Sun 04-06-2017 15:50 PM

UAE maximises value of nature in various policies and development plans: Thani Al-Zeyoudi

ABU DHABI, 4th June, 2017 (WAM) -- On the occasion of World Environment Day, celebrated on 5th June every year, Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, has said that the changes in people’s relationship with nature in recent decades, including the intensive exploitation of nature’s resources beyond its ability to regenerate, are a major cause of the current global environmental degradation.

In a statement, the minister said, "As part of our cultural heritage embodied by the practices of our forefathers, improving the relationship between people and nature and restoring the balance between development needs and nature's capacities is of great interest to all stakeholders in the UAE."

This year's theme for World Environment Day is ‘Connecting People with Nature’. The theme represents human capital, the cornerstone of development, awareness of the importance of living in harmony with nature, and of using natural resources in a sustainable manner, especially given the pressures and challenges the population currently faces in relation to economic growth and climate change.

The founding father of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, instilled in the UAE peoples a commitment to the principle of coexistence between man and nature, and although the UAE has seen a rapid population growth and where ambitious plans require more exploitation of the nation's resources, efforts have been made to achieve this coexistence in a sustainable way.

"The relationship between the country and nature has been an important part of our concerns. Even amid the comprehensive developmental renaissance that has affected various aspects of life, the UAE has always been keen on preserving a good relationship between man and nature, and maximising the value of nature and its resources in various policies and development plans.

"This is reflected in the UAE Vision 2021, launched by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, that emphasises the importance of protecting the country’s natural environment from the dangers of human activities on a local and global scale," Dr. Al-Zeyoudi continued.

The country has endeavoured to provide appropriate protection for many areas of land and sea that are environmentally sensitive or historically significant, so that they can withstand natural and developmental pressures and challenges. Today, the UAE has officially declared 43 protected areas that span more than 14 percent of the country's territory, exceeding the target set in the National Strategy for Biodiversity 2015-2021.

In addition, there are dozens of protected areas with local and international reputations, such as Sir Bani Yas Island, known as the ‘modern-day Noah's Ark’, and Qarnein Island that has featured on the World Wildlife Fund’s ‘Gifts to the Earth’ list since 2003. Making protected areas accessible to visitors is a valuable opportunity to enhance the attachment of people to their natural environment.

According to the Minister, the UAE has created new natural areas, developed hundreds of natural sites, established tourist resorts around the most important natural and historical areas within urban development plans, and invested in promoting eco-tourism.

"Sustainability of the environment and preservation of natural resources are among the objectives of the UAE Green Development Strategy. Reinforcing the country’s reputation as an important tourist destination calls for stepping up our efforts to develop a comprehensive environmental tourism policy. In the run-up to Expo 2020 Dubai, we are committed to achieving the desired balance between economic activity and tourism while preserving our rich natural heritage," he added.

Dr. Thani Al-Zeyoudi reiterated the need to raise awareness about the importance of nature, especially among the youth, and to adopt a sustainable lifestyle in order to live in harmony with nature.