ICBA Celebrates World Environment Day 2013

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

World Environment Day, initiated by UNEP in 1972, is an annual event celebrated worldwide on 5 June, and is the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action. To mark the celebration of World Environment Day, the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) launched a campaign to replace the potentially hazardous Damas trees (Conocarpus lancifolius) at the Center with more appropriate species.

The Damas tree, native to coastal and riverine areas of Somalia, Djibouti, and Yemen, is found throughout East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and South Asia. On the outside, the Damas tree is permanently green and has been used in landscaping providing shade and a nice form. However, the Damas is increasingly being called a ‘menace’ to several urban areas across Dubai because the roots damage underground piping systems, drains, walls and swimming pools in residential areas. Authorities at the Dubai Municipality have launched an awareness campaign on the Damas tree and its threats to urban areas. Damas also poses another potential threat because the pollen affects the health of people suffering from asthma patients. A study, dating back to 2008, on airborne pollen conducted by the Karachi University’s botany department has identified Concarpus as one of 12 plant species that cause allergies in Karachi.A suitable alternative to Damas is the Ghaf tree (Prosopis cineraria). This attractive flowering tree is native to the UAE and is common in Al Ain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ajman. It is particularly suited to sandy places; tolerates dry and saline conditions; is nitrogen fixing, meaning it enriches the soil, and its deep roots avoid competition for water with crops. The Ghaf tree is highly salt-tolerant being able to grow on up to half seawater salinity. It is used for ornamental purposes, to feed animals and has several known folk medicinal usages.

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, Director General of ICBA, said, “On World Environment Day, we are taking the opportunity to launch our campaign to replace the Damas trees located around our facilities and replace these with more appropriate species. Along our belief in promoting the right species, we will be replacing them with native trees to the UAE such as the Ghaf tree”. 

Dr. Ahmed Al Sharif, Deputy Director General at ICBA, adds, “The International Center for Biosaline Agriculture is pleased to initiate this campaign of replacing the Damas trees with the Ghaf trees as part of the Ministry’s initiative to eradicate the Damas tree from urban regions within the UAE”.Launching the campaign on 5 June is part of a set of activities at the Center to raise awareness on the environment.