Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi Highlights 

Key Milestones in 2018 Annual Report

Areas of focus included fisheries, groundwater, wildlife monitoring and environmental regulations 

Abu Dhabi, UAE – 26 June 2019: The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) today released its Annual Report for 2018 that includes its major achievements and challenges across its core mandate areas over the past year, in its efforts to protect and enhance air quality, groundwater, marine water quality, soil and biodiversity in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

In his foreword to the report, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of EAD, writes, “As we look to the future, we are committed to drawing inspiration from Sheikh Zayed’s legacy and to achieving the vision of the Abu Dhabi Government. We will continue our efforts to improve air quality, protect our natural resources, and enhance our biodiversity. We will also focus on stepping up environmental awareness in society to make a difference through adopting a more sustainable lifestyle. In doing so, we are confident that we will shape a better environment not just for our generation, but also for the generations that come after us.”

The completion of the UAE Sustainable Fisheries Programme – in partnership with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) – marked a major milestone in 2018. It has helped increase the UAE’s understanding of its severely overexploited fish stocks and helped to identify the management measures required to support the recovery of the fisheries by 2030. The programme included the Fisheries Resources Assessment Survey, which revealed that indicator species such as Hamour (Epinephelus coioides), Shaari (Lethrinus nebulosus) and Farsh (Diagramma pictum) are severely overexploited due to being fished at three to five times their sustainable limit. Other outcomes included targeted policies, research and monitoring plans and enhanced enforcement.

With a key focus on the conservation of Abu Dhabi’s groundwater resources, the Agency completed the emirate’s first Groundwater Wells Inventory in 2018, which has resulted in a comprehensive record of over 118,000 wells that has been documented in a first-of-its-kind Groundwater Atlas. In addition, EAD, in partnership with the then-called Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority, launched the Liwa Strategic Water Reserve, which is considered a global benchmark for water management in desert regions and could completely redefine international standards for recharge and recovery projects as the largest artificial reservoir project in the world. 

As part of EAD’s holistic and integrated approach to soil protection, the Agency launched a soil contamination monitoring programme of 170 sites in Abu Dhabi whose results, to be revealed later this year, will be the basis of future soil management plans and regulations. EAD also conducted a soil salinity survey of 4,000 farms in the emirate, which found that over 33.3 per cent, 25.63 per cent and 15.3 per cent of the farm area in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafra respectively has been poorly managed, which may lead to a decrease in the crop yield.

In 2018, EAD announced the Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network that now comprises 19 terrestrial and marine areas. EAD’s management of these areas also attracted international recognition. Al Wathba Wetland Reserve became the first site in the region to get listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas. Additionally, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development (MCKD), EAD worked to get the Abu Dhabi Sabkha added to the tentative list of World Heritage Sites within the framework of the World Heritage Convention – a major step towards its inclusion in the World Heritage List. The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital also received the Middle East’s Responsible Tourism Award for the sixth consecutive year in 2018.

Highlighting the Agency’s role in advancing the global sustainability agenda in 2018, Her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Managing Director of EAD, said: “Keeping with Sheikh Zayed’s vision of becoming a global voice in the environmental discourse, EAD continued to find synergies with leading international entities throughout 2018. Over the course of the last year, we renewed strategic partnerships with the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), Emirates Nature-WWF, the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC), the United Nations Environment Programme/Convention on Migratory Species (UNEP/CMS) and the IUCN. We additionally strengthened our collaborations with the Government of Chad and the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) for our Scimitar-horned Oryx Reintroduction Programme.”

Through its various terrestrial and marine wildlife monitoring programmes, which continued in 2018, EAD discovered the Spider Hunting Wasp (Ferreola alraeesii) – a species new to science – at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve. The Agency also reported sightings of the Indian Crested Porcupine (Hystrix indica) in the Al Dhafra Region – previously known only from old Bedouin records from the 20th century – and the Rüppell’s Fox (Vulpes rueppellii), which was last recorded by EAD nearly 13 years ago. While the Agency documented a record number of 37 Finless Porpoise, 92 Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphins and 268 Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins in 2018, it also reported 23 incidences of dugong mortality – the biggest single die-off of one of Abu Dhabi’s most vulnerable species, mainly due to drowning via entanglement in drift nets locally known as Hiyali

Commenting on EAD’s progress in improving environmental quality, Her Excellency Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Acting Secretary General of EAD, said: “In 2018, we undertook more measures to improve the air quality in Abu Dhabi. Our main achievement in this regard was the launch of the Abu Dhabi Air Emissions Inventory, which offers scientific data to guide our air quality management programme. We also set emission standards for three industries through our Eltezam compliance campaign – concrete, hot-mix asphalt and iron and steel – that we identified as significant contributors to increasing air pollutants in the atmosphere”.

“Our Marine Water Quality Monitoring Programme continued to monitor 22 sites for the protection of marine habitats in 2018,” she added. “To complement this initiative, we also concluded a first-of-its-kind study that further supports that TSE is highly effective for irrigation since it is much less saline than groundwater.”

Over the last year, EAD’s work with schools and universities saw the launch of the i-EnviroSpellation; the new digital version was sponsored by Shell and supported by the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK). The latest cycle of the EAD’s flagship Sustainable Schools Initiative (SSI) – sponsored by BP – engaged 135 schools in Abu Dhabi to promote environmental knowledge and support students to assess and address their environmental impact. Furthermore, to promote youth as agents of change by addressing issues of environmental sustainability, the Sustainable Campus Initiative (SCI) organised three roadshows for both existing and new members, which enabled the participation of over 450 students and faculty across the UAE.

Responsible for over 2,000 projects and facilities in Abu Dhabi, EAD conducted 1,366 inspections in 2018 – 43 per cent fewer than the previous year due to the risk prioritisation scheme – and responded to 110 emergency cases. The Agency also reviewed nearly 200 environmental studies and processed over 1,000 environmental permit applications during the past year. 

To access the report, please visit: www.ead.ae 

Annual Report 2018

Fact Sheet

Groundwater

  • Groundwater resources contribute to about 63% out of the total water usage in the emirate of Abu Dhabi
  • The estimated present abstraction of the groundwater is about 2,070 million cubic metres 
  • The emirate’s first Groundwater Wells Inventory completed by EAD in 2018 has resulted in a comprehensive record of over 118,000 wells that has been documented in a first-of-its-kind Groundwater Atlas
  • EAD rehabilitated 200 unused water wells in the Al Ain and al Dhafra regions
  • The Liwa Strategic Water Reserve stores 25.5 million cubic metres of water, which is equivalent to providing around 180 litres per day for the population of Abu Dhabi Emirate for 90 days

Air Quality

  • EAD operates 20 fixed and 2 mobile air quality monitoring systems in Abu Dhabi
  • The launch of the Abu Dhabi Air Emissions Inventory produced over 50 high-definition sector- and pollutant- specific Air Emission Maps for the very first time
  • EAD set emission standards for 3 industries through our Eltezam compliance campaign – concrete, hot-mix asphalt and iron and steel – that were identified as significant contributors to increasing air pollutants in the atmosphere

Climate Change

  • While Abu Dhabi’s contribution to global GHG emissions is relatively small (<0.3% in 2012) in comparison to other developing communities, its per capita CO2 emissions are among the highest in the region
  • In collaboration with its partners, EAD updated the Abu Dhabi Greenhouse Gas Inventory and completed an analysis of the inventory results for 5 target sectors

Marine Water Quality 

  • The coastline of Abu Dhabi accounts for over 75% of the UAE’s entire coastal territory
  • EAD covers 22 sites under the Marine Water Quality Monitoring Programme that uses 39 parameters to assess the status and quality of Abu Dhabi waters and sediment
  • The MWQ in Abu Dhabi is generally good and its recreational waters meet public health criteria for swimming
  • In 2018, the EAD team investigated 5 fish kills and 23 harmful algae blooms as emergency response incidents
  • A pilot study to measure fecal indicator bacteria in sand at recreational beaches in Abu Dhabi used 42 beach sand samples and 28 water samples to find that they are safe for public health

Land and Soil

  • Currently, 85% of soil in Abu Dhabi is classified as ‘naturally degraded’ due to the emirate’s harsh environment
  • A soil contamination monitoring programme of 170 sites in Abu Dhabi will be the basis of future soil management 
  • A soil salinity survey of 4,000 farms found that over 33.3%, 25.63% and 15.3% of the farm area in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafra respectively has been poorly managed
  • 9% of Abu Dhabi’s farm areas have non-saline soil, while another 9% are unsuitable for crop production
  • Over the last 8 years, EAD’s soil archiving facility has collected 4,900 samples from all over the emirate of Abu Dhabi

Waste Management

  • According to 2017 statistics, an estimated 9.66 million tonnes of total solid waste is generated in Abu Dhabi
  • The emirate currently generates 1.29 kg/capita/day of municipal solid waste; 30% of generated municipal solid waste and 30.7% of generated non-hazardous solid waste is diverted from landfill and either recycled or composted
  • In 2018, EAD drafted a regulation that sets the requirements for integrated waste management and aims to maximise the utilisation of waste recycling, resource recovery, waste treatment and safe disposal

Terrestrial Biodiversity

  • In 2018, EAD discovered the Spider Hunting Wasp– a species new to science – at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve
  • EAD reported sightings of the Indian Crested Porcupine, the Rüppell’s Fox and the Arabian Sand Cat in Abu Dhabi
  • A total of 15 new distribution records for invertebrate species were collected in Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra Region
  • Biodiversity surveys of 13 terrestrial protected areas recorded 193 species: over 108 invertebrates, 11 reptiles, 25 birds, 14 mammals and 35 plants
  • EAD recorded the highest number of 55,000 Socotra Cormorant breeding pairs and 1,432 Crab Plover breeding pairs in Abu Dhabi in 2018, as well as a record 601 Greater Flamingo chicks at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve
  • The EAD Herbarium now holds 3,860 specimens of 435 native and naturalised species
  • Al Wathba Wetland Reserve in Abu Dhabi was the first site in the region to be placed on the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas
  • EAD worked to get the Abu Dhabi Sabkha added to the tentative list of World Heritage Sites
  • The Scimitar-horned Oryx Reintroduction Programme saw a further 3 shipments of oryx from Abu Dhabi to the reserve in Chad that is now home to 146 oryx, including 45 calves born in 2018
  • Over the last year, EAD propagated 70 Dwarf Palms and over 700 Carallumas at a specialised native plant nursery within the Houbara Protected Area that has an annual production capacity of 250,000 plants
  • In 2018, the General Secretariat for the Conservation of the Arabian Oryx (GSCAO), a regional initiative hosted by EAD, published the first Housing and Husbandry Guidelines for the Arabian Oryx
  • Abu Dhabi has 432 terrestrial and 4 marine plant species, with 18 classified as threatened or near threatened
  • The Sheikh Zayed Protected Areas Network now includes 19 sites: 13 terrestrial and 6 marine protected areas

Marine Biodiversity

  • The completion of the UAE Sustainable Fisheries Programme has increased the UAE’s understanding of its overexploited fish stocks and identified the measures required to support the recovery of the fisheries by 2030
  • The Fisheries Resources Assessment Survey revealed that key indicator species such as Hamour, Shaari and Farsh are severely overexploited due to being fished at three to five times their sustainable limit
  • Socioeconomic and traditional knowledge surveys found that 80% of local fishermen agree that there has been a major decline in the UAE’s fish stocks
  • Abu Dhabi is home to 3,000 dugongs – the world’s second largest population – found in its protected areas
  • EAD documented a record number of 37 Finless Porpoise, 92 Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphins and 268 Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins in 2018
  • There were 23 incidents of dugong mortality in 2018 – the biggest single die-off
  • During 2018, EAD rescued 52 sea turtles31 Hawksbill Turtles and 21 Green Turtles 

Environmental Policy and Regulation

  • Responsible for over 2,000 projects and facilities, EAD prioritised 1,366 inspections in 2018 
  • EAD reviewed 197 environmental studies and processed 1,007 environmental permit applications last year
  • We successfully managed 110 emergency cases in Abu Dhabi
  • We hosted the Green Business Summit with The Economist Group and DED
  • EAD signed a partnership agreement to launch the Technology Innovation Pioneers Awards with DED
  • EAD launched the Future of the Environment Initiative that defines a new vision for Abu Dhabi
  • As part of our Holistic Compliance Environmental Programme, we escalated 32 cases of violation to the courts

Environmental Information and Community Engagement

  • In 2018, EAD conducted waste minimisation workshops for 80 public and private entities, as well as 40 restaurants
  • The Rethink Plastic campaign saw 20,000 plastic bags collected over 4 days last year
  • The Al Wathba Photo Exhibition displayed 70 photos of 500 submitted to the Al Wathba Photography Competition
  • The latest cycle of the Sustainable Schools Initiative engaged 135 schools in Abu Dhabi 
  • The Sustainable Campus Initiative organised 3 roadshows, enabling the participation of over 450 students and faculty
  • EAD published 30 environmental reports focusing on Abu Dhabi’s state of the environment and its contributing drivers

Other Achievements

  • The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital received the Middle East Responsible Tourism Award for the 6th consecutive time
  • The Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative hosted the Eye on Earth Symposium in October last year
  • The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Group launched the Natural Capital Flagship Programme