ABU DHABI // Guidelines are being drawn up to protect the emirate's vast and diverse coastline and marine life from future development as part of the 2030 project.
A masterplan is needed to preserve Abu Dhabi's 764 kilometres of mainland coastline and its waters, Falah Al Ahbabi, general manager of the Urban Planning Council (UPC), said yesterday as he launched the Plan Maritime 2030.
The project, which is in its initial stages and is due to be finished at the end of year, will see the creation of an online mapping system of the coastline.
The map will show current and proposed developments, earmark areas best suited to potential recreation and tourism use, and outline areas of natural significance that need to be preserved, such as the Eastern Mangroves.
Managed by the UPC with a host of government agencies and coastal and marine stakeholders, the plan will combat "major threats to maintaining biodiversity, including coastal development, urbanisation and over-exploitation of natural resources".
"The long-term economic viability of our emirate is inextricably tied to its maritime resources," Mr Al Ahbabi said. "As Abu Dhabi is diversifying its economic base, the protection and preservation of its maritime domain will be critical and will require the effective planning and integration of disparate sectors.
"Plan Maritime 2030 will ensure protection of the natural ecosystems of the marine and coastal environment and recognise and enhance its significant and valuable habitats and species.
"It will also help plan for the preservation of the emirate's biodiversity, adaptation to climate change and sea-level-rise challenges, and help prevent adverse cumulative impacts. It will recognise the waters and coasts as an outstanding resource and asset that should be sustained for future generations."
The plan will also address the development of transport, safety, security and emergency planning.
Amer Al Hammadi, director of planning and infrastructure at the UPC, said: "The waters and coastal areas are many things to residents and visitors - working waterways, ports, transport routes, desirable places to live, places of great beauty and a focus for recreation and cultural appreciation.
"Application of Plan Maritime 2030 will highlight the importance of our waterways and guide future sustainable use within a safe, secure, vibrant and diverse environment, to enhance the quality of life of UAE nationals, residents and visitors."
The Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (Ead) has been working with the UPC to share its scientific archive and data on protected marine areas, habitat assessment, marine water quality and sensitive species.
Mohamed Al Madfei, executive director of integrated environment policy and planning sector at Ead, said: "It is obvious just from looking at our skyline or reading the latest population figures that Abu Dhabi is rapidly developing.
"Abu Dhabi is booming and it is imperative that sustainable development and environmental protection remains on top of this agenda.
"Coastal development, urbanisation and over-exploitation of natural resources are just some of the threats our biodiversity face."
Along the emirate's coastline there are also about 215 islands and the warm Arabian Gulf waters support a diverse and rich marine environment, including fragile wetlands, more than 60 per cent of the UAE's mangroves and an internationally important dugong population.
"Abu Dhabi's coastline and its islands provide us with food, are home to critical ecosystems, protect the population and form an integral part of our culture and heritage," Dr Al Madfei said. "Creating appropriate plans and policies that take this into consideration will ensure that our environment, our heritage and our people remain the top priorities."