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Environment Affairs

The State of Qatar is a peninsula located between 24o 27- and 26o 10- N latitude and 50o 45- and 51o 40- E longitude. It is about 180 km long and 85 km wide, covering an area of 11,437 km2. Qatar is surrounded on three sides by the waters of the Arabian Gulf and connected to the south by land to Saudi Arabia. The landscape is generally flat to wavy with some prominent hills. The land elevation ranges between 6m to 103m above sea level. Rocky hills and sand dunes are mostly found in the southern parts of the country. Saline swampy mud flats are common along the coastal areas.

According to its geographical location and climate, Qatar is classified as a hot subtropical desert; very hot and muggy between June and August and pleasant between November and February. The average annual rainfall is 81 mm, average maximum temperature is 31oC and average minimum temperature 22oC. The morning humidity averages 71% and the afternoon relative humidity 43%. Qatar is affected by wind blown dust and occasionally sandstorms. The country has no rivers or lakes, and besides the rainfall received, the primary source of fresh water is the ground water. Surface water is very limited; only after a good winter rainfall, water may be seen in depressions, Wadis and runnels for a short time.

As Qatar is subjected to an arid climate, it mainly possesses an arid soil, with coarse texture, shallow depth and low retention low of soluble substances. Four soil associations were recognized in addition to the soil of the cultivated areas. These have been tailored in accordance to geographic and topographic settings, and comprise Rowda (depression) soils, Sabkha deposits (saline soil), Lithosol (rocky soil) and sandy soil. The location of Qatar, being a part of the large land mass of the Arabian Peninsula, play an essential role in the make up of its flora and vegetation. Ephemerals, annuals, dwarf woody perennials, few tree species and perennial grasses are the most common features of plant life forms in the inland leveled parts of the country. Generally the inland vegetation is sparse, with vast areas either barren or with few sporadic species. However, well established plant communities grow in depressions and water catchment areas. Halophytes are common along the coastal areas.

Of the terrestrial invertebrates, few species (only five) of terrestrial annelids were reported, and even fewer species of terrestrial molluscs are known. However, arthropods including spiders, scorpions, centipedes, ticks, isopods and mainly insects constitute the bulk of terrestrial invertebrate diversity in Qatar. The class Insecta dominates in relative density and diversity. The ecological role played generally by terrestrial invertebrates and particularly by arthropods as far as energy transfer and recycling of organic material, is major in the functioning and overall balance of the delicate desert eco-systems of Qatar. Records of arthropods in Qatar are limited. Few groups have been identified and published in form of lists: (Abdu and Shanmar, 1985; Abu Shama, 1997, 1999; Vine and Casey, 1992; Pittaway 1980). Studies of terrestrial vertebrates have received little attention and the records available are marred by many gaps. Reptiles of Qatar were investigated by Mohammed (1988), who recorded 27 species of turtles, lizards and snakes. More recently, El-Sherif and Al-Thani (2000) published a list of Qatar reptiles describing 29 species which comprised varieties of Chelonids, Lacertids and Ophids. However, Amphibia of Qatar have not been previously studied, only one record exists; the green toad Bufo Orientalis (viridis) which was recorded around the waste water ponds south of Doha city (Kardousha, et al., 2001).

The geographical location of Qatar and the presence of some islands gave it the importance of being a destination locality for migratory birds. However, industrial and civil life affected the life of birds both negatively and positively. For example due to pollutants and civil life, some species like Struthio camelus were extinct; on the other hand, the increased cultivated area likes palm farms and public gardens, the appearance of sewage water ponds and efforts towards preservation of ecosystems, have led to attraction of more migratory birds to Qatar; some of them interbreed. There have been few attempts to survey the distribution of terrestrial mammals in Qatar. Kamel and Madkour (1984) recorded 6 species including one insectivore (Ethiopian hedgehog), one lagomorph (Cape hare) and 4 rodents (lesser jerboa, house rat, Baluchistan gerbil and Cheesman's gerbil). The Gulf is an extremely shallow sea, having a mean depth of only 35 meters with the deepest point about100 meters near its entrance at the strait of Hurmuz. Near to the delta of Shat Al-Arab, at the northern end of the Gulf, the water is very shallow and off the delta there are extensive tidal mud flats. Along the northern Iranian coast is the central deeper part ranging from 75-100 m. The floor of the gulf lies entirely within the depth range normally considered as belonging to the continental shelf.

The surface and shallow waters of the Gulf undergo wide temperature changes in response to daily and seasonal cycles of heating and cooling. The fluctuations are not damped, as they are in most areas, by the thermal inertia of a large mass of deeper water. On the contrary, strong northern (Shamal) winds result in thorough mixing of the entire water column. The vertical temperature gradients are thus usually small, except in late summer when some density stratification can occur. Surface temperature can range from 10 C to 36 C in summer, while the offshore temperature ranges between 15 to 35 C. The range of variation in water temperature tends to increase away from the entrance of the Arabian Gulf. The Gulf is considerably more saline than other seas. The surface salinity in the central part of the Gulf averages 37-40% , while in the shallow parts of the coast ,the salinity averages 40-50%, rising to 60-70% in the remote lagoons and coastal embayments. The high salinity is one of the important factors limiting the occurrence and distribution of marine life of the Gulf.

Marine invertebrates of the Arabian Gulf are highly diverse and abundant forming an important source of food for higher consumers. Environmental and biological factors of the Gulf have profoundly influenced the occurrence and distribution of marine invertebrates. Available biological and ecological data on marine biota of the Arabian Gulf are scarce, with some coastal areas receiving more attention than others; some critical marine habitats, coral reefs, inter-tidal salt marshes, mangroves and sea-grass beds, have been recognized (Basson et al., 1977; Barratt, 1984; price, 1985; Al-Ansi, and Al-Khayat, 1999). A review of the available literature reveals that macro-invertebrates of the intertidal, sub tidal and deep waters of Qatar have received considerable attention recently. Jones (1985) wrote some notes on intertidal and shallow sub tidal fauna and flora species in Ras Laffan to the north of Qatar. Mohammed and Al-Khayat (1994) reported the common marine intertidal Mollusca at the east and west coast of Qatar. Al-Khayat (1997) produced a comprehensive list of Mollusca species (246 spp.) along the Qatari EEZ. The general features of the intertidal and sub tidal benthic habitats of the north east and west of Qatari waters are well documented (Al-Khayat and Al-Khayat, 2000; Al- Khayat, 1997, 1998, 1999).

Several studies have been carried out on the marine fish in Qatar. About 150 species were recorded. It has been shown that the richest fishing grounds are situated to the north east of Qatar where the catch consists primarily of various carangids (jacks), sweet lips, emperors and snappers, together with lesser quantities of goatfish, shark, groupers, barracudas, thread fins, lizard fish and rabbit fish, (Vine and Casey 1992).
Study of fish parasites in the Arabian Gulf is recent, starting about twenty yours ago. Most investigations included taxonomic studies dealing with morphological and anatomical descriptions, but some recent studies recorded life cycles (Abdul-Salam and Sreelatha, 1993). These studies have led to a better understanding of fish parasites in the Arabian Gulf region. A survey of the available literatures indicates that the most studies carried out on parasitic platyhelminthes of Qatar are mainly restricted to digenetic trematodes and few cestodes collected from marine fishes, (Saoud et al., 1986a, 1986b, 1987, 1988a, 1988b and 1988c; Al-Kawari et al., 1996; Al-Kawari, 2000). Only two reports regarding the terrestrial animals were observed, one from bats (Al-Kawari, 199) and the other from toads (Kardousha, 2001).

Little is known about marine mammals of Qatar (Sivasubramaniam and Ibrahim, 1982, Abdel-Razik, 1994, Mohammed and Al-Khayat, 1994, Soliman, 1995, and Kornprobst, 1999). Most of marine mammals observed in Qatari waters like dolphins, porpoises and occasionally whales, are commonly distributed along the Arabian Gulf. The only documented records in Qatar is related to Dugongs which have been discovered in large numbers in the Gulf of Salwa (Gross, 1987). It is hoped that the National Biodiversity Strategy of Qatar focuses on more studies on mammals, specially endangered species. As noted above Qatar has witnessed appreciable expansion in agriculture, diary and poultry farming and livestock production. This constituted a noticeable "Agriculture biodiversity" which requires consideration. Agricultural biodiversity is a broad term that includes all components of biological diversity of relevance to food and agriculture. It encompasses the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms, at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels. These are necessary to sustain key functions of the agro-ecosystem, its structure and processes for, and in support of food production and food security. Of the large numbers of crops, only 30 crops "feed the world". These are crops that provide 95% of the dietary energy (calories) or protein. It is important that the diversity within the crops is conserved, made available for use and managed wisely. Agricultural biological diversity is essential for global food production and livelihood security, as well as sustainable agriculture. All major food crops have their origins and centers of diversity in the tropics and sub-tropics of Asia, Africa and Latin America (the Vavilov centers). Most (if not all) Qatar agricultural crops are introduced from outside. Minor crops, underutilized species and wild species are important, both nutritionally and culturally to many people. Domestic animals supply directly or indirectly some percent of total human requirements for food and agriculture. Animal genetic resources have also been contributing to food and agriculture. Genetic diversity makes possible livestock adaptation to disease and parasites, wide variations in the availability and quality of food and water, and other limiting factors. Animal production in Qatar is limited by water supply since the amount of forage eaten by an animal is controlled by the amount of water it takes in. Animals have to cope either physiologically, behaviorally or communally with three outstanding environmental characteristics: Low overall possibilities of production. Temporarily very favorable condition but with low predictability. Highly irregular spatial distribution of productive possibilities. Agriculture in the country was once without serious insects, diseases or pathogens. Traditional agriculture was dependent on some landrace cultivars which were adapted, acclimatized and co-existed with their pathogens. This trend started changing recently when high yielding exotic plant material was brought in albeit inadvertently, towards introducing the possibility of new pests. The productivity of new material was higher, but it has no tolerance to common pests. Many insects, weeds, fungal, nematode and viral pathogens and their races appeared to have been introduced along with the plant materials. Intensive use of pesticides has resulted in pests control, reduced pest population but aggravated the problem of certain insect vectors of disease.

The Supreme Council for the Environment and Natural Sanctuaries
The Council undertakes all environmental protection responsibilities. It augments and protects endangered wildlife and its natural habitat; formulates the general policies aiming to protect the environment and effecting sustainable development; monitors the current environment and wildlife-related protective procedures and practices; prepares the necessary drafts of legislation, regulations and decisions on the protection of the environment and operates a national environmental data base - alongside with other environment protection-related functions.

The council is formed of a deputy president and a number of experienced and environment enthusiast members and a secretary-general.

The employees of the council have the capacity to act as law enforcement officers in cases of contravention against the provisions of the council's law and its executing regulations and decisions.

The Supreme Council for the Environment and Natural Sanctuaries organizes nation-wide functions to control the desertification problem as Qatar lies in an arid region, where rainfall doesn't exceed 200 mm per year. The council is also seeking to preserve all land, marine and atmospheric environments. It launched a campaign to destroy the farms that did not abide by environmental and health rules and set up many compounds in which sound health and environmental prerequisites are available.

The Council prohibits trading or dealing in any endangered wildlife, either dead or alive. Such practices are only allowed by a license from the Council. Hunting of wild birds and animals is also strictly prohibited within the boundaries of natural sanctuaries, islands, cities and villages.

To preserve the resources of wildlife the council enforces the wildlife hunting law. This law organizes wildlife hunting and designates the times and places where hunting is ultimately prohibited, as well as the techniques of hunting and the penalties for violations.

The law allows wildlife hunting during the season from 15th September to the beginning of May each year, after which hunting is prohibited.

Hunters are under the obligation not to damage gardens, farms and plant cover; not to interfere or tamper with the life of wild birds, marine turtles, baby animals, wild eggs and nests either by taking possession thereof, damaging, moving or selling them. Such practices are only permitted for scientific research purposes. Even then, a special pre-arranged approval must be secured from the council.

As a committed member of Basel Convention since the 9th of August 1995, Qatar doesn't allow hazardous waste to enter the country as per the provisions of the convention, which stipulate that no waste materials should be buried in any Qatari territory without the approval of the Supreme Council for the Environment and Natural Sanctuaries. Efforts are underway to arrange storing the hazardous industrial waste materials in specialized treatment centers as of 2003.

Qatar marks environment day Feb, 26
Anticipating Qatar's national environment day on Feb, 26, Qatar's Supreme Council for the Environment and Natural Reserves and the supreme Council for Family Affairs unveiled this year's slogan of the event "Because we are concerned about the environment".

Secretary General of the SCENR, H.E Khaled Ghanim Al-Ali and SG of SCFA, H.E Abdullah bin Nasser Al Khalifa told a press conference today that the annual event will be held this year for the first time in collaboration with the supreme council for family affairs.

Building on previous successful events as wanted by the Consort of the Emir H.H Sheikha Mouzah bint Nasser Al-Misnad, chairperson of the SCFA, Abdullah bin Nasser Al Khalifa said, the event aims at emphasizing that protecting of our environment is a fundamental element in the overall development efforts.

Talking on the same issue, H.E Khaled Ghanim Al-Ali said that this year's slogan is a continuation of last year's and the aim remains always the protection of the environment as a public concern. 

The objectives of observing the environment day include raising public awareness implanting environmental values, and encouraging nationals and residents to participate effectively in protecting the environment.

Qatar Contacts

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