شيخة سالم الظاهري​
الأمين العام لهيئة البيئة – أبوظبي

Corona and its positive effects on the environment

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The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi is the largest environmental legislative authority in the Middle East, and its priorities lie in preserving biodiversity in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, in addition to improving marine water quality and air quality, protecting under-groundwater resources, preserving soil quality, assessing the potential impacts of climate change, and organizing the sustainable management of waste generated in Emirate. The authority has continued to implement its programs during the last period, which witnessed the emirate taking many precautionary measures to limit the spread of the new Corona virus.

Although the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic had negative effects on many aspects of life, it left positive effects on the environment, represented by an increase in the number of Black-winged stilt and black-winged fowl birds, as well as recording observations of increase in the herds of mountain gazelles in Saadiyat Island. In Jebel Hafeet, the sighting of a female Arabian tahr was recorded for the first time at the foot of the mountain, in addition to the discovery of the nests of three small owls and the growth of various plants on the mountain.

The positive effects included an increase in the number of flamingo birds by 12% and an increase of 22% in the number of flamingo chicks during the breeding season for the current year compared to 2019.

Also, an increase in sea turtle nesting activity was observed on the coasts of the mainland of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, with a 50 percent decrease in the death rate of dugongs, which is the lowest record rate compared to previous years.

Among the most important positive achievements is the increase in the fish stock index in the emirate’s waters, and an improvement in air quality, along with a marked decrease in the concentrations of air pollutants in the atmosphere, as the authority data showed a 50 percent decrease in the average nitrogen dioxide gas. Significant decreases of other pollutants associated with road transport such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbon monoxide (CO) have also been observed, with the significant reduction in traffic and other human activities in the emirate.

With life returning to normal after the receding of this dangerous epidemic, we must think about how we can preserve what we have achieved during the home lockdown procedures and follow the measures taken to contain the epidemic outbreak of the emerging corona virus, by changing our behaviors and following friendlier patterns with the environment and reassessing what we consider necessary. We must learn from this pandemic, to preserve ourselves first to be able to preserve our environment and natural resources, and thus ensure a sustainable present and a    sustainable future for us and for future generations.

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