Whenever the UAE is mentioned, the first things that come to mind are often skyscrapers, shopping malls, oil-thriving economies, and open desert spaces. A gross over-simplification of what living in the UAE is really like. For instance, it might shock you to learn that the UAE is ranked first as the country with the largest ecological footprint in the world. With its rapidly growing industries, booming economy, and prestigious skyscrapers, you can only expect nothing but.
Not to worry though! The UAE came in third in the world (after Switzerland and Japan) to embark on the initiative of a more in-depth research of its footprint. After all, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan - the driving force behind the formation of the UAE- (may he rest in peace), was named the man who turned the desert green and was given the Gold Panda Award by WWF in 1997 for his efforts to preserve the environment and achieve sustainable development. He was also recognized by UNEP as the Champion of the Earth for his environmental movement and his green contributions to the greater society (whether it be locally, regionally, or internationally). This “desert” is home to thousands of diverse species and its landscape includes sand deserts, sand dunes, coasts, oases, mountains, valleys, marshes, mangroves and salt pans. It’s historically Bedouin peoples developed a strong relationship with their surrounding environment in order to survive. For instance, Abu Dhabi- capital of the seven emirates- is named after the exquisite Arabian Oryx (directly translated as land of the gazelle or father of the gazelle) which is the animal that inspired the myth of the unicorn.
A rarity that was brought back from the brink of extinction, the Arabian Oryx inhabits Sir Bani Yas Island, which is a 1400 hectare sanctuary to 25 species of mammal and 170 different types of birds (a total of 13,000 animals) off the coast of Abu Dhabi, and a herd of about 500 are free to roam the safe haven.
Another project initiated to protect vulnerable species and safeguard habitats is Wadi Wurayeh, which is a national park in Fujairah and home to fragile ecosystems, endangered species (100 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians as well as more than 300 species of plants), and rare freshwater resources.
Harry Potter fans will be pleased to know that a recent owl survey conducted in Wadi Wurayah National Park revealed the long-awaited finding of the Omani Owl, Strix omanensis, which stresses the importance of reserves like Wadi Wurayah and the previously mentioned Sir Bani Yas Island in preserving the original wildlife of Arabia.
Another groundbreaking initiative would be the Gulf Green Turtle Conservation Projectwhich strives to conserve endangered marine turtles and delicate marine habitats. The United Arab Emirates has also started establishing initiatives that focus on conserving energy and saving the environment.
Not only are there 500 villas in Dubai that have started producing
clean and sustainable energy using solar power panels, but there is also a
whole city in Abu Dhabi calledMasdar Citywhich depends entirely on solar energy as well as
the largest photo voltaic installations in the Middle East. Located in this
particular city is Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, which centers on
the studies of alternative energy, sustainability, and the environment. Not bad, huh?
Plans are also being made to install LED lighting that will replace the traditional incandescent light sources in the federal road network. In addition to having a longer lifetime of more than ten years, this project will also lower both the energy consumption by 50% and carbon dioxide emissions.
Globally, developed countries such as Sweden (which ranks first as the top of the Greenest Countries in the World; according to the Global Green Index) and Norway- ranked second- are blooming and striving towards a greener and more sustainable world. Sweden has inspired us all with its drive to combat climate change through leading-edge projects. One great example would be the city of Växjö -Europe’s Greenest City- which generates electricity by burning branches, bark, and sawdust, and manages its public transportation by allowing it to run on bio-gas and renewables. Another country worth mentioning is Bhutan. Despite Bhutan’s size (one of the smallest countries in the world), its contributions are by far bigger and greater than most. Being a carbon neutral country (absorbs more carbon dioxide than it emits), Bhutan is actively delaying the effects of climate change through its laws of environmental protection (which is one of the pillars of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness philosophy) combined with its beliefs and cultural heritage.
Here's to the UAE for making great progress in conserving biodiversity and investing in renewable energy!