EAD – a sustainable effort

ABU DHABI, 12th February, 2015 (WAM)– Established in 1996 to promote a balance between the economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has since become an award-winning institution that is at the cutting-edge of global green initiatives, as envisioned by its pioneers, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed AI Nahyan, according to a publication of the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development, ADCED.

An article by Vishwas Kulkani in the latest issue of ADCED’s journal, ‘Economic Review’, says that EAD, with the support and guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed AI Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and EAD’s Honorary Chairman of the EAD, is developing a framework that will provide the emirate, its institutions and its citizens with the legal and technical instruments to protect, develop and conserve its natural heritage.

In 2013, the EAD implemented a comprehensive groundwater and marine water quality monitoring programme and 440 groundwater wells were added to EAD’s monitoring network resulting in a comprehensive, transnational system. In addition, the Marine Water Quality Index and Water Quality Portal were established reduce water pollution, the report said.

EAD’s pioneering ‘Blue Carbon’ project has also provided environmentalists and regulators with an unprecedent understanding of how Abu Dhabi’s coastal and marine ecosystems play a critical role in fighting climate change. In the same year, the EAD-managed AI Wathba Wetland Reserve was officially declared a Ramsar site by the Convention of Wetlands of International Importance. Currently, 13.5 per cent of Abu Dhabi Emirate’s total area is included marine protected zones while 14.6 per cent comprises terrestrial protected areas.

The article noted that the federal Ministry of Environment and Water is working closely with EAD to protect marine life and ensure sustainable fishing industry. It quoted Dr Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahd, Minister of Environment and Water, as saying that, “Gulf fish stocks are facing a decline due to human pressures. Hamour and cobia are some of the local fish that are most exploited in the region. ” EAD, Bin Fahd said, ” estimates that the rate at which hamour are caught is six to seven times in excess of sustainable levels. We are working on amending existing laws related to the exploitation of fish that we pIan on raising to the National Council. We are also working on the Sheikh Khalifa Marine Research hatcheries in Umm al-Qaiwain that will produce valuable local fish fingerlings and reintroduce them in lagoons and marine conservations.” EAD has also taken steps to implement new environmentally-friendly policies in other areas, the article noted, mentioning the draft of a strategic plan on air quality and noise, submitted last year to the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, and commencement of work on the second phase of its waste strategy, focusing on nuclear waste and that from the oil and gas sector. Elsewhere in the industrial sector, EAD has successfully implemented the Eltezam campaign in the Ready-Mix sector to raise awareness of the importance of limiting the amount of Particulate Matter (PM) emitted into the atmosphere.

“As the Emirate of Abu Dhabi continues to develop, it becomes even more critical that EAD strengthen its regulatory and enforcement framework and continue to consolidate knowledge and data for more informed decisions,” the article quoted Mohammed Ahmed Al Bowardi, Managing Director of EAD, as saying.

Reviewing the agency’s 2013 activities, the article noted that during that year, EAD has issued a total of 3,992 permits relating to the environment, groundwater wells and chemical trading stores, had carried out 637 inspections of facilities and had inspected all groundwater wells to ensure compliance.

Water scarcity is high on EAD’s agenda, the article said, with around 30 per cent of the water supply comes from desalination, a number that is set to rise due to economic and population growth. Abu Dhabi’s total consumption of water resources reached up to 3.3 billion cubic metres in 2011 and it is expected that the demand for water will increase up to about five billion cubic metres by 2030.

“The demand for water is so high and the recharge rate so low that we know our use of groundwater is unsustainable. The issue of water scarcity and water security is only getting more urgent. Today we have less water in our aquifers than we did last year and we are therefore one year closer to running out,” Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of EAD, was quoted as saying.

“Fortunately, in the UAE, we have the financial resources to desalinate water for drinking and sanitation, but our groundwater resources are critical for our agriculture as well as to support our natural ecosystem, on which new economic sectors such as tourism rely,” Al Mubarak said.