When you think of the UAE, among the first images that will pop into your mind are likely to be towering skyscrapers and the hustle and bustle of sprawling urban metropolises.

However, there is a part of the country that takes pride in being an oasis of trees and greenery.

Al Ain – known as the nation's Garden City – has positioned itself as a place where the planting and preservation of trees is paramount.

It is not uncommon to find new roundabouts and traffic islands there that have been built to ensure minimum disruption to the local ecosystem.

Switching lanes and adjusting your route to accommodate the trees in Al Ain is a common occurrence for drivers, and the abundance of greenery is a source of pride for the community.

Trees are part of life in Al Ain

Although Maha Abdou has been a resident of Al Ain city for 27 years, the respect people have for trees in the area continues to amaze her.

“When I first came to the UAE, specifically Al Ain, I noticed how some roads were built in a certain way to avoid disrupting the tree," said Ms Abdou, who moved to the UAE from her native Egypt.

“It was weird for me at first but when I understood the reason behind it, it made a lot of sense to me.

“I’ve visited a lot of countries but I only noticed this in Al Ain. The trees here in Al Ain really help maintain the weather and humidity, especially in summer."

UAE Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was renowned for caring passionately about desert trees and banned anyone from cutting them down.

Native trees including the sidr, ghaf and samar are protected by law in Abu Dhabi and it is prohibited to transplant, cut down or harm these without official permission.

“People in the UAE respect trees, especially Sheikh Zayed, because when in the desert they used to find shade under the trees,” Mohamed El Dasher, chairman of Dripco Contracting and Irrigation Group in Al Ain, told The National.

“Sheikh Zayed cared about desert trees and trees that suit the climate.

“Trees only get transplanted when permits are granted and even then it's only experts who are allowed to do it because the procedure is so delicate."

Mr El Dasher said the roads in and out of Al Ain were adorned with desert trees that are naturally drought-resistant, crucial in a region where water was scarce.

“These trees also served as a source of food for camels and other animals, with their low-hanging branches," he said.

“As you head from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi, you'll find the trees he selected lining both sides of the road, starting from Al Ain and extending to Qasr Al Maqam.

"Al Ain's beauty is elevated by the presence of trees, which can be found in residential and commercial areas across the city."

Penalties in place to protect trees

The Environment Agency Abu Dhabi has measures in place to protect the natural beauty of communities.

“Any violations against native trees are applied according to the specific location of the tree,” the Environmental Agency of Abu Dhabi told The National. "For instance, if the tree was located inside protected area. the fine reach Dh20,000 [$5,445] per tree, whereas the fine will be Dh10,000 if the tree was located outside a protected area.

Environmental protection laws and regulations can vary from one emirate to another in the UAE. It’s advisable to adhere to the specific regulations for each emirate."

It said companies involved in construction or development projects should always consult the relevant authorities for guidance and permits.

“Typically, companies are required to conduct environmental impact assessments and propose mitigation measures to minimise harm to these trees," the agency said.

“This may include altering construction plans, creating protective barriers, transplanting native trees, compensate removed trees by planting specified number of tree outside the development area or implementing alternative landscaping strategies.

“The specific protocols and measures can vary, so it's crucial to liaise with the local authorities for precise guidance.”

2023-11-20T10:52:13Z dg43tfdfdgfd