Under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), EAD has issued the Executive Regulations of Law No. (11) of 2020 regarding grazing in Abu Dhabi.
With a mandate to oversee environmental affairs in the emirate, EAD is responsible for the law’s implementation, which aims to regulate grazing and enhance efforts by the concerned authorities to safeguard protected areas, critical and natural habitats – based on principles of sustainable management. This helps guarantee the conservation of wild plant species from overgrazing and ensure the conservation of terrestrial biodiversity in the emirate.
The issuance of the executive regulations enhances EAD’s role in monitoring grazing resources and rehabilitation of vegetation cover in terrestrial grazing areas to preserve grazing as a traditional inherited practice in the emirate, while documenting and maintaining it according to scientific criteria. The implementation of the decision also helps to ensure the preservation of natural and cultural heritage through the sustainable use of terrestrial and natural resources. This is in addition to the preservation of natural wild desert plants, the reduction of soil degradation, and supporting food security through the sustainability of plants and livestock.
The regulations also help ensure traditional grazing practices are continued and the relationship between humans and the desert’s natural resources are preserved and protected for future generations. The regulations also determine the role of EAD, which includes defining Abu Dhabi’s grazing areas and seasons in coordination with the concerned authorities, and according to administrative decisions issued by EAD.
The regulation aims to regulate grazing and all related activities in Abu Dhabi by issuing grazing licences to livestock owners and breeders. This will not only ensure the recovery of vegetation cover and the promotion and sustainability of biodiversity, but also provides an opportunity for natural regeneration and ensures the continuity of wild plant resources for future generations.
Owners and breeders of livestock in Abu Dhabi can apply for a grazing licence from EAD in accordance with the procedures and requirements specified by EAD and after paying the prescribed fees. Licence applicants must also attach a copy of their Emirates ID, and a copy of a valid animal wealth log certificate proving ownership of the livestock from the concerned authorities. The licence applicant should identify the person who will accompany and care for the livestock and provide a copy of their Emirates ID.
The regulation stated that those licensed to graze must adhere to several environmental requirements, which include not introducing exotic plants or animals or any harmful substances into the grazing areas. They must also avoid uprooting, burning, transporting, cutting, destroying, logging, removing or collecting wild plants or any other part of it in the grazing areas. Additionally, they must not damage or harm the wild plants and animals in grazing areas or cause any damage to the local environment and should adhere to the permitted grazing seasons. The licensed must also take into account the periods of suspended grazing, which are determined by EAD in coordination with the concerned authorities, to ensure the sustainability of grazing areas.
Periodically reducing grazing pressure is a recognised international best practice that allows natural vegetation to recover, and EAD’s enforcement of this decision contributes to protecting the desert environment against pressures caused by overgrazing. These pressures include the destruction of local plant species, as well as soil erosion and degradation, which in turn leads to desertification which can cause a decline in livestock numbers. In response, the regulation will contribute to providing terrestrial habitats the opportunity to recover and regenerate naturally.
EAD recently conducted a study that evaluated the vegetation of 35 locations across Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafra, which showed a decrease in vegetation cover in open grazing areas compared to protected areas that have no grazing.
Additional efforts have also been conducted by EAD through research and rehabilitation of natural grazing resources, which include key plant species such as Ghaf, Acacia (Samr), White saxaul (Ghada), Broom bush (Markh), Salt bush (Rimth), among others.
Moreover, EAD enhances environmental awareness programmes targeting livestock owners in Abu Dhabi through participation in festivals and heritage events and awareness sessions and presentations. To date, seven awareness sessions have been held at Majalis Abu Dhabi with 250 local livestock owners attending, and EAD has conducted 25 individual interviews with oral narrators on matters related to grazing.
Topics included how to rehabilitate natural plant species, and how to achieve the required environmental balance in the use of current grazing resources in line with the needs of the local community. In this context, EAD appreciates the contribution of the livestock owners and their cooperation in the implementation of the grazing law, and its executive regulations, as they are key strategic partners in supporting the efforts made by Abu Dhabi.