Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Sher Value: Conservation and Construction

As the week came to an end, for a long time Gulf resident, the news of Oman's Arabian Oryx sanctuary being closed off and losing its Habitat status with UNESCO was a sad event. Once this sanctuary, largely supported by the Government of Oman and PDO (Petroleum Development of Oman) boasted of close to 400 Oryx, today has dwindled to only four pairs of breeding Oryx, as a result of a number of factors, ranging from poaching to mismanagement. This is clearly a case where the intention to do good was always there it was just managed in the wrong way.

For those who know me are aware that I have always advocated conscientious development and this implies the need for sustainable development and most importantly to preserve the natural resources of the country and the region. Indeed, natural reserves like Al Maha are having populations of Oryx that can be developed into sustainable herds, as indeed the program that Abu Dhabi under ERDWA has launched for sustainable sanctuaries. These are important programs and they need careful planning and support.

While there is a propensity for people to believe that because the government has a great deal of money public and corporate funding is not needed, the reality is that we do need the corporate level to be involved in these efforts because if nothing else they increase awareness. In addition, as we continue with the construction boom, we also bring a much needed awareness to the issues of conservation and environmental impact. Admittedly in the past two odd years I have seen the authorities to get really strict about environmental impact of projects a great deal more needs to be done.

As we go off reclaiming land from the sea, and tearing down yet another sand dune we have to be aware that we are dealing with a very fragile environment and steps we are taking today will have profound and perhaps irreversible impact on the environment and the flora and fauna of the region. Call me a traditionalist but I did enjoy, not too long back, the early morning drive, only 10 km from the city to see gazelle and watch them in their habitat, and today that land is being torn down by bulldozers, indeed with the gazelle having been relocated. But we do need to say a lot more about what is being done to balance the needs of construction with the demands for conservation.

Indeed, a lot is being done about it, but a lot more needs to be said about it. It is here that awareness is important and this awareness has to come from the corporate sector and that is the best way forward. I would like to see more companies step up with campaigns for the environment and what needs to be done to save it. This is the way forward and we have to consider it with seriousness. In the same measure it would be good for a more public profile to be taken by the government on the issue of conservation.

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