On 05th June 2011, UNESCO Doha Office in partnership with Doha Bank jointly celebrated the World Environment Day to pay tribute to the “Forests: Nature at your Service”. Forests sustain economic growth. In 2004 trade in forest products was estimated at $ 327 billion. Continued and uncontrolled deforestation therefore not only has devastating consequences for the environment, the wildlife and communities, but for economies around the world, and for our natural life-support-system.
2011 is the United Nations International Year of Forests, which has been declared in support of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and other relevant conventions dealing with the complexity of forest issues.
5th of June is a suitable opportunity to raise public awareness, emphasizing that forests and sustainable forest management can contribute significantly to sustainable development, poverty eradication and the achievement of internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.
Efforts should be made by concerned stakeholders towards the sustainable management of all types of forests, including fragile forest ecosystems, and that includes, of course, the highly important coastal forest type of mangroves.
Concerted efforts should focus on raising awareness at all levels to strengthen the sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests for the benefit of current and future generations.
Rather shockingly, 36 million acres of natural forest are lost each year. World Environment Day (WED) chose this year’s theme, ‘Forests: Nature at Your Service’, to encourage forest conservation and sustainable consumption for green growth, and in support of the UN International Year of Forests. Preserving forests throughout the world has to be in our collective consciousness so as to change our lifestyles.
As a resource, forests provide many important natural resources, such as timber, fuel, rubber, paper and medicinal plants. Forests also help sustain the quality and availability of freshwater supplies. More than three quarters of the world’s accessible freshwater comes from forested catchments. Water quality declines with decreases in forest condition and cover, and natural hazards such as floods, landslides, and soil erosion have larger impacts.
UNESCO’s Regional Representative in the Arab States of the Gulf & Yemen, and Director of the Doha Office, Dr. Hamed Al-Hammami said, "You might wonder why celebrating Natural Forest Services in Qatar, because here are not really any forests, or are they ? Firstly, I need to mention the connectivity between all forests, climate, sea-water-level, and the chemical composition of our common atmosphere – for example, according to scientific calculations, the plants on planet Earth connect annually 150 billion tonnes of carbon with 25 billion tonnes of hydrogen, and in that process release 400 billion tonnes of oxygen, an element absolutely essential for human living. Secondly: Of course Qatar has forests, several ones and of great importance for national natural heritage conservation, the functioning of the marine ecosystems and the food-web in the Gulf: I am talking about the mangrove forests, locally known as Qurm. These forests occur along the eastern side of the Qatari Peninsula at several locations, for example at Al Dhakeera, and the area between Al Wakra and Umm Saeed, and other spots. These mangroves are of great importance for primary marine productivity, providing food for fish and shrimps, and other marine creatures, as well as providing structural habitat for a variety of coastal and marine biodiversity, including juvenile fish, and birds. Mangroves are so extremely important that their value cannot be under-estimated. This is why UNESCO in partnership with other international bodies has recently launched the second edition of the World Atlas of Mangroves. The ATLAS demonstrates that mangroves are globally declining. The United Arab Emirates are an exception – the authorities have realised the great value of mangroves and actively increased their coverage since the early 1970s. We encourage our member states to enhance the management of their mangrove stands. We know quite a bit about the importance of mangrove forests, but we are far from realizing the full potential in view of seawater utilisation for agro-forestry production with mangroves, their capacity to sequestrate carbon from the atmosphere, but also to take up overloads of land-based pollutants, such as, for example, nitrogen and phosphates, which are known to play highly important roles in marine pollution. Increased nutrients may cause harmful algal blooms, leading to fish-kills, as we have seen it in the Gulf increasingly often over the last few years. Mangroves are really a blessing. We are even discussing with our partners in the Gulf to design floating mangroves, using air-filled recycled plastic containers to keep them floating in the coastal waters, in order to develop future-systems to sequestrate carbon from the atmosphere, and nitrogen and phosphate from the sea in a commercially viable system"
Mr. R. Seetharaman, CEO of Doha Bank Group remarked, "We at Doha Bank supports the World Environment Day campaign to save the forests since the world’s forests protect land and water resources, provide renewable raw materials and energy, maintain biodiversity, and contribute an essential role in the climate change mitigation. The forests influence climate change mainly by affecting the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When the forests grow, carbon is accordingly removed from the atmosphere and absorbed in the wood, leaves and soil. This is in line with the Bank’s Green Banking initiative aimed at increasing public and corporate awareness on Corporate Social Responsibility around the world pertaining to the harmful effects of and Climate Change."
"Doha Bank has taken various proactive measures in addressing Climate Change and its consequences whereby proactively propagating energy saving measures as a corporate habit. Doha Bank is also committed to be a carbon neutral entity with a goal to reduce its carbon footprint; energy, water and paper consumption. Other environmental activities such as recycling, buying of environment-friendly goods, planting trees, beach clean-up and etc. were also implemented. Doha Bank has won the Golden Peacock Global Award for Corporate Social Responsibility in 2011/2010. We at Doha Bank; practice what we preach to set an example to the community; such small steps will make big difference," Mr. Seetharaman added.