Property development could destroy critical breeding ground for endangered species
As we all know mangroves are one of the most endangered habitats on earth having already lost over 40% of our mangroves forests. These submerged forests are so important for local communities as they provide a nursery ground for commercially important fish species, as well as preventing erosion and offering protection from natural disasters (such as hurricanes and tsunami). They also provide timber and fire wood and act a huge natural filter trapping sediment in their intricate root system.
So, with such a small proportion of this ecosystem remaining it must have the highest protection from governments, right? Well the short answer is no.
Umm al Qwuain, one of the seven Emirates that makes up the UAE, lies right on the latitudinal fringes of where mangroves can exist. The natural harbours’ shape slow the currents allowing for deposition to take place creating shallow waters. Ideal conditions for mangroves. Due to the mangroves, and the shallow sandy beaches on the outer islands, Umm Al Qwuain has become a sanctuary to the endangered green turtle and critically endangered hawksbill turtle which breed there on the Sheiks own private island- safe from egg collectors. The culturally, economically and environmentally important hamour grouper, which has experienced a dramatic population crash, also breeds inside these mangroves. The Emirate is even the home to government funded fisheries laboratories that are doing a great job at restocking several important commercial fish species, which have been decimated by over fishing, and have perfected captive growth of the native mangrove species.
So what’s the problem? That all sounds great, but unfortunately, it is not the whole story. In 2006 EMAAR property developers began an ambitious project to build a brand new marina in Umm Al Qwuain complete with recreational parks, schools, 8000 private residence and several man made islands. And herein lies the issue. If you change the currents inside the natural harbour by introducing obstacles (man made islands would do it) you will change to deposition rates of the natural islands. They will essentially be washed away, all the mangroves and associated biodiversity with them.
Environmental impact assessments have been performed and have given the plans the go ahead (as they did with the palm islands in Dubai- those fantastic feats of engineering had no impact there at all :S). Currently building has ceased due to a finance problem but as soon as the money becomes available there is nothing to stop EMAAR continuing with their plans and destroying one the most valuable natural jewels in the United Arab Emirates.