The sun melts away into the horizon at the end of an eventful day. Image Credit: Silvia Baron/ANM

Abu Dhabi: An initiative taken by Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Foreign Minister, has once again drawn everyone's attention to the conservation of desert ecosystems.

Shaikh Abdullah said through twitter that he would like to participate in the desert clean-up campaign on January 20.

The deaths of camels in the UAE deserts after consuming plastic bags have highlighted the levels of pollution caused by human beings in recent years.

The authorities have been conducting an awareness campaign to prevent pollution due to plastic bags and tourism related activities.

A senior official recently told Gulf News that tourism should produce benefits for the local community and help to preserve the local culture and heritage while contributing to the conservation of the environment.


It is critical that these operators understand that they have an environmental responsibility and that the guidelines which they and their customers are following contribute to the preservation of the very natural heritage that their business is promoting, said Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, secretary-general of the Environment Agency- Abu Dhabi (EAD).

Around 50 per cent of camel deaths in the UAE each year are attributed to plastic bags they have eaten, assuming it to be food, she said.

To help minimise the amount of litter polluting the environment, the EAD launched in February 2011 a campaign to raise awareness of the harmful effects of plastic bags on the environment and to reduce the amount of packaging used by manufacturers and retailers, an official spokesman of the agency said.

The campaign urges consumers to switch to biodegradable plastic bags, and supports manufacturers and retailers in making this switch.

EAD's ‘Make UAE Plastic Bag Free' campaign was launched in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW), the Centre of Waste Management — Abu Dhabi (CWM) and local supermarkets and malls. The campaign urges consumers to reduce the use of all types of plastic bags, and demonstrates to them the negative effect of plastic bags on the UAE's wildlife.


In February, EAD will mark National Environment Day by taking this campaign to even more key malls around the emirate.

New partners will come on board for this phase including Abu Dhabi Police, Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and the Family Development Foundation. Continuing to support the campaign will be major retailers such as the Abu Dhabi Cooperative, Carrefour, Lulu Hypermarket, Spinneys and Abela.

According to the Centre for Waste Management — Abu Dhabi, plastic makes up 19 per cent of domestic waste in Abu Dhabi city. Plastic bags are light in weight, therefore they can be easily carried by the wind into forests, deserts, beaches. Floating plastic bags also pose a threat to biodiversity when animals mistakenly swallow them for food. Also, plastic bags choke sewers, contaminate soil and waterways and also enter the food chain.

EAD's campaign was launched to support the government's initiative to phase out the use of plastic bags in the UAE by 2013. In 2009, the MoEW issued a Ministerial Decision to implement a programme to reduce the use of plastic bags.