Dubai: Federal legislation is expected to be implemented at the beginning of next year to protect antiquities in the United Arab Emirates.

“There is no federal legislation at the moment but we are changing that now, and expect the legislation to be passed within the next three months,” said Rashad Bukhash, chairman of the organising committee of the 3rd International Architectural Conservation conference, and director of the Architectural Heritage Department at Dubai Municipality.

The Architectural Conservation: Present and Future conference, will include more than 130 speakers from 31 countries and will participants exchange expertise and strategies for conserving historical buildings, protecting heritage sites and developing the urban landscape in a sustainable manner.

Speaking on the sidelines of the three-day conference, which was inaugurated on Monday by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, Bukhash explained the rule was proposed by the Federal National Council, and is currently awaiting approval from the Ministry of Justice.

Once the legislation comes into effect, it will then be possible for the UAE to register further sites with the World Heritage at Unesco.

“With the new legislation, it will be prohibited for individuals to sell off or destroy historical buildings as well as historical documents because it partially belongs to the history and culture of the country,” he said.

Bukhash further explained that Dubai, and several other emirates, do have their own archaeological conservation rules but there is a need to extend it on a federal level.

“Before any old building is demolished, we check its history and age of the building and will then carry out any maintenance if we determine that it is culturally important. Vandalising any of the old buildings, such as Al Fahidi Fort, is a criminal act and by enforcing such rules, that is how we can maintain our architectural history,” Bukhash said, pointing out that there are 3,200 heritage sites across the country.

He stressed that one of the main challenges in preserving and maintaining architectural structures is keeping up with the pace of modernisation in the country, as in the case with private developers and owners who want to replace them with high-rise buildings.

“Some are completely compensated and others are offered a partnership with Dubai government so that both parties contribute in restoring the building,” he said, adding that there are 120 buildings in Shindagha area, and will all be completely restored within the next four years.