Dubai: The weather is perfect to explore the desert in the UAE, but venturing into the natural landscape also requires responsible planning.
The UAE’s Public Prosecution has launched a responsible camping initiative this winter, raising awareness about the laws that protect the environment and how campers can ensure they do not negatively impact the environment.
“It is extremely important to conserve the desert landscapes, which make for more than 80 per cent of the total area of the country,” UAE Public Prosecution said in an awareness post on its social media channels.
7 rules to follow
The authority advised campers to follow these rules to follow sustainable camping practices:
1. Set up your camp at customised areas. There are several areas that have been designated by authorities as suitable for camping.
2. Make sure to respect local laws and regulations.
3. Collect all the waste at the camp site and carry it with you when you leave the site and do not leave any trace of waste in the desert.
4. Select equipment suitable for sustainable camping, such as tents made from recyclable materials and efficient cooking utensils in terms of energy consumption.
5. Use water with caution, carry refillable water bottles with you and find ways to reduce water consumption while cooking and cleaning. Also, if you are near a lake or river, avoid polluting any such natural water resource.
6. Reduce waste generation by avoiding disposable items as much as possible.
7. Protect the biodiversity of the desert ecosystem, by ensuring you do not disturb the natural habitat. This includes driving on paths that do not have any foliage, so that you do not damage them, and lighting a fire in areas that do not have any greenery or insects.
Penalties for violators
Federal Law No. 24 of 1999, concerning environmental protection and development, also requires people to not harm the environment in any way, failing which they will be liable to pay for the treatment or removal of such damages.
Social media campaign
UAE Public Prosecution also launched an initiative, #ForSustainableCamping, inviting campers to share videos on social media with the hashtag to share their experience of sustainable camping.
Abdulla Mohammed Bin Ali, an Emirati student who has been camping in the desert from a young age, spoke to Gulf News about participating in this campaign by sharing a video of his recent camping trip, where he took many steps to practice sustainable camping, like using toxin free biocharcoal, reducing the use of wood as much as possible to reduce smoke and bringing his camping equipment in dedicated boxes and reducing waste.
“I have been camping since a young age and it developed through the years and continue until this day,” he told Gulf News.
He added that he has seen campers follow some practices that are damaging to the environment and the natural habitat of animals in the desert, the most common one being that people leave the campsite without cleaning up.
“One big bag is more than enough to leave the place clean so animals don’t eat the plastic [left behind],” he said.
The issue of desert animals eating plastic, and at times dying because of it, has been consistently highlighted in the UAE, even during the recently concluded COP 28 summit.
A 2021 study by Dubai’s Central Veterinary Research Laboratory found that about 300 camels analysed by the lab since 2008, had died because of consuming polybezoars – lumps of indigestible material made of plastic.
Making sure you clean up after you are leaving the campsite and using resources carefully in the desert can go a long way in maintaining the natural environment that everyone can benefit from.