x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Bu Tinah campaign was just one step

The Bu Tinah campaign failed in a sense, but the project of environmental awareness should continue.

Although Bu Tinah Island did not make it to the list of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, the campaign had more than one purpose. More important than membership in the new list sponsored by a private Swiss foundation is that the island and its environs have been publicised among other natural treasures worldwide such as the Maldives islands, Ecuador's Galapagos, the US Grand Canyon and Italy's Mount Vesuvius.

Recognition has to begin at home. In truth, the name Bu Tinah may have meant little to many people in the country before the campaign. We hope that environmental awareness does not end here, and indeed is not exclusive to the island.

Part of the Unesco-recognised Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve, Bu Tinah with its surrounding coral reefs and seagrass beds is one of the country's greatest natural treasures. The campaign to raise the marine reserve's profile should continue, not for future competitions but to protect the region's delicate ecosystem.

There needs to be more awareness about the country's natural treasures, especially those in danger of being lost. In July, the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi issued a warning that the six most important wetlands in the UAE are all under threat, from both neglect and development.

As we have said in these pages, dredging, pollution and hasty development pose a major threat to marshlands, reefs and other precious coastal resources. Since 2005, for example, more than half of Reem Island's mangroves have been destroyed.

Increased public awareness, together with government regulation and enforcement, is necessary to help to preserve the country's natural diversity. Public campaigns should be continuous and encompassing.

The campaign for Bu Tinah reached more than 13 million people across the region; and it showed that the public, both Emiratis and others, care for the environment and are willing to take action to protect it - if they are aware of the value, and the threat.

What is the importance of having one treasure on the world's map when others are being lost? It is more worthwhile, as the adage goes, to think globally but act locally.