x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Abu Dhabi mother hits the heights to help save environment

Zeina Abdo, 36, hopes her trek up Mont Blanc will raise awareness about climate change and the vital need for sustainability.

Zeina Abdo spent two weeks in Antartica on an environmental expedition in March.
Zeina Abdo spent two weeks in Antartica on an environmental expedition in March.

ABU DHABI // An Abu Dhabi resident plans to climb to the top of western Europe's highest mountain next week to raise awareness of climate change, receding glaciers and water scarcity.

"Mont Blanc has always fascinated me," said Zeina Abdo, 36, a marketing manager who studied in Switzerland. "It is a technical peak and I would like to raise awareness of the receding glaciers."

Her passion for nature and the environment, coupled with a desire to help educate people about environmental issues, inspired her to take on the challenge.

Receding glaciers should be treated as warning signs, Ms Abdo said.

"In the past 20 years, the Chamonix valley has witnessed important shifts in glaciers's cycle," she said.

"Before, autumns there were bad enough seasons, allowing ice to regenerate, [but] lately they are nice and warm seasons, impending the natural cycle."

The Chamonix Valley in south-east France is the site of Mont Blanc, which rises 4,810 metres.

Ms Abdo said the Mer de Glace, a glacier on the northern slopes of the mountain, is losing 10 metres of ice a year, while the Taconnaz, a "dry glacier" on the mountain's west flank, is at threat of collapse any time, further endangering the valley.

The Lebanese mother of two boys, aged four and six, said it was important to set an example for her children, who have accompanied her on trips to Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Ms Abdo, who was born and raised in the Emirates, said the climate crisis was evident in every culture and society, with water consumption in the UAE being among the highest in the world.

"We look at water as a commodity," she said. "It is quite ironic that we live in a country lacking in water resources but we consume a lot of water and leave our taps open."

In 2010, the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi warned that the emirate was using its underground water resources 24 times as fast as they could be replenished, and that if nothing was done they would be exhausted within 50 years.

In contrast, during a trip to Nepal, Ms Abdo came across a group of women at a water well.

"It took them three hours to fill one gallon," she said. "Here, we consume it so easily."

After climbing Mont Blanc next Thursday, she plans to scale the Glacier d'Aletsch in Switzerland, considered the biggest glacier in the Alps.

"I'm not new to mountaineering," said Ms Abdo. "I'm excited and nervous at the same time. I just hope the weather is on my side."

In November, she climbed the 6,189m Island Peak in Nepal, and in March she spent two weeks in Antarctica on an environmental expedition.

"Ms Abdo's personal mission is a powerful story to highlight the need for greater commitment to environmental sustainability," said Suparna Mathur, a co-founder of Abu Dhabi Cause Connect, which helps companies and community groups work with charitable causes.

Ms Abdo recently set up "Smile for Hope", a non-governmental organisation in Nepal that gives paediatric cancer patients from remote villages access to medical treatment.

For more information on her mission, visit www.zeinaabdo.com.

rruiz@thenational.ae