Expo 2020 Dubai: Meet the original residents

Dubai - Since construction began in 2016, hundreds of living on the site have been rehomed or their habitats preserved without endangering their lives


Anjana Sankar

Published: Wed 15 Sep 2021, 8:17 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Sep 2021, 9:26 AM

During the World Expo bid, Expo 2020 Dubai made a commitment to the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) to deliver one of the most sustainable World Expos in history.

From generating clean energy to reducing water consumption and promoting local products to environment-friendly construction materials, sustainability is ingrained in everything that you see at the Expo.

“Expo 2020 Dubai has designed its Sustainability Strategy to integrate sustainability throughout every function of this World Exposition," Reem added.

"We have already begun to deliver an impact beyond our event site to inspire the global community towards the opportunity of creating a sustainable future.”

The results of the team's sustainability drive speak for themselves:

Preserving biodiversity

At Expo 2020 Dubai, sustainability means not just energy-efficient architecture and design. Rather, the ethos expands to everything — including preserving the ecological diversity of the site itself.

When it comes to dealing with the wildlife at the site, the best sustainability practices are followed by the Expo team, says Dina Storey, Director of Sustainability Operations at Expo.


>> Dubai: The making of the greenest expo ever

Dina Storey says Expo’s sustainability strategy mandates no harm is done to flora or fauna at the site. “This means everything we have onsite will either be relocated or moved in a humane way or kept on site. This is basically the strategy we have been pushing throughout,” Storey told Khaleej Times.

“All staff at expo are trained to protect and preserve wildlife. We rehome anything that will be harmed due to the construction. Others stay on the site and we take extra care to protect them.”

The Expo site may appear to be a concrete maze with giant country pavilions and themed districts.

But a closer look will reveal that the sprawling 4.38 square kilometre of land is teeming with wildlife. There are butterflies, crows, doves, insects, lizards, cats and hares and over 20 beehives on site.

Since construction began in 2016 at the Expo site in the Dubai South District, hundreds of wildlife — including desert foxes, snakes, deers, gazelles and Arabian hares, deer and cats — living on the site have been rehomed or their habitats preserved without endangering their lives.

“We have rehomed doves and hares with their babies. We have rehomed bower sand snakes, spiny-tailed lizards which are on the list of endangered wildlife. We found them and removed them to safer places in the desert,” said Storey.

Workers and Expo staff often spot different species of butterflies at the Expo site. “One of the reasons why we have a teeming fauna and flora is because our landscape is managed without the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers,” said Storey.

Different kinds of birds have been found nesting at the Expo site. All workers are trained not to disturb the natural habitat of birds.

For instance, a crow had nested near the main office and there were complaints that it was attacking people. But the Expo team decided to cordon off the area.

The site where large-scale landscaping and gardening works are in progress is also replete with caterpillars.

Storey says workers often spot caterpillars eating into the leaves, affecting the aesthetics. “But I don’t care," she declared. "Let them eat the leaves, and turn into butterflies. The idea is not to make everything look perfect — but real."

A spiny-tailed lizard, a protected species often nicknamed ‘little dinosaur’ because of its scaly appearance, is among the diverse species that were safely relocated during Expo 2020 Dubai’s construction.

The prehistoric-looking reptile, Uromastyx aegyptia leptieni, and an Arabian sand boa snake, Eryx jayakari, were also relocated.

The spiny-tailed lizard, which can grow to more than 70cm long and is locally known in Arabic as ‘dhub’, was passed to Dubai Municipality, while the harmless sand boa was successfully released back into the desert, its natural habitat.

Meanwhile, a colony of honeybees that was discovered on the Expo 2020 site during construction was also successfully relocated and rehomed.

The beehives were removed in a complex operation that involved spraying a sugar solution on them to temporarily keep the bees from flying. They were then relocated to the Beekeepers Association’s Bee Garden at The Sustainable City in Dubai. The bees have been identified as the Apis mellifera, not native to the UAE.

The team has since harvested nearly 100 jars of high-quality honey from the beehives, which have been bottled into specially-designed Expo jars.

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