x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Ask Ali: Bu Tinah island and environment as heritage

The unique biosphere competing to be named one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Abu Dhabi's Bu Tinah is part of our national heritage.

Dear Ali: Good to see you contributing to the environment with the Vote Bu Tinah campaign, but can you tell us how significant Bu Tinah is and why visitors are not allowed there? DA, Abu Dhabi

Dear DA: Bu Tinah is an island off the coast of Abu Dhabi. It is part of the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, a Unesco-recognised site and the region's first and largest Marine Biosphere Reserve (MBR). These sites are vital for promoting harmony between natural and human activities and are key to the future of sustainable development. Bu Tinah is significant because it's a protected marine area where nature is respected and allowed to flourish. It's through the protection of Bu Tinah's unique environment, and the conservation of its habitats and inhabitants, that this important ecosystem has thrived.

From my cultural point of view, I believe that our environment is part of our heritage and we are proud of that. Therefore, we must take care of it and protect it so that the next generation can be proud of it as well.

I believe being part of this campaign is a responsibility and a duty for every one of us.

Bu Tinah has been chosen from among hundreds of natural areas as one of 28 finalists in the global New7Wonders of Nature competition. This shows we have a jewel to protect and raise awareness about, and that the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi has been doing something right all these years in taking care of these sites.

I believe each one of us must consider voting for Bu Tinah not only because it's in the UAE but also because this island proves that our Arabian Peninsula is famous for more than its great Empty Quarter, camels, gazelles, oases, falcons and palm trees. But more than that, we have a great legacy in the waters of the Arabian Gulf that we should preserve.

We want the world to know that, besides the desert, the UAE also has great marine life - birds such as the Socotra Cormorant that cannot be found in other places; the great sea cows the dugongs; the hawksbill turtle that is in danger globally; and ospreys, flamingoes, mangroves and coral - all in one area of Bu Tinah's waters.

If we don't care for or respect or even appreciate this island, then we basically are killing our last hope to save our environment or maintain one of the last pieces of heaven in our water.If we don't protect and raise awareness of Bu Tinah today, we might not have this beautiful ecosystem and its marine and plant life for our future generations.

Yes, many ask how can we vote for a place we are unable to visit. I was one such questioner until I understood and appreciated that Bu Tinah is still a young biosphere area. It needs to be heavily protected so that nothing disturbs the animal life there. We should all understand that visiting the island is restricted to special rangers, marine biologists and certain students.

Bu Tinah could be our first step towards developing the best practices of eco-tourism in our region so people can visit and enjoy the area. But letting everyone visit it today would only pollute the area and disturb the animals.

I'm sure if you are an Emirati, an expat who cares for the UAE or just som