x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

For conservation, every little bit helps

Grass-roots environmental projects in the region are getting the acclaim they deserve thanks to the Ford Foundation.

The Arabic concept of conservation, hima, is no stranger to these shores. The Green Dubai initiative and Abu Dhabi's Estidama have established benchmarks for environmentally-friendly buildings. Masdar has brought energy leaders together to plan and experiment with clean energy technologies. But smaller players and initiatives can also inspire change. These grass-roots efforts were given a boost yesterday when the Ford Motor Company Conservation and Environmental Grants programme awarded several environmental organisations working in the UAE.

The Dubai-based Emirates Diving Association (EDA) won a US$9,000 (Dh33,000) grant to expand its Reef Check programme that monitors the health of coral reefs - a bellwether for other marine life. "With this grant we will be able to do reef checks in other areas," said Rita Bento, who works with the EDA. Currently their projects are limited to the preservation of three reefs off the coast of Dibba.

This project is the latest of 130 environmental initiatives that the Ford Foundation has supported since 2000. The US-based foundation has distributed US$100,000 (Dh367,000) each year to local communities in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the UAE. "For environmental sustainability to succeed, it cannot be a top-down effort only, it has to be a bottom-up effort as well," said Dr Thabit al Abdessalaam, the director of the biodiversity management sector at the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, who was also on the jury that selected the grant recipients.

Of course, there is room for projects big and small when it comes to conservation. As The National reported yesterday, the design for a solar-panelled energy pyramid, the Lunar Cubit project, won the UAE's Land Art Generator Prize, sponsored by Masdar. The pyramids, planned to match the size of Giza's Great Pyramid of Cheops, are designed to power up to 250 homes, generating about 3,500 megawatt hours per year.

Whether providing awards to designers or to small grass-roots organisations for their environmental efforts, there is one message that should be emphasised: when people understand that their fates are tied together, and to the fate of the planet, they begin to make better use of resources available to them. As the recipients of the Ford Foundation grants know, every little bit helps.