x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Princess Haya calls on people to join green project

One million UAE residents are being asked to literally stand up for the planet next month.

DUBAI // One million UAE residents are being asked to literally stand up for the planet next month to remind world leaders of their commitment to environmental sustainability. They will also be encouraged to plant a native tree to revitalise the landscape. Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has called on a million residents to join in a global campaign called Mission Green Earth: Stand Up and Take Action (SUTA) 2008.

It is part of the UN Millennium Campaign, which encourages citizens to support the Millennium Development Goals set in 2000 by 189 world leaders who promised to work together to end world poverty. Organisers hope to break last year's record for the most people standing up together in support of a cause. And Princess Haya, a UN Messenger of Peace, is lending her support to the event that will run from Oct 17-19.

"Last year, over 43 million people stood up across the world at the same time to remind their leaders of the promise they made," she said yesterday. "Those 43 million individuals represented a strong united voice against a plague that is threatening the future of our planet - poverty - reminding us of the responsibility we have towards the future of this earth." She added: "This year, our Stand Up and Take Action commitment is not only about mankind, it is also about our planet. Why? Because reducing poverty and achieving sustained development must be done in conjunction with a healthy planet, and because climate change must be addressed as a humanitarian emergency, the environmental sustainability goal is the focus of our campaign this year."

Another goal is to plant 70 million trees in 88 participating countries, including at least 100,000 in the UAE. Campaign co-ordinators are encouraging people to plant local species. They hope SUTA will not only reconnect the public with the environment but also convince developers to use plants adapted to the local climate and ecology in landscaping projects. "It's not about stopping building," said Rugmani Prabhakar, executive director of the International Association for Human Values, one of the campaign organisers. "It's just about finding ways to do it responsibly. We are encouraging companies and landscapers to make choices in favour of sustainable development, which, in the long-term, can be more cost effective and eco-friendly."

Efforts are being made to encourage use of low-maintenance plants that need fewer resources to survive. "Very often international architects recommend imported and exotic species of plants and trees for landscaping which are high on maintenance," Ms Prabhakar explained. "Some of these trees need up to 125 litres of water a day to survive. We are trying to encourage people to use plants that require significantly fewer natural resources to survive."

During the next few weeks individuals, as well as private and public sector companies will be encouraged to pledge their commitment to the movement online at www.missiongreenearth.ae before gathering friends and colleagues to stand up together in a pledge of support. Participants must then take a photograph and send it to the website to have their efforts counted in the final tally. The tree planting will begin in November and is expected to continue until July. Seeds for two species - the Ghaf tree, which dots Al Ain's desert, and the Simarouba, an exotic plant - will be distributed by the campaign.

A series of workshops will also be held later in the year with key education and environment figures, while it is hoped a separate forum will bring together property developers and municipalities. Elise Bijon, a communications officer for International Humanitarian City, said residents could not afford to be irresponsible. "We are not the ones paying the price right now for our actions - it's the farmers in Bangladesh whose source of livelihood is being destroyed by floods," she said. "It's also about being a responsible citizen of the world. Climate change is a humanitarian emergency and by not behaving in a way that encourages environmental sustainability we are adding to it. It's up to us."

* For more information on SUTA and how to participate visit