Ministry of Climate Change holds youth camp on Sir Baniyas Island to enhance eco-awareness

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DUBAI, 23rd February, 2019 (WAM) -- The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment,MOCCAE, hosted 40 university students and youth council members at a two-day camp on Sir Bani Yas Island in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Themed ‘UAE’s Natural Wonders’, the camp was held in collaboration with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi,EAD, the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi,DCT Abu Dhabi, and youth councils in the UAE. The participants engaged several outdoor activities aimed at familiarizing them with the concept of ecotourism and raising their awareness of environmental protection in a bid to foster the next generation of environmental stewards.

The camp agenda featured informative talks with Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, and Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Acting Secretary General of EAD. In addition, the youth participated in a photography contest, and posted the pictures they captured of the island’s natural beauty and wildlife on their social accounts with the hashtag #UAENaturalWonders.

On February 22, the organisers planned a day filled with activities, including kayaking, scuba diving, a wildlife drive, land sailing, and a tour of cultural and historic sites. In addition, they hosted an outdoor brainstorming session on the topic of promoting ecotourism in the UAE.

On February 23, the campers visited Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, the region’s first and largest UNESCO biosphere reserve, where they learned about the reserve’s rich biodiversity, as well as endangered species such as turtles, dugongs, dolphins, coral reefs, and mangroves.

Dr. Al Zeyoudi,said: "Youth empowerment and capacity building is a national priority. At MOCCAE, we believe the young generation is a change agent in our efforts to address environmental challenges. In line with this belief, we have developed several initiatives to engage young people in our work, such as the youth council and the Emirates Youth Climate Strategy 2018-2021."

He added: "As an initiative led by the Ministry’s Youth Council, this camp is a prime example of how we harness young minds to produce innovative, fresh ideas. Bridging the gap between the country’s youth and policy makers is vital to ensuring that the UAE is on track to achieving sustainable development."

For her part, Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri said: "The camp aligns with EAD’s Eco-reserve Program, launched in 2014 to enhance awareness and encourage the community to explore Abu Dhabi's natural heritage and reserves. We are committed to bringing our youth closer to nature and equipping them with the knowledge and tools to assume their future roles as environmental leaders."

She noted that Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve is managed by EAD as one of the 19 protected areas under the Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network. It is of global importance as a shelter and feeding ground for dugongs. The area also provides crucial nursery and spawning grounds for a wide variety of fish species and is regionally important as a foraging habitat for hawksbill and green turtles. Furthermore, the islands inside the protected area serve as nesting sites for hawksbill sea turtles and a number of migratory birds.

MOCCAE launched the national ecotourism project ‘UAE’s Natural Wonders’ in July 2018, aiming to promote ecotourism across the seven emirates and to position the country as a leading ecotourism hub. Completed in October 2018, phase one of the project made ample information on the UAE’s 43 protected areas available via a dedicated microsite, app and e-book.

WAM/Tariq alfaham