Birds are excellent indicators of the health of entire landscapes. In turn they require healthy habitats for their survival. Protecting birds requires the protection of the wider environment. Some desert birds for example may have declined due to increased climatic aridity and desertification caused by human activities in this fragile habitat and this issue cannot be dealt with solely by protecting birds in isolated reserves. Similar problems concern marine birds and raptors – they need to feed on widely dispersed food sources over large areas. Nature conservation policies must be integrated into all policies governing use of the wider environment.
Therefore we recommend the following:
- Planning regulations and environmental impact assessment should be used more widely to minimize the impact of new developments. All new development projects should not be approved without an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) and an EMP (Environment Management Plan) that provide measures for minimizing damage but more importantly provide ongoing management plans to preserve open spaces and wildlife habitats. Wherever development plans are put into effect, specific environmental objectives should be incorporated to protect wildlife resources. Mitigation and restoration measures should be implemented when natural or artificial wildlife habitats are degraded by development.
- Tighter and more effective enforcement of regulations are needed to reduce pollution and damage to the integrity of important wildlife habitats. This includes the impact of outdoor recreation such as off-road vehicles and free camping. Kuwait has a pressing problem with off-road vehicle driving. This largely unintentional recreation pressure is converting the living desert into a trampled wasteland!
- Overgrazing by domestic livestock should be better controlled. Many recently fenced areas are seeing a remarkable regeneration of natural habitats.
- Litter management: seas, shorelines and desert areas are often strewn with discarded litter and waste. Seabirds (and boat propellers) can become entangled with discarded fishing line, hooks, nets and other refuse. Similarly land birds can get ensnared in rubbish. A campaign to advocate “take your litter home or to the garbage can” is overdue.
- The impacts of power-lines or other artificial structures in the desert or on islands may not be adequately interpreted or appreciated. Many of these structures may kill hundreds of migratory birds each year. Special impact studies are often warranted, especially if these structures are built near protected areas or in places with regular mass migration movements of birds. Putting power-lines underground is low-cost in desert areas.
- Agriculture, water use, fisheries and land-use regulations must be expanded to avoid environmental damage from existing activities. Making micro-habitats available for birds can be promoted at the broader landscape scale. Even in urban areas and on agricultural land, water and cover for birds can be managed through green-space developments.
- Information about biodiversity in the wider environment must be disseminated by scientific organizations. Citizen groups should become aware and involved to promote and foster awareness. Most important of all, education should have a greater natural history and wildlife focus. This promotion for the appreciation of Kuwait’s natural heritage must begin in schools and the wider media.