While Abu Dhabi attracts more and more crowds from all corners of the globe, construction work has rocketed as a result. Unfortunately the price for the advance of spectacular buildings and roads is usually paid by the environment. In our city, one of the silent victims of these concrete developments are the mangroves. Sadly, the rapid industrialisation of Abu Dhabi has harmed the vibrant ecosystem that lines most of our shores.
Luckily for the voiceless mangroves, a resident called Suhail Jashanmal has adopted the cause, and has combined an environmental call for action with his true passion, art, to yield incredible results. As the brains and driving force behind Green Abu Dhabi, Suhail has campaigned over the past few years to bring the mangroves project to the forefront of the world’s media.
The journey sparked up (literally) in 2010 when Suhail came across a fire in the mangroves at Al Saada and rushed to put it out. After acting on instinct to put out the flames, he was dismayed to realise that several people who were clearly watching didn’t bother to lift a finger. ‘I’m not presuming that I know what each person’s reasons were for not reacting but the incident got me to thinking about this general state of apathy,’ he says. ‘The unfortunate victim was the only thing that couldn’t do anything about it: the mangrove!’
Suhail decided to create Green Abu Dhabi, a grassroots initiative that helps people and organisations work together, to help out the environment in the nation’s capital. An artist himself, linking the idea of art auctions with raising funds came naturally. Since then the initiative has gained considerable momentum.
Suhail has also shown more than a little business savvy when it comes to organising these events. The Indian national has meticulously planned out all aspects, from crowd logistics, media coverage to securing sponsors and yielding a successful outcome. This year, Green Abu Dhabi will be publishing a book, featuring works from renowned artist George Lewis as well as highlighting the effects on the mangroves. The book will be out soon and will be available at most retailers in the city. Proceeds from the sales also help keep the mangroves project alive.
For Suhail, Green Abu Dhabi, while primarily tasked with caring for the mangroves at the moment, can and should be applied to any environmental cause that needs championing in the UAE. ‘For me, aside from the immediate benefits, Green Abu Dhabi is all about promoting environmental sustainability through spreading awareness,’ he says. ‘Especially with the youth,’.
To learn more and to get involved, visit www.facebook.com/groups/greenabudhabi.
• Abu Dhabi has 75 percent of the UAE’s mangrove forests.
• Mangroves are important breeding grounds for many animals, including sea snakes, shrimps, turtles, sea bream and various species of birds.
• They are essential for preventing coastline erosion.
• The average height of a mangrove tree in Abu Dhabi is between three and five metres.
Key events to watch out for
Along with the art auction, Green Abu Dhabi will be hosting other events where you and your friends can get involved.
Community Art Auction
Organised in conjunction with the Future Center for Special Needs. Using recycled plastic, sculptures and art works will be created by a selected number of students and these in turn will be displayed and auctioned off, with proceeds benefiting the mangroves project. A few local artists will also donate work to be auctioned off. The theme the children will follow is imagery from the sea, in relation to the mangroves habitat.
Save the Turtles course
An obstacle course will be set up on Saadiyat Island and participants will race to the finishing line, emulating many of the trials that baby turtles face in their race to the sea. So if you fancy crawling on all fours and running through tires, making a beeline to the pristine shore, you should definitely sign up for this unique endeavour. The race will be designed for anyone over the age of 12.
What’s an environmental event without getting your hands dirty? During the course of the next month, Green Abu Dhabi will host several clean-up days where anyone with good intentions, team spirit and some passion for the green cause can don their sneakers and join countless others pick up litter along the mangroves.
Art Event on Yas Island
Five teams of children and parents will each get large frame structures to let their creative sides run loose and express themselves using art supplies, along with salvaged materials from previous clean-ups, such as plastic bottles, fish nets and tin cans. Each team will get to spend the morning creating their sculpture with advice from a professional artist. The event will be held over two days; the first day will include adorning the structure with materials and the second day will be dedicated to painting and finalising the sculptures. As a bonus for participating, families and children involved will get free entry into Yas Waterworld in the afternoon.
George Lewis: art and the environment
Back by popular demand, American artist George Lewis will be helping out the Green Abu Dhabi cause with his powerful paintings depicting different cultures. As a bestselling artist at the previous Green Abu Dhabi event, George will once again bring captivating and haunting portrayals of various scenes that will be auctioned off to help raise funds for the mangroves project.