In a televised interview with His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, the talk reflected Shaikh Sultan’s keen interest in protecting the UAE’s environment.
Researchers and specialised institutes in the UAE and Oman have been urged to conduct additional studies on underground water incubators, riverbeds, old valleys and their relation to the current water supply, movements of sand dunes and areas where cumulus clouds gather — those which are called Rawayih in the UAE.
The interview is a call to conduct expanded geological studies of rocks, water, soil and all areas, whether desert or mountainous, in the UAE and Oman.
Shaikh Sultan has special scientific knowledge, which the people of the UAE are proud of. He also has a distinguished political status as the Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.
Thus, Shaikh Sultan has wide legislative and executive authority in Sharjah and the UAE as well, which is why there is a belief that this research will be an excellent source of information and data-base of the general and desert environment. It will also have a great impact on future environment legislations.
Amidst this interest in the environment — which is a well-known trait of UAE’s political leadership, following in the footsteps of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan — the environment of the emirates has been well preserved as a result of this care and attention.
Over the past four decades, the UAE has taken great strides in urban development. This development has covered the land and extended towards the sea, where man-made islands have been constructed and marine ports have been built with docks and piers. Because of this, the number of the country’s shores overlooking the Arabian Gulf have multiplied, which is considered a great bonus. However, this expansion, that was deemed necessary in many instances, has changed the nature of marine life, which is facing many natural challenges.
The high temperature of the sea water is the result of global warming, while the death of various kinds of sea anemones threatens the lives of sea polyps and hence threatens the existence of coral reef.
The increasing salinity of the Gulf water comes as a result of the depletion of rivers which pour into it, the increase of evaporation, the uncontrollable marine pollution — because many countries overlooking the Arabian Gulf have not worked towards protecting its waters against pollution — and overfishing, with scant regard for marine life.
Therefore, studies and research related to the environment — especially the marine environment — are exceedingly important as there are so many natural and man-made problems and challenges. There are also the changing shore’s topography and other built shores that penetrate the Arabian Gulf shore’s reef and can result in the destruction and uprooting of coral reefs.
The people of the UAE used to say in days gone by that the good health of coral reefs (Urshan) mirrors the situation of the sea and its creatures. So if the coral reefs are well and thriving, the whole marine life will be in good health and prosper. If the coral reef perishes then the whole marine life will be endangered.
That is why our ancestors in the UAE used to build their houses using dead sea stones, instead of living ones such as the coral reef, because they loved the sea and considered it as an important source of their livelihood.
However, marine life experts and researchers in the country say that the whole issue does not call for being pessimistic. We totally agree with them as a result of our humble experience related to the sea in our country and its long steadfastness in the face of so many challenges.
Our optimism stems from the possibility of reproducing coral reefs according to new scientific methods, especially as the country’s wise leadership is keen on this issue.
We are also positive that the sincere efforts to maintain the country’s marine environment will succeed towards reactivating it. These multiplied shores can also become a huge depository for sea creatures and a suitable location for fish reproduction and incubation.
Marine life must be maintained through adoption of legislations for prohibition of fishing at certain times, development of gulfs and shores to encourage the continuity of marine life and prohibition of overfishing and punishing those who break the law.
The Arabian Gulf is not a mere patch of salt water. It is an important part of its countries’ identities, tradition and history and it is also an asset for coming generations and a flourishing future.
Dr Khalifa Rashid Al Shaali is an Emirati writer who specialises in legal affairs.