News From Around the Muslim World – June 2010

Bahrain: Five-Year Plan to Revive Fisheries in Bahrain

Trade Arabia news service reports that Bahrain is launching a five-year action plan to revitalise the country’s fisheries and marine environment.

The campaign, titled People and the Sea – From Directives to Action, will begin in June 2010, Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife president Shaikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa revealed on June 22, 2010.

He said the campaign, which would run until 2015, would involve rescuing habitats and creating fish farms to restock the natural fisheries.

The three-phase plan aims to rehabilitate stressed coral reefs in Bahrain’s territorial waters, as well as creating artificial reefs to ensure fish grow in a safe, healthy natural habitat.

The campaign follows directives from His Majesty King Hamad to spread environmental awareness and protect marine resources as one of the main pillars of food security, said Shaikh Abdulla.

The first step will involve clearing fishing areas and coasts of silt created by reclamation and dredging, as well as cleaning the seabed of old fishing equipment and nets, along with other debris.

The second phase, due to start in the second quarter of next year, will involve planting artificial reefs in specific zones.

The third phase will start in the second half of 2012 and will involve creating fish breeding farms, to replenish stocks in the sea.

Shaikh Abdulla urged all concerned to work together to make the campaign a success.

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Jordan: Young Jordanians Highlight Dangers of Plastic Bags

Nine-year old Haya Zarou doesn’t like plastic bags.

The fourth grader at the Baccalaureate School said that despite their convenience, plastic bags kill animals and harm the country’s unique environment.

“People should stop using plastic bags and use fabric ones instead… plastic bags are not good for the environment,” said Zarou, who was dressed in a white shirt that read “Go Green”.

Her friend Sarah Tabbaa said she wants to protect Jordan’s environment, trees and animals, stressing the need to recycle waste, especially plastics, as they take a very long time to decompose.

Zarou and Tabbaa were two of dozens of fourth-graders who explained to shoppers the dangers plastic bags pose to the Kingdom’s fragile environment as part of an UN-organised campaign on June 3, 2010.

On June 3, 2010, students handed out free fabric and paper bags to customers at Safeway at the Seventh Circle in Amman, the C-Town shopping centre in Irbid and the Zarqa Civil Service Consumer Corporation outlet as part of the campaign, which aims to curb the use and spread of plastic bags in the Kingdom.

Every year, more than 3 billion plastic bags are used in Jordan, according to a UN statement, which attributed the figure to the Ministry of Environment.

“If one out of five Jordanians stopped using plastic bags completely, together they would save more than 43 billion plastic bags throughout their life,” the UN said in the statement.

During a ceremony at Safeway to launch the campaign, which marks World Environment Day, observed annually on June 3, Minister of Environment Hazem Malhas said protecting the environment represents “a great challenge and a shared responsibility to keep our soil and nature clean.”

“The use of plastic bags should be banned, and if people must use them, they should pay for them,” he said.

The UN attributed the widespread use of plastic bags to different factors, mainly low environmental consciousness amongst consumers and the absence of any ban or excise fees.

Plastic bags are energy intensive in production and are mostly made up of petroleum-based polyethylene, which takes up to 1,000 years to decompose, according to the UN.

When polyethylene is not properly disposed, it breaks down toxic substances leaking into the soil and entering the food chain, according to experts.

Safeway Director General Laith Abu Hilal said a total of 350,000 kilogrammes of plastic bags are used at the branch each year at a cost of JD700,000.

“Reducing the use of plastic bags prevents damage to the environment and saves money at the same time,” he said at June 3’s event.

Jordanian singer Zain Awad, who unveiled a new song during the event encouraging environment protection, said behavioural change takes time.

“We should start changing our own behaviour as the first step and teach our children the importance of protecting the environment at a young age,” Awad noted.

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Oman:  Oman Green Awards Receives UNEP Certificate

On June 13, 2010, the Oman Green Awards received United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) certificate of appreciation.

The UNEP is the nodal agency behind the world’s environmental programmes. Oman Green Awards (OGA) had submitted its registration for the celebrations of World Environment Day 2010.

On the eve of the awards celebrations in Oman, a UNEP certificate of appreciation acknowledges the OGA effort to celebrate the people’s power to positively change environment and the future.

The UNEP citation reads: “Every action counts, and when multiplied by a global chorus, becomes exponential in its impact”.

The OGA, a pioneering initiative by Oman Economic Review, is supported by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs, the Ministry of Health (Department of Environmental and Occupational Health), Muscat Municipality and the Environment Society of Oman.

The awards has been set up to awaken eco-consciousness in every Omani citizen and resident, and is a unique platform with the ultimate aim to motivate behavioral change and increase awareness in relation to the protection and preservation of our environment.

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UAE: EAD and UAE University to Cooperate on Environmental Issues and Building Capacity

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on Tuesday (15 June, 2010) between the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) to promote cooperation in the fields of scientific research and building capacities.

The MoU was signed by H.E. Majid Ali Al Mansouri, EAD’s Secretary General, on behalf of the Agency and H.E. Dr. Abdullah Saad Al Khanbashi, UAEU Vice Chancellor on behalf of the University.

”Through this joint cooperation, both parties will exchange data and benefit from a wide variety of opportunities in research to face growing environmental challenges such as climate change and environmental health,” said Al Mansouri.

“The University will provide research expertise to EAD to help achieve a healthy environment for different sectors of the community,” said Dr. Abdullah Al Khanbashi, UAEU Vice Chancellor.

The MOU outlines a framework for joint cooperation in the areas of applied research and capacity building within both parties. Emiratis will be capacity built through internships and by supporting graduate programmes offered by the University in areas of common interest, in accordance with projects carried out by EAD in collaboration with the University. For example, Emiratis would be involved in one of EAD’s most prominent projects, in which currently UAE University is collaborating on: the National Strategy and Action Plan for Environmental Health. This project aims to identify priority health threats caused by environmental factors in the UAE and estimate the burden of disease caused by these factors.

Moreover, EAD will be supporting the University’s efforts to establish a Center of Excellence in Water Resources Management and an Abu Dhabi Gene Bank. This Gene Bank, which is a project that EAD commissioned the University to carry out, will help conserve the UAE’s native plants by restoring the botanical heritage of the United Arab Emirates. The Gene Bank will also help reacquaint the community with the beauty of arid plants and their habitats.

A joint committee has been formed, consisting of three members from each party, to develop an action plan and timeline. This MoU will be in effect for five years from the date of signing. It shall be automatically renewed for a similar period, unless one party decides to terminate it.

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UAE: Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi Launches Pioneering Online Coastal Atlas

The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) launched on June 16, 2010 its Coastal Resources Atlas and Vulnerability Index (‘Coastal Atlas’), a pioneering new resource detailing the Emirate of Abu Dhabi’s coastline and waters.

The Coastal Atlas is designed to aid local policy-making and coastal development planning, as well as inform and educate people interested in the Emirate’s rich marine biodiversity.

The Coastal Atlas, which is available to view online at, has been primarily designed as a tool to aid policy makers and development planners understand more about the Emirate’s marine environment, helping them to understand the potential impact of new policies, legislation and development decisions.

The Atlas details environmental sensitivities, such as different habitats, its local biodiversity and their vulnerabilities, according to CMRECS (Coastal and Marine Resources and Ecosystem Classification System) criteria, which is internationally-recognised and considered global best-practice.

As well as technical data, the Coastal Atlas also contains information about Abu Dhabi’s coastal and marine environment that members of the public will find of interest, for example locations of Marine Protected Areas. Using easy-to-use software and visually-attractive design, viewers can navigate the coastline and waters from the comfort of their armchairs. For example, people will be able to learn where the Emirate’s population of dugongs can be found, what kind of fish live in the local waters and the impact of climate change on rising sea levels in the Arabian Gulf.

Most of the data is ‘open access’ online, however a second tier of the Coastal Atlas is a GIS-based extension that contains commercial or sensitive information. For example, oil rig locations can only be accessed by authorised parties granted access by EAD.

EAD has designed this tool to be used for environmental impact assessment by planners and developers. For example, a developer planning to dredge along the coastline will be able to map out sensitive areas containing high level of sedimentation and overlay these areas with ecological data. This mapping facility will enable developers to have access to data that will inform their decision-making.

An oil spill modelling application outlines potential scenarios in the event of an oil spill in the Arabian Gulf, showing how the oil could spread out from various locations, wind and wave patterns which could influence its spread and impact on ecology. The software has also been designed to be used as a central near-real-time resource point in the event of a real oil spill, showing the tracking of the oil’s movements and helping to ensure critical information is exchanged transparently and smoothly between the organizations involved in the oil spill’s management.

The Coastal Atlas has already been recognized with a global best practice award- the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) Special Achievement Award for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in Environmental Management for 2010.

Speaking at the June 16, 2010’’s launch, H.E Majid Al Mansouri, Secretary General of EAD, said: “In Abu Dhabi, we are blessed with an abundance of natural coastline and a rich marine environment which is being increasingly recognized, such as that of Bu Tinah Island.  We believe that people interested in biodiversity will enjoy learning more about our local marine habitats and wildlife through this easy-to-use online tool. At EAD, we believe that interest leads to knowledge, and that knowledge leads to action.  We realize that the more people know about Abu Dhabi’s unique environment, the more they will appreciate it and want to protect it.”  

In addition, Thabit Zahran Al Abdessalaam, Director of EAD’s Biodiversity Management Sector, said: “The Coastal Atlas is the first resource of its kind in the region, and one of the most technologically-advanced in the world today. It will function as a live database, and we are actively asking our partners to help contribute on an ongoing basis, helping to ensure that information about the marine environment is readily accessible to those who need it and that environmental considerations are prioritized.”

The Coastal Atlas is an expanded and updated version of the Coastal Resources Atlas issued in 2000, a hard copy edition developed by EAD, which focused on potential coastal-based scenarios in the event of an oil-spill in the Arabian Gulf.  

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