As part of the University of Wollongong in Dubai’s mission to provide students with an opportunity to discuss critical topics facing the community, leading experts in field were invited to give their views on the growing challenges of environmental governance during the University’s second annual panel discussion, part of the UOWD Envirotalk series, held last week.
Organized by Dr. Zeenath Khan, the three-person panel consisted of leading authorities representing different dimensions of the environmental movement in the UAE - Ahmed Al Hashmi, Director of Biodiversity at the Ministry of Environment and Water, Dr Amer Al Madidy, Manager of Sustainability and Health at Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort, and Dr Mohammad Ali Reza Khan, Expert Consultant on Wildlife Zoo Management at the Dubai Municipality.
The session also saw the presentation of the inaugural UOWD Envirotalk appreciation awards, honouring Dr Jacky Judas, Research Manager, Wadi Wurayah National Park and Dr Mohammed Ali Reza Khan for their continued support in making the series a success through giving their time and expertise, sharing their contacts and organising valuable field trips for UOWD students.
Over the course of the event, the packed auditorium discovered more about the legal issues surrounding environmental governance, discussed ecological issues, learnt about the importance of sustainable development, and heard about the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Center (SZDLC) in Al Ain, an environment-friendly hub dedicated to restructuring Al Ain Zoo - the first of its kind in the region.
Ahmed Al Hashmi explained the federal structure of the Ministry of Environment and Water and the relevant governing bodies concerned with biodiversity, shedding light on the Ministry’s strategies and future plans relating to UAE Vision 2021. “The main goal of [the ministry] are policies and legislation, although environmental awareness campaigns are important too” explained the Director. “Environmental issues aren’t linked to an emirate or a country, but everyone on the globe should participate and take part.”
Commenting on the issues surrounding environmental governance, Ahmed Al Hashimi added “Identification of the source of the issue is essential in solving the problems we face. Both UAE nationals and expats can play a role in environmental legislation, sharing their views and opinions via the media - a valuable tool in shaping peoples’ attitudes.”
Sustainable development was also revealed to be a major factor having an effect on environmental governance. Dr Amer Al Madidy provided an in-depth explanation about the impact that architecture can have on the environment, describing the process which has taken place to ensure that the SZDLC is a sustainable building.
Water conservation was revealed to be a major challenge for future generations. Al Madidy enlightened the audience on the Estidama Pearl Rating System, a strategy to be implemented to help save water and encourage energy and waste minimization.
Dr Mohammad Ali Reza Khan, the concluding speaker and head of the Dubai Zoo since 1989, discussed the captive breeding programs that have preserved native species such as the Arabian Oryx, and highlighted the importance of green laws in the UAE and region.
Dr Zeenath Reza Khan, an Instructor in UOWD’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences and the organiser and moderator of this year’s event said, “We believe in the power that practical, hands-on experience can have on our students’ ability to absorb information and apply that information to better their academic output. Over the past year, our Envirotalks series has been at the forefront of our efforts to give students access to some of the leading experts in the environmental field, guiding our students to discover new concepts and come away with a greater understanding of issues facing the environment and the critical part that they can play in tackling some of these issues.”