His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan
His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is popularly known as 'The Man of the Arab Environment'. Under his leadership, development activities have touched all aspects of life in the UAE with agriculture and afforestation as the focus of his main concerns.
One of Sheikh Zayed's most remarkable and enduring achievements is the greening of the region's deserts. Under his guidance, 100 million trees have been planted in the UAE - all in an effort to stem the encroachment of sand onto agricultural land and urban areas. Using various irrigation techniques, including the ancient Aflaj (efalf) system and the latest technology in desalination, sewage and farming, today the UAE produces 20% of the world's date palms and myriad species of plants and flowers now flourish. Thank to his vision, his dream of a greener country was realized.
Animals likewise receive attention from Sheikh Zayed. To ensure the protection of his country's biological diversity, he outlawed hunting more than a quarter of a century ago. He went further by creating, on his own island reserve of Sir Bani Yas, a sanctuary for endangered species, such as the Arabian Oryx and the sand gazelle. Thanks to his efforts, the symbol of Abu Dhabi - the Dorcas Gazelle, is a protected species whose numbers are increasing under special programmes. Under an agreement with international conventions such as CITES, turtles are also protected as are the rare Arabian Leopard, the ibex and the dugong (manatee).
In addition, to ensure the preservation of the country's flora and fauna, Sheikh Zayed established the Higher Environment Council.
In 1995, Sheikh Zayed received a gold medal from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, for his agricultural development efforts, not only in the UAE, but in other developing countries. In 1997, he was honoured by the President of Pakistan with a special award for his role in environmental conservation. This was the first time that Pakistan bestowed such an accolade on a Head of State. That same year, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and President Emeritus of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) presented Sheikh Zayed with the "Golden Panda" - WWF's highest award. This was the first time in the history of the award that a Head of State was so honoured. Again in 1997, he received the region's first ever Gulf Business Award for Environmental Action.