Khalifa bin Zayed issues a new law regulating grazing in Abu Dhabi

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Mohamed Nass - - President His Highness Sheikh has issued, in his capacity as Ruler of Abu Dhabi, Law No. (11) 2020 to regulate grazing in Abu Dhabi and preserve natural rangelands.

The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) will be responsible for the implementation of the law as they are mandated with ensuring environmental protection in Abu Dhabi.

The new law stipulates that grazing areas must be two kilometers away from natural reserves and outside the borders of critical habitats, with EAD being responsible for providing the necessary grazing permits.

Following necessary approvals, the agency will issue the executive regulations for the new law abolishing Law No. (13) 2005 and every ruling that is superseded by the provisions of this new law.

The law aims to prevent overgrazing and protect the environment from desertification and ensure no further loss of native wild plants, which would in turn contribute to preventing soil erosion. It will enable rangelands to naturally regenerate, ensuring their continuity for future generations.

Regulating grazing is vital to protect desert habitats, ensuring the preservation of biological diversity and enhancing sustainable resource use and encourage return to more traditional practices of grazing. This will contribute to sustaining native wildlife, which are dependent on healthy desert habitats and plants, and are already under stress due to the harsh conditions, rapid development and climate change.

The new law stipulates that camels or other livestock grazing is permitted only after applying for and obtaining a grazing permit from EAD. To obtain a grazing permit, the applicant must be a UAE citizen, at least 21 years old and have a valid certificate stating their ownership of the livestock from the concerned authorities as well as registered livestock farm from relevant authorities.

Article Five of the law prohibits grazing without a valid permit, as well as outside of the designated areas and seasons specified in the permit. It also prohibits the use of ATVs, cars, or any type of vehicle in grazing areas. The law also prohibits camels from grazing without a herder and littering and disturbing the environment and wildlife in grazing areas is also prohibited.

Natural rangelands represent healthy desert habitats that act as a safe haven for a large number of wild animals and birds. They are important in preserving local biological diversity Desert plants and their habitats in Abu Dhabi are considered a part of the Emirate’s national natural heritage. Additionally, local plants play a significant role in providing food and shelter for wildlife.

Over the years, excessive grazing, alongside development pressures and climate change, have led to cumulative threats to desert ecosystems in the UAE. Field studies conducted in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in 1996 had already revealed at that time that a large portion of the land was experiencing high pressure as a result of grazing, and this had affected the structure and distribution of plant communities.

In a project considered the first of its kind in Abu Dhabi, EAD undertook a study on grazing and its environmental, social and economic aspects. The study conducted from 2017-2019 helped further our understanding of the change in natural pastures and analyzing the causes and changes that occurred in wild plant species during the past and present.

Initial results from this preliminary study indicated that overgrazing had led to a decrease in the number of major plants in unprotected areas by 85 percent in Al Dhafra region and 61 percent in Abu Dhabi, in comparison to protected areas.

EAD also gathered information on the status of rangelands in Abu Dhabi in the past by conducting interviews with Abu Dhabi-based narrators of oral history. Results from EAD studies and views from the narrators led to recommendations for new policies and regulations for sustainable rangeland management in Abu Dhabi.

The new grazing law supersedes the previous grazing law No. (13) for 2005 and enhances efforts to protect natural pastures and ensure their continuity for future generations. The law also aims to organize grazing to be aligned with balanced principles and to protect all types of plants from overgrazing, through strengthening institutional and societal partnerships.

The new law supports the efforts made by EAD in its capacity as a competent entity and enhances its role in monitoring rangelands and conducting scientific research. EAD will in the future continue carrying out studies aimed at strengthening and rehabilitating vegetation in grazing areas, for ensuring that the traditional and inherited practice of grazing is preserved, and desert resources are maintained for generations to come.

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