Community members have been fixing the tags to the trees to support the initiative Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) has expanded its native tree-tagging programme to encompass all naturally occurring native trees in the emirate’s wild habitats and natural reserves.

The agency aims to tag 100,000 native trees as part of the programme, encompassing ghaf, samar, and sidr trees, all of which naturally thrive in wild habitats and protected areas. In collaboration with its strategic partners, EAD has set the standards for tree-tagging activities, which will be held in diverse regions across the emirate.

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Expanded to city

The programme will be expanded to encompass trees in city parks, urban areas and along roadsides through the tree-tagging initiative managed by the Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT). Native trees situated in agricultural zones and tourist sites will also be included in the programme, with collaboration and coordination involving the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority (ADAFSA) and the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT). The programme entails collecting data on the status of trees, aligning with standards compatible with the databases of the Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi (SCAD).

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Promoting sustainability

EAD Secretary-General Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri said: “The Agency has developed this programme in alignment with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, who emphasises the significance of fostering sustainability and safeguarding the country’s environmental and natural systems. This commitment is evident through the extension of the Year of Sustainability initiative into 2024, reflecting the intention to build upon the successes of the previous year. This extension underscores the country’s dedication to realising a prosperous and sustainable future for all.”

She also emphasised that the programme is among the most comprehensive initiatives globally. The agency aims to tag and number all native trees growing in wild areas and natural reserves within the emirate’s Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network.

Unlawful encroachments

Ahmed Al Hashemi, Executive Director - Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector, EAD, said: “Within the initial three months since the programme’s initiation in November 2023, EAD successfully tagged over 17,000 trees. Native trees in Abu Dhabi are confronted with multiple challenges. Apart from the adversities induced by climate change, leading to a significant decline in rainfall across diverse habitats of the emirate, the tree cover encounters additional pressures stemming from unlawful encroachments. These include unauthorised firewood collection and unregulated overgrazing. These activities have a detrimental impact on the natural regeneration of native tree species.”

Dh10,000 fine

According to Al Hashemi, EAD has shared community awareness messages regarding violations and the associated administrative fines as stipulated in EAD’s Board Resolution No. 2 of 2021, addressing infringements on native trees both within and outside natural reserves. These messages have also been incorporated onto identification tree tags/signs, presented in Arabic, English, and Urdu, affixed to tree trunks. The tag says there is a Dh10,000 fine for cutting or harming the tree.

The tag warns against cutting the tree Image Credit: Supplied

This measure is expected to bolster the agency’s efforts in enforcing approved environmental laws and legislation.

Electronic coding and database

The programme will also contribute to enhancing data quality and updating the knowledge repository of relevant authorities concerning the status of native trees. It will achieve this by gathering comprehensive information specifically designed for utilisation in specialised data collection and geographic linking applications. These applications are designed to facilitate the direct transfer of field data to the EAD’s environmental database, enabling real-time reporting on the programme’s advancements. The agency will also collaborate with its partners to execute the electronic coding of native trees situated in forests and along highway belts, totalling over 20 million trees.