UNEP Atlas Shows Rapid Environmental Change in Arab Region

UNEP10 December 2013 : A report, released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI), and supported by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), indicates that the pace of environmental change in the Arab region may be faster than in the rest of the world due to growing populations and increasing environmental pressures.

The 'Arab Region Atlas of Our Changing Environment' examines environmental change across the region, using a combination of on-the-ground photographs, current and historical satellite images, and extensive scientific evidence. The Atlas illustrates the pace of environmental change, including land-use change, urban growth, degradation of marine and coastal areas, altered hydrology and shrinking water bodies, loss of habitats and the impacts of climate change.

The Atlas images highlight challenges faced from limited freshwater resources, rapid urbanization, depletion of natural resources and vulnerability to natural disasters. For example, water scarcity is a key issue in 19 of the 22 countries, while desertification and land degradation afflicts 17 countries, placing limited arable lands at further risk (only 14.5% of the total land area is arable). The Atlas also shows that between 1980 and 2008, droughts, earthquakes, floods and storms affected over 37 million people and caused  an estimated US$20 billion in damages.

The Atlas examines the opportunities that these challenges present, as well as innovative responses being implemented in the region. For example, many Arab countries have established special institutions for environmental management and sustainable development, and made health and education improvements, which accelerate this sustainable development. The Atlas also sheds light on the unique environmental issues faced by each country, and tracks the individual progress each is making towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of ensuring environmental sustainability.

Aimed at environmental policymakers, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, academics, teachers and the public, the Atlas brings local-level changes to the attention of global audiences and supports improved decision making and policy formulation. [UNEP Press Release] [Publication: Arab Region Atlas of Our Changing Environment]