Abu Dhabi, 19th January 2023: Ahmed Al Hashmi, Executive Director of Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), has shed light on how Abu Dhabi strikes the perfect balance between economic development and conservation of biodiversity. He also explained how EAD played an important role in ensuring that businesses and infrastructure projects were planned with the environment in mind so as not to harm any local species.
He shared his thoughts during an in-conversation session under the theme of ‘The Business Case for Biodiversity’. The event was held at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) Summit on the 17th of January at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC).
Also present was Prof. Carlos Manuel Duarte, a distinguished Professor of Marine Science at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, in a session moderated by Mr. Adrien Portafaix of the Boston Consulting Group.
Al Hashmi, said during the panel: “Abu Dhabi has a different model for development. A model built around appreciation for nature and commitment to protect it, which is why our economic development plans integrate environmental conservation considerations. Much of this was rooted in the late Sheikh Zayed’s philosophy of conservation and a continuation of that legacy by successive leadership. His conservation legacy endures, with an even greater push towards creating a society which is based on the fundamentals of sustainable economic development, environmental conservation, while maintaining traditions and culture.”
He added: “Businesses can not only succeed but also thrive only if they carefully integrate biodiversity and environmental conservation into their operations and management frameworks. This will only happen when they start believing in the value of natural resources, not only in the operational stages of their business, but during the planning and actual construction phases. They must assess the impact of their planned development, in terms of altering or destroying the natural resources, and then take corrective measures by adopting environment friendly designs, materials, and practices.”
He then elaborated on EAD’s role: “As a regulator in Abu Dhabi, it is our role and that of other relevant government entities to ensure there are adequate guidelines and regulations for development project permits, not only in the allocation of land but also at their construction and operation stages. We ensure that all development projects go through the necessary Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) before they are approved.”
He added: “Our programme to protect biodiversity is geared towards protection of natural resources, protecting important and threatened species, habitats, and ecosystems. This has created a network of protected areas across different landscapes, from the mountains to the sea to remote deserts.
Regarding the use of technology for the conservation of biodiversity he discussed EAD’s pioneering role. He said: “We monitor our biodiversity using the most advanced tools and technologies available. We have been one of the leaders globally, in the use of satellite telemetry technology, to track long-distance migratory species, particularly birds.
“We also use remote cameras to detect elusive animal species. We are also known for the innovative use of drones in helping us monitor in real-time, with highly accurate information, areas which are difficult to access. We have also incorporated drones, AI, and machine learning across other areas of our work to map our soil and ground water resources. These habitat, soil, and groundwater maps, along with species distribution information, is helping us prioritise our conservation efforts and take timely actions to protect them.”
He concluded: “Our efforts to protect our soil, water, air, and biodiversity resources are not just helping us achieve our mandate to protect and improve our biodiversity and our environment but is helping us create a safe and healthy environment for our residents. A place where they can breathe fresh air, enjoy clean beaches, kayak in the mangroves, hike in the mountains and explore the natural beauty of our desert landscapes. More importantly, it is allowing them to connect with nature.”
Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week is held under the patronage of UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. It is dedicated to setting the sustainability agenda ahead of COP28, the UAE Climate Conference being held at the end of this year at Expo City in Dubai.
Under the theme of ‘United on Climate Action Toward COP28,’ ADSW establishes the UAE leadership’s commitment to practical and inclusive climate action, and took place from Saturday January 14th to Thursday 19th January.