x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Heritage authority to lift developers' awareness

More developers need to be educated on cultural impact assessments before construction begins, heritage officials say.

ABU DHABI // The emirate's heritage authority will step up an awareness campaign to educate developers on the requirement for environmental and cultural impact assessments at future developments.

Not all developers and contractors are aware of mandatory procedures - including a preliminary cultural review - aimed at ensuring development is sensitive to any archaeological or architectural assets.

"We're just working to make sure that potential development sites don't disturb archaeological sites or historical buildings," said Abdulrahman al Nuaimi, an archaeologist who works with the Abu Dhabi Authority for Heritage and Culture (Adach).

"We want to protect the historical environment of Abu Dhabi and preserve it for future generations."

A cultural review includes a site survey and a report evaluating the impact of the proposed development and how to mitigate any negative impacts to cultural elements on-site.

All developers are required to get an archaeological and cultural impact clearance from Adach before a project can begin.

"Land is one of our most valuable resources, as it holds much of the emirate's tangible heritage, so we'd like to raise awareness to all stakeholders about the preliminary cultural review process, because there isn't enough publicity about it," said Ege Yildirim, a heritage planner with Adach.

"These kinds of reviews are classically viewed by developers as an obstacle, but more dialogue has to take place with the heritage sector, and we have to make developers understand the importance of what we're doing here."

Adach, which works with the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi on the site reviews, plans to continue its publicity efforts and work more closely with developers on education to help raise the profile of the process.

More than 300 cultural reviews have already been completed across the emirate, and past cultural surveys have turned up ancient stone tools, spearheads, pottery and fossils.

Part of the authority's work is showcasing the way culturally significant findings can enhance, not hinder, a development project.

"We're showing developers that there are ways to make archaeological discoveries work for them," Ms Yildirim said.

In some cases, artefacts or fossils discovered on the site can be displayed as part of the final development, and other archaeological discoveries may help to attract visitors, she said.

The preliminary cultural review is the primary legal tool for controlling the impact of development on the UAE's cultural heritage resources. Adach is the sole body responsible for evaluating a cultural review application, and it determines the conditions for approval.

jthomas@thenational.ae