On the occasion of World Environment Day, celebrated on June 5 every year, His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: “The changes in people’s relationship with nature in recent decades, including the intensive exploitation of nature’s resources beyond its ability to regenerate, are a major cause of the current global environmental degradation.
“As part of our cultural heritage embodied by the practices of our forefathers, improving the relationship between people and nature and restoring the balance between development needs and nature’s capacities is of great interest to all stakeholders in the UAE.
“The founding father of the UAE, late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan stated that we have been committed to the principle of coexistence between man and nature, and although our rapid population growth and ambitious plans require more exploitation of our resources, we have tried to achieve this in a sustainable way.
“The theme of the 2017 World Environment Day is ‘Connecting People with Nature’. The theme represents human capital – the cornerstone of development, awareness of the importance of living in harmony with nature, and of using natural resources in a sustainable manner, especially given the pressures and challenges the population currently faces in relation to economic growth and climate change.
“The relationship between the country and nature has been an important part of our concerns. Even amid the comprehensive developmental renaissance that has affected various aspects of life, the UAE has always been keen on preserving a good relationship between man and nature, and maximizing the value of nature and its resources in various policies and development plans. This is reflected in the UAE Vision 2021, launched by the UAE President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, that emphasizes the importance of protecting the country’s natural environment from the dangers of human activities on a local and global scale.
“The country has endeavored to provide appropriate protection to many areas of land and sea that are environmentally sensitive or historically significant so that they can withstand natural and developmental pressures and challenges. Today, we have 43 officially declared protected areas that span more than 14 percent of the country’s territory, exceeding the target set in the National Strategy for Biodiversity 2015-2021.
“In addition, there are dozens of protected areas with local and international reputation, such as Sir Bani Yas Island, known as ‘modern-day Noah’s Ark’, and Qarnein Island that has featured on the World Wildlife Fund’s ‘Gifts to the Earth’ list since 2003. Making protected areas accessible to visitors is a valuable opportunity to enhance the attachment of people to their natural environment.
“The UAE has created new natural areas, developed hundreds of natural sites, established tourist resorts around the most important natural and historical areas within urban development plans, and invested in promoting eco-tourism.
“The country has also worked relentlessly to educate the young generations to respect their natural and cultural heritage through opening multiple museums dedicate to history and nature. Moreover, the government organizes festivals, competitions and heritage exhibitions throughout the year in addition to running awareness campaigns on the economic, social and environmental importance of natural resources.
“Sustainability of the environment and preservation of natural resources are among the objectives of the UAE Green Development Strategy. Reinforcing the country’s reputation as an important tourist destination calls for stepping up our efforts to develop a comprehensive environmental tourism policy. In the run-up to Expo 2020, we are committed to achieving the desired balance between economic activity and tourism while preserving our rich natural heritage.”
His Excellency Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi reiterated the need to raise awareness about the importance of nature, especially among the youth, and to adopt a sustainable lifestyle in order to live in harmony with nature.
Source: moccae.gov.ae Originally published on June 5th 2017.