallow areas where seagrass and corals grow. Migratory and non-migratory birds flourish in the islands and shallow coastal areas. The environmental and natural resources of the UAE offer a tremendous benefit to society. The marine ecosystems and mangroves support the fishing trade and individuals who enjoy participating in recreational fishing, boating and water sports. The terrestrial ecosystems, oases and wadis support traditional pastimes such as falconry, as well as the livelihood of farmers. Residents and tourists enjoy kayaking in the mangroves and fishing, kite surfing, desert sports, hiking and other outdoor activities in natural areas. Many local citizens enjoy spending time outside because of their Emirati Bedouin heritage and their traditions of date and camel farming. His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nayhan, the founder of the UAE, was a remarkable champion of the environment.
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