x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Wetlands initiative would save birdlife in the UAE, conservation official says

The UAE should consider setting up an inventory of its wetlands to better protect the birds that rely on them, says an international conservation official.

Beautiful wild flamingos feed at the Ras Al Khor nature reserve in Dubai, one of the UAE’s important wetlands. Christopher Pike / The National
Beautiful wild flamingos feed at the Ras Al Khor nature reserve in Dubai, one of the UAE’s important wetlands. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // The UAE should make a comprehensive study of its wetlands to better protect the birds that rely on them, according to an international conservation official.

Coastal and freshwater wetlands are important as shelter and feeding grounds for migratory birds flying over large areas of desert, said Anada Tiega, secretary general of the Standing Committee of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

“In an arid country such as the UAE, birds really need sites that can host them,” said Mr Tiega, who was visiting officials in Fujairah. “Because they are in a desert area, it is important to conserve those sites.”

An inventory of all wetland sites would ensure a better appreciation of their value for conservation and for uses such as water services, agriculture and coastal protection, said Mr Tiega. A comprehensive assessment would also help identify the areas needing conservation.

“You cannot manage something you do not know,” he said.

As well as conservationists, the assessment should involve the water and agriculture sectors so that responsibility for managing sites well was shared, he said.

“This [approach] has been adopted in many countries and I can give as an example Australia,” he said, adding that the Netherlands and Botswana were other examples.

Mr Tiega, who visited the Wadi Wurayah national park on Wednesday, said he was “really impressed” with what he has seen in the UAE.

The wadi is one of four sites in the UAE to be included in the Ramsar convention. In April, Abu Dhabi’s Al Wathba Wetland Reserve became the fourth UAE site in the list. Ras Al Khor in Dubai and Khor Kalba on the east coast, are also Ramsar sites.

“A lot has been done in terms of policy, legislation and also management,” Mr Tiega said.

Yesterday, he met Dr Rashid bin Fahad, the Minister of Environment and Water, and the setting up of  a national team for the wetlands was discussed during the meeting, the ministry said.

Dr bin Fahad also called for the establishment of additional wetland reserves in the country.

vtodorova@thenational.ae