DUBAI, 22nd May, 2018 (WAM) — The UAE has joined the world in celebrating World Biodiversity Day, which is observed annually on 22nd May.
This year’s celebration is being held under the theme “Celebrating 25 Years of Action for Biodiversity,” to mark the 25th anniversary of the entry into the force of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ratified by the UAE in 1992 and acceded in 2000.
Speaking on the occasion, Hiba Al Shehhi, Acting Director, Biodiversity Department at the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, said that biodiversity is a key ingredient in environment conservation policies in the UAE.
Al Shehhi explained that the UAE Vision 2021 underscores the importance of the conservation of the rich natural environment of the homeland from the risks of human activities through preventive measures such as reducing carbon emissions and through regulatory measures that protect the fragile ecosystems from urban expansion.
She added that the UAE’s leading standing in wildlife conservation is further cemented by the National Programme for the Sustainability of Wildlife, an initiative of the Government Innovation Laboratory in response to the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. The programme aims to ensure the sustainability of the rich local biodiversity through an array of integrated legislations, policies, research, and initiatives that protect indigenous species, regulate the trade in flora and fauna and identify invasive species and mechanisms to eradicate and control them.
Al Shehhi stressed that the UAE has rich experience in protected areas and habitat conservation. Its efforts to preserve habitats and provide safe havens for threatened and endangered species have enabled the country to occupy the top position in the “Marine Protected Areas” criterion in the Global Environmental Performance Index, GDI, according to the 2016 report.
She went on to say that the UAE is committed to expanding and increasing its protected areas. The number of protected areas declared in the country is 43, occupying 14.35 percent of the UAE’s area estimated at 18,000 square kilometres. The number of protected areas already exceeds the objective of the National Biodiversity Strategy.
Al Shehhi said that the UAE has joined and ratified the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and has listed seven areas as wetland sites of international importance. These include Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary in Dubai, Wadi Wurayah National Park in Fujairah, Mangrove and Alhafeya Protected Area in Khor Kalba, Sir Bu Nair Island Protected Area in Sharjah, Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, Bul Syayeef Marine Protected Area in Abu Dhabi and Al-Zora Protected Area in Ajman.
Al Shehhi explained that endangered species breeding receives a lot of attention in the UAE. For example, the houbara bustards breeding centres in Abu Dhabi, Morocco and Kazakhstan, all overseen by the International Fund for Houbara Conservation in Abu Dhabi, has exceeded its goal of breeding 50,000 houbara bustards and releasing them in their natural habitat.
There are also five falcons breeding centres, in addition to the breeding programmes of Arabian oryx and African oryx. These programmes managed to reintroduce a considerable number of animals and birds in their habitats in the UAE and abroad.
Al Shehhi emphasised that biodiversity protection is one of the core functions of the ministry, which it aims to achieve through a host of national programmes that will ultimately meet the targets set by the National Biodiversity Strategy. She further noted that the nation has begun to transform many protected areas into tourist attractions by opening them to visitors.
Al Shehhi concluded that the UAE’s regional and international efforts in supporting high biodiversity and maintaining sustainable natural resources have secured it a prominent position as a world-class hub for environmental conferences and major events. The UAE will organise and host the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, COP13, in Dubai from 21st to 30th October. It will be hosted in cooperation between the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment and Dubai Municipality.