Environmental troubles growing in Mid-East Gulf region due to rapid coastal development

United Nations University

Institute for Water, Environment and Health,  Hamilton, Canada


Sustainable coastal management, regional coordination and long-term, holistic viewpoint needed to protect fragile ecosystems

The rapid, large scale coastal development underway in the Middle East must be better planned and managed to avoid aggravating already “severe” degradation and losses in the fragile marine ecosystems shared by eight Gulf countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates – warns a new report today by the United Nations University.

The report, by UNU’s Canadian-based Institute for Water, Environment and Health, says fisheries and a broad range of other valuable resources and services provided by the Gulf’s ecosystems are at risk of being lost because of inadequate environmental management.

Launched at UN headquarters in New York, the report is based on direct research and experience in the Gulf, and published literature. It says coastal development in wealthy Gulf countries has been so extensive and swift that “there has not been enough time to develop adequate regulatory, technical, and monitoring capacity to guide this growth appropriately.”

Consequences include “severe loss and degradation of important habitats, including mangroves, seagrass beds, and coral reefs,” greater pollution, and other environmental setbacks, says the report, warning of potential health problems and “the permanent loss of nursery grounds for commercial shellfish and fish species,” among the troubles foreseen.

“Though focussed on the Gulf region, with its enormous new artificial islands and waterways, waterfront cities, ports and marinas, the report is relevant to other parts of the Middle East, to China, parts of South-East Asia, and elsewhere in the world where rapid coastal development is also underway,” says co-author Peter F. Sale, Assistant Director of UNU-INWEH, citing UNEP predictions that as much as 91% of all temperate and tropical coasts will be heavily impacted by development by 2050.

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