DUBAI: Recognizing mangroves as an essential barrier to protect biodiversity in the coastal areas and prevent erosion, the National Center for Vegetation Cover Development and Combating Desertification is implementing an ambitious project to plant over 200 million mangrove trees, said the CEO of the government organization mandated to protect and restore green cover all over Saudi Arabia.
Speaking to Arab News during the Saudi Green Initiative Forum held at Expo City on the sidelines of COP28 in Dubai, Khaled bin Abdullah Al-Abdul Qadir said that mangroves were distributed widely in the Gulf region and also in the Red Sea areas of Saudi Arabia and that a massive effort was underway to not only preserve the existing mangroves, but also restore others.
“There is a big effort from society, from the government, from companies to blend it, to do the plantation project in the mangrove and that is started more than 30 years ago,” he explained.
Qadir added: “Nowadays we have big projects in mangrove restoration, mangrove protection and mangrove plantation, and we have it in the Red Sea. We have it in the Gulf. Now we have almost more than 10 million mangrove trees already planted.”
He went to say that his organization was in the process of making national parks in the mangrove areas in order to enhance ecotourism in the Kingdom and also provide income for the local society around the mangrove areas.
Qadir emphasized that the country was taking care to use only native species not only in mangroves, but also in other reafforestation efforts.
“This is very important for us and this is also very important factor for survival of mangrove and being tried in many locations around the world to try different species in different location and the the result was not that successful. But as we are only using native species, we have very successful in mangrove growth in these locations,’’ he informed.
Rangeland restoration is another key initiative of NCVCDCR, Qadir said, adding that as over 70 percent of the Kingdom areas were already considered rangeland and his organization already had programs to first of all protect these important areas.
‘‘We also have a program to strengthen the protection of these rangeland areas and to convert grazing from unorganized to organized. We will start off the first stage of that in 8 million hectares that are the first phase of organizing the grazing,’’ he said.
As part of this project, the Kingdom has just finished a study to plant 10 billion trees and the implementation plan for this has already been finalized, the official explained.
The other area of intervention for the organization lies in the oases, especially agricultural oases that are very important economically. The official said that they were protected by proper regulation. He added that there was a project to protect at least 100 non-agriculture oases.