View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

UAE Aiming to be Number One in Ecology

A study entitled, Ecological Footprints of Nations, commissioned in 1997 by the Earth Council, began comparing the ecological footprints of the populations of 52 countries with the amount of productive land available per person in each nation (or per capita ecological capacity.)

In the most recent figures the average UAE citizen had the largest ecological footprint at 11.9 global hectares each; compared to USA at 9.6 (2nd); Canada at 7.6 (5th), Australia at 6.4 (6th); UK at 5.6 (14th); China at 1.6 (69th) and India at 0.8 (125th). The world mean was 2.2.

While the ecological footprint is seen as a controversial tool it is pleasing to see UAE leaders taking this news seriously by the historic launch this week of Al Basma Al Beeiya (Ecological Footprint), a national initiative to understand and deal with the country's ecological challenges. According to Majid Al Mansouri, the Secretary General of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) and AGEDI, the Al Basama Al Beeiya would now take the centre-stage of the UAE's environmental agenda.

This gathering has drawn together leaders of key sectors across the nation (energy, trade, fisheries, agriculture, water and urban planning) to draw up guidelines for a better stewardship of environmental resources, to check the excessive human consumption and reduce high waste.

Dr Mathis Wackernagel Executive Director of GFN, the international partner of the Initiative, made his statement in a pre-recorded video message. A proud and thrilled Wakernagel noted that the UAE is only the third country in the world to embark on such an in-depth research collaboration of this nature after Switzerland and Japan. Comparing the footprint calculation to financial accounting, Wakernagel stated that the Ecological Footprint is about securing people's quality of life, while recognising the ecological budget constraints. The Ecological Footprint helps us to understand the significance of our natural assets for our economy and the natural capital constraints.

Already one significant measure has been proposed. According to a Gulf News report, water consumption will be cut in half:

“Majid Al Mansouri, Secretary General of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, said Abu Dhabi Government will reduce water consumption rate from 550 gallons per head per day to 250 gallons per head over the next five years. Al Kindi said the water consumption rate across the UAE is almost the same as Abu Dhabi and "measures will be taken to reduce it by half." Al Mansouri explained that real estate companies, businesses and individuals will have to meet criteria of optimisation of water consumption and wastewater.

‘UAE Launches Ecological Footprint’, UAE Interact, 20 October 2007
‘Water Consumption to be Cut By Half’, Gulf News, 18 October 2007.

Image: Desalination plant at Fujairah.

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