Dr Ann Carlson Image Credit: Binsal Abdul Kader/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The UAE’s $5 million (Dh18.35 million) international grant for rain enhancement projects shows that the country has not taken water for granted as many others have, experts told Gulf News on Sunday.

“Water is a global issue and a challenge for humankind. This is so critical. We can’t take water for granted [as many people have done],” said Dr Kathie L. Olsen, Founder and Managing Director of ScienceWorks in Washington. She is the Chair of the Technical Committee of the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science.

“We need to be proactive to ensure that water is always available [because] water is life.”

She hopes that the UAE’s programme, which is the first of its kind in the world, will address this important problem.

Dr Ann Carlson, an independent consultant based in New York and a member of the committee, said the UAE has not taken water for granted. “This is very important. The UAE has stepped out to address this challenge by investing money in this area. It is important for all,” she said.

They spoke to Gulf News on the sidelines of the technical committee meeting assessing the pre-proposals received in the first phase of the programme aiming to find innovative solutions to increase rainfall that will address fresh water scarcity within the country and other arid regions across the world.

Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS), launched the programme in January as part of the UAE’s ‘Year of Innovation’. The NCMS is managing the programme with a $5 million (Dh18.35 million) grant that will be given over three years to the selected research projects of any public or private institutions in the UAE or abroad.

The programme has received 78 pre-proposals, representing 325 scientists and researchers affiliated to 151 organisations from 34 countries around the world. The committee will announce the shortlisted candidates on June 1.

“We may select around 20 pre-proposals that will go to the next stage,” Alya Al Mazroui, manager of the programme, told Gulf News. “But the scientists at the committee have a tough task to shortlist the pre-proposals, which have exceeded our expectations,” she said. The selected candidates have to submit their full proposals by September 17. The finalists will be announced in January 2016, Alya said.

Dr Abdullah Al Mandoos, Director of NCMS, said: “With the support of the UAE’s leadership, we can make rain enhancement a potentially key contributor towards ensuring water security. Globally, we have sought to drive this programme as a cluster point for innovative transnational cooperation and best practice. Closer to home, we are especially delighted to receive 19 pre-proposals from teams of scientists and researchers based in the UAE,” he said.