Almost every day, we hear or read about the environment through TV, newspapers, social media or even in general conversation with the topic becoming an increasingly important focus for many countries around the world.
The UAE is no different. Over the course of 50 years, the country has undergone significant transformation, establishing itself as a key global destination for business, trade and tourism.
Environmental protection has been a key pillar in this journey thanks to the wise guidance of our leaders continuing the legacy of the UAE’s late Founding Father — Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
An influential figure, who was devoted to conserving our nature with a clear vision to shape the future of the country, Sheikh Zayed once said that ‘the environment is an integral part of our country, our history and our heritage’.
Today, thanks to his inspiring words we are surrounded in our cities by natural greenery. The local parks are regularly visited by hundreds of people every week — whether meeting with friends or taking part in a recreational activity — surrounded by plenty of trees and plants which can be seen from most of the major roads and highways of the city.
At the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD), we have been at the forefront of driving positive change in the UAE’s capital, ensuring Sheikh Zayed’s vision remains strong and exemplifies his values of conservation.
As the largest environmental regulator in the Middle East, the EAD has taken big strides in protecting our ecosystems, marine environments, and precious wildlife habitats as well as introducing measures to preserve our air and land.
Although Abu Dhabi Emirate has one of the smartest sustainable cities in the region, innovative solutions are required to address the wide range of environmental challenges that we face today.
For example, climate change is the biggest environmental impact we need to address via the creation and implementation of proactive policies and legislations but this is not the only one. Additional issues include pollution, waste disposal and loss of biodiversity, which are threatening our planet with every passing day. With these growing concerns, it is clear that the world will not be the same in the next 10 or 20 years unless action is taken now.
This is why the EAD recently launched BAADR, a unique, simple and user-friendly smartphone application that incentivises users and places residents and citizens in the UAE at the forefront of driving positive change. By participating in eco-friendly tasks across seven key themes — Reuse, Switch, Grow, Initiate, Conserve, Join and Move — the app aims to improve our understanding of our impact on the environment and encourage users to think about their actions.
More importantly, BAADR can help us behave in a more environmentally conscious manner by making minor changes to our everyday lives. It will enable people to realise how much water or energy they can save, be being more eco-friendly and feel proud of their actions. This can lead them to inspiring others to change their mindsets and make a positive impact — all of which will help create a better future for ourselves and our children.
Both in the short and long-term, BAADR will not only benefit Abu Dhabi and the UAE but also the world. There are measures that are being implemented by various countries following last year’s COP26 assembly in Glasgow.
These include the agreement on finding ways to further cut emissions of carbon dioxide, and over 100 nations pledging to cut their methane emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2030 — all of which shows that we are going in the right direction. The responsibility lies within all of us to play a crucial role in providing a cleaner planet and, more importantly, we need to understand the impact our actions are having on the environment.
BAADR can be a catalyst in solving the challenges that we currently face. It can be the answer in helping reduce the amount of solid waste in Abu Dhabi — 9.9 million tonnes in 2018 — or encouraging UAE residents away from single-use plastics, with a current average of 450 plastic water bottles consumed per capita every year in the emirate.
We will not see major changes overnight. It will take time but as things stand, if we do not take action, then future generations will also be affected. Together, we have a duty to ensure Sheikh Zayed’s legacy continues by making those small changes and integrating with BAADR to make our planet a better place that will improve the lives of fauna, flora, wildlife and human beings. With every passing day, we can make a difference and there is no better time than now to download the App and start using it.
Khansa Ibraheem Al Blouki is Director, Environmental Outreach, Environmental Information, Science & Outreach Management at Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi
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