PAWS FOR THOUGHT

Sharjah 2015 | ENVIRONMENT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA), on protecting the environment and expectations for the coming year.

HE Hana Saif Al Suwaidi
BIOGRAPHY
HE Hana Saif Abdalla Al Suwaidi has been Chairperson of the EPAA since February 2012, when she served as Director General from September 2010 until her appointment as Chairperson. She joined the Authority in June 2006 as a manager. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Geology from Emirates University.

How would you assess the importance of the environment sector within the overall strategies of Sharjah's government?

The EPAA was established in 1998 to support the environmental strategy of the Emirate of Sharjah and a new methodology of developing the institutional structures of environmental management. Inspired by the principles of development and strategies set by HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and guided by the resolutions of the Executive Council of the Government of Sharjah, the EPAA successfully achieved goals in various aspects of the environmental works. Moreover, the EPAA established several protected areas and natural reserves in Sharjah, drew up specific plans to raise environmental awareness and educate people, and adopted an approach to unify the practices and rules in the environmental sector through the formation of Sharjah Awareness and Environment Education Committee.

How does the Authority work towards managing and protecting the indigenous flora, fauna, and landscape of Sharjah?

The Authority aims to protect the environment, the wildlife, and its biodiversity. This happens through scientific research, setting appropriate policies to raise awareness, supporting the principle of sustainable development to preserve natural environmental resources, and by a guaranteed exploitation of natural resources to the benefit of the present generation and future generations. Under the Authority, there is The Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife (BCEAW), which opened in 1998. It is closed to the public, and was built for breeding threatened wildlife, and has become a base for the conservation and research of all of Arabia's indigenous fauna and flora. The BCEAW has been instrumental in setting up and running conservation breeding programs for some of the regions most threatened species, including the Arabian leopard and Arabian cobra, and also participates in several international breeding programs for the cheetah, sand cat, striped hyena, and Nubian ibex, among others. Over the years BCEAW has built up strong ties with facilities, institutes, government departments, and field researchers—both regionally and internationally. This cooperation has made it possible for environmental planning and management to be discussed cooperatively, rather than each area of responsibility being dealt with on an individual basis.

What will be the impact of the Kalba ecotourism project on Sharjah's tourism and environment industry?

This is an ecotourism project by Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) in collaboration with the EPAA, which will showcase Kalba's rich biodiversity and diverse ecosystem. Geographically different from most parts of Sharjah, it offers a unique biome of fauna and flora. The project will revive tourism on the East Coast and attract visitors from all over the Emirates. In terms of environment, it has been determined that Al Qurm area is a 100% tourist area for which an environment impact assessment (EIA) is requested from Shurooq before any new facilities will be built. Moreover, the buildings are constructed sustainably, and are environmentally friendly. The only completed project at the moment is the learning center, the Kalba Bird of Prey Center.

Which new EPAA projects and initiatives will have the most impact going forward?

The Kalba Ecotourism project and Sir Bu Nair Island Ecotourism project will be the most significant projects, as well as restoration programs for the protected areas and reserves in Sharjah, and the building of new learning centers.

What are the Authority's specific goals and expectations for the coming year?

The Authority has a plan that covers a period of five years, which stipulates a series of goals. It will also manage and control the Emirate's environmental and natural resources and take the necessary procedures to protect and maintain administrative, legal, and technical measurements. Furthermore, the Authority will produce the necessary proposals in the field of environmental protection, and contribute to the development of deterrent laws against those who may cause harm to our wild environment. Also, we will spread environmental awareness through activities about the importance of preserving the environment and to help define the purpose of the Authority and its objectives.