Abu Dhabi: The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has recently succeeded in protecting approximately 60,000 square metres of mangroves on Al Reem Island after learning of a developer’s attempt to clear the area in order to widen the Island’s northern channel.
The incident was discovered by EAD’s inspectors who were making a routine visit to the site.
Reports show that the developer had attempted to initiate a mangrove removal operation in a bid to widen the Island’s northern channel by approximately 75 meters in order to improve navigation and landscaping related to the channel.
The mangrove plays an integral role in the marine ecosystem, providing a habitat for aquatic and terrestrial fauna and flora. Although it is one of nature’s important species, mangrove ecosystems can easily be adversely affected due to excessive human activities – such as development, dredging and boat activity.
Engineer Faisal Al Hammadi, Deputy Executive Director, Environment Quality Sector, EAD, commented: “Before a company can begin developing or dredging the site of its development, it is required to apply for an environmental permit from EAD. Following a stringent application review process and after a license is granted, EAD inspectors regularly visit the site to ensure that the developer is adhering to the conditions stipulated on the permit.
“This incident – as well as numerous other violations – was discovered when EAD inspectors were making one of their ad-hoc site visits. Working efficiently with the developer, the two teams ceased the mangrove removal operation within a matter of hours. The developer was then asked to submit a mangrove management plan as a mitigation measure, and to provide compensation for the damaged areas which will be used to replant new mangroves in the area,” he said.
Environmental regulations exist to help prevent any occurrences of environmental damage. Treating habitat destruction or loss never fully restores it back to its natural state, requires heavy investment and can be time-consuming.
“At EAD, we strive to work with stakeholders on preventing environmental damage, rather than reacting to mitigate any damage caused. For this particular case, the developer took the necessary measures to rectify the situation, submitted an action plan to correct the violations we identified, and has now met our requirements. Upon a follow-up inspection, we can now confirm that it is compliant with our requirements,” Al Hammadi concluded.
Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of EAD, said: “As Abu Dhabi continues to develop, it is critical that the Emirate have a strong and effective environmental regulatory framework, with a clear strategy focused on tackling the big issues in partnership with other relevant organisations. This will help us ensure that strategic economic growth provides the desired benefits – without damaging Abu Dhabi’s natural heritage and long-term future prospects.”
She added “Our regulatory framework includes a full range of enforcement tools, including: inspections; prosecution and campaigns; an upgrade of our environmental permitting system in line with global best practice, effective implementation of legislation, standards, policy and procedures; undertaking environmental assessments and; industry audits to ensure compliance with legislation.” “The Emirate of Abu Dhabi is developing at a rapid rate; by complying with the law, developers who are contributing to Abu Dhabi’s skyline can help us ensure that our surrounding land and marine habitats are not disrupted as a result. From our side, we will continue to vigorously enforce the laws to protect our Emirate’s natural heritage,” she concluded.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the mangrove species is threatened by the loss of habitat throughout its range, primarily due to extraction and coastal development.
Back in the late 1970s, massive mangrove plantation programmes put in place by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan substantially contributed to the increase of mangrove plantation over the past decades. The Grey mangrove, or Avicennia marina, is the only mangrove species that grows in the UAE, of which 85% are found here in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Presently, EAD is rehabilitating, conserving and protecting mangrove forests in seven main sites across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi: Saadiyat Island, Jubail Island, the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve (where the Island of Bu Tinah lies), Bu Syayeef Protected Area, Ras Gharab, the Eastern Mangroves and Ras Ghanada.