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ROSHIN GEORGE
DUBAI

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has made a leap in the expansion and development of protected areas, which have increased from 44 in 2019 to 49 in 2020, HE Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, has said.
The World Environment Day is the United Nations’ principal means of encouraging awareness and action for the protection of our environment, engaging governments, businesses, celebrities and citizens to focus their efforts on pressing environmental issues.
In his statement to mark the occasion, Dr. Zeyoudi said that forging ahead in the economic sphere was not the only priority for the UAE. “A parallel priority is to ensure that the country’s economic growth does not come at the expense of the environment,” he said.
“Over the course of five decades, the Founding Father of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, ingrained the concepts of sustainability and environmental protection in his people, and today, our wise leadership carries on with his legacy.”
“On World Environment Day 2020 that occurs under the theme ‘Biodiversity’, we reflect on our success in protecting flora and fauna at home and abroad that has established our country as a globally acclaimed leader in environmental stewardship,” the Minister said.
In his message Al Zeyoudi stated, “We are proud to note that Sharjah has designated five new protected areas this year, taking the number of natural reserves in the UAE to 49. The addition, coupled with the expansion of Al Dilfaweya Protected Area in the emirate of Abu Dhabi by 45 sq km, has increased the total protected area from 14.8 per cent of the country’s territory in 2019 to 15.5 per cent in 2020, accounting for 18.4 per cent of its terrestrial territory and 12.01 per cent of its marine territory.
“We also take pride in the UAE’s track record in implementing effective wildlife rehabilitation programmes to protect endangered species, such as falcons, dugong, the Houbara bustard, and the Arabian Oryx.”
The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has made great strides in this area while developing the Smart Map of Natural Capital of the UAE, the National Plan of Action for the Conservation of Marine Turtles in the UAE 2019-2021, and the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks 2018-2021. The ministry has also updated the list of Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas in the country and launched the national ecotourism project “The UAE’s Natural Wonders”.
On a global scale, the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, a key philanthropic endowment, provides grants to species conservation initiatives. “To date, the fund has supported the conservation of 1,350 endangered species in 160 countries to the tune of more than $20 million,” said Dr. Zeyoudi.
Further, the International Fund for Houbara Conservation has been recognised as a pioneering global model for the conservation of the species. Since the launch of its captive breeding programme, the Fund has released over 285,000 birds across the migratory range of the species.
The UAE has 50 types of ecosystems, including coral reefs, seagrass, mangroves, tidal flats, and sand dunes, and is home to 3,787 species today.
“On World Environment Day, we reiterate our unwavering commitment to protecting biodiversity. We believe that the loss of even the smallest species can lead to the destabilisation of the world’s ecosystems.
“With the numbers of flora and fauna declining faster than at any other time in human history, the world must take transformative action to save its natural systems. This is a time for nature,” Dr. Zeyoudi said.
With agency inputs

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