Before we embark on a project, we consider its impact on the environment. We carry out baseline Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) surveys that enable us to undertake environmental monitoring activities. These studies comprise the identification of protected areas and endangered species and their roles in the ecosystems. The findings form the basis of biodiversity management plans that address how we can minimize the potential impact of our operations throughout the lifetime of the projects.
One such example is the holistic approach that we followed for the Ghasha mega-project development, located in the UNESCO Marine Biosphere Reserve. Our commitment to reducing the environmental impact of the project helped us conduct one of the largest marine EIA studies in the history of our nation.
We have also undertaken marine biodiversity enhancement projects that include mangrove and seagrass plantation, coral reef rehabilitation, and the deployment of artificial reefs for a thriving marine environment.
Our commitment to preserving the biodiversity of the Abu Dhabi coastline stems from the vision that the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan had for a greener future. The UAE has the largest mangrove population in the Middle East, and conserving it is paramount to our efforts to protect our natural assets for generations to come.
Mangroves are critical in preventing coastal erosion and are home to a diverse range of marine life. These shrubs dot the Abu Dhabi coastline and have a dense and extensive root system that absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) as blue carbon. As part of a collaborative approach to environmental protection, we have partnered with Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) in the planting of 250,000 mangrove seedlings in Al Dhabbia between 2012 and 2016. Going forward, as part of our 2030 Sustainability Strategy, we will plant an additional 10 million mangrove seedlings in coordination with EAD.
We have also constructed 293 artificial coral reefs around Zirku and Das Islands to maintain coral species and boost the diversity of marine life. Several of our projects are located in ecosystems that have rich marine and terrestrial life, and we are committed to playing a constructive role in conserving species such as the Hawksbill turtle and Arabian oryx that inhabit protected areas.
The Hawksbill turtle is the only known nesting species in the Abu Dhabi waters. Listed as Critically Endangered (CR) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Hawksbill turtles have nesting grounds at Zirku and Arzanah Islands, close to our operations. We have conducted a survey to identify their nesting locations and designated several areas to protect their nesting locations.
Our joint conservation efforts with EAD have also helped bring the Arabian oryx back from the brink of extinction. In 1972, the Arabian oryx was declared Extinct in the Wild (EW). A reintroduction program by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has enabled the species to thrive, and it has been downlisted from Endangered (EN) to Vulnerable (VU) by IUCN. Building on the work that the UAE Founder did in preserving biodiversity, we carried out extensive EIA studies at an early planning stage of the Qusahwira and Mender oil fields and constructed new feeding points for the Arabian oryx away from the project sites. We have also developed a wildlife conservation plan to record the number of Arabian oryx in sensitive ecosystems.
As part of the Ghasha Concession environmental initiatives and our long-standing partnership with the EAD, we developed an ‘Osprey Protection Program’ where we are installing nearly 80 nesting platforms for birds, in more than 20 locations. Locations for the platforms include the ADNOC-owned islands of Al Rafiq, Abu As Sayayif, Qassabi, and protected areas such as Butinah Island. These areas are key breeding sites for a high number of migratory and non-migratory bird species. We also initiated several beach clean-up initiatives during the installation of the platform. This initiative supports our commitment to protect and support biodiversity across our operations and the broader local environment.