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Kuwait - Main Details

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Kuwait is characterized by its flat topography and many valleys that descend mainly northeastwardly. The country’s coastline is about 660 km long (including nine offshore islands) with its most important feature being Kuwait Bay which is a suitable nursery ground for fish and shrimp larvae. Despite its small size, Kuwait is characterized by nine geomorphological manifestations (e.g. mud flats, gravel plains, north plains, limestone banks) and four desert ecosystems (sand dunes, swamps and salt depressions, flat desert, desert plateau). The interior of the country is composed of gravel-covered plains with herbs and shrubs. One of the main topographical features is the Wadi Al Batin Valley which runs along the western border with Iraq. Mud flats surround the southern areas and are very saline and productive, containing diverse plant and animal species, while also serving as an important transit area for birds. They are characterized by the presence of Leptochrysus Kuwaitensa, a type of lobster found in Kuwait.

The vegetation consists of shrubs, herbs and perennials which vary seasonally depending on winter rainfall. The vegetation that exists in the desert is especially important as it protects the soil from erosion and is an important food source for livestock species and wild animals. The desert ecosystem has deteriorated in Kuwait because of grazing, uprooting of woody shrubs, increased human activity, entertainment, quarries, earlier military operations and lack of implementation of laws for protecting and preserving biodiversity in the terrestrial ecosystem. Summer conditions on land in Kuwait are harsh while winter conditions reveal a desert richer in plants and animals. The marine environment in Kuwait and the Persian Gulf are characterized by an abundance and diversity of species and environments, including wetland areas, fish, turtles and coral reefs. Coral reefs are found in the southern area of Kuwait’s sea, however are less diverse relative to those found in the Red Sea or the Saudi Arabian reef islands of Jana and Karan.

Marine ecosystems and deserts provide food, fiber, aesthetic value and recreational opportunities and, in this light, are considered commercially and socially valuable to Kuwaitis.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

One of the worst disasters to which the already fragile ecosystems were exposed relates to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The bombing of more than 700 oil wells and crude oil spills in marine and land environments, air pollution from burning fires, movement of military vehicles, proliferation of mines and weapons and building of trenches by the military, had negative impacts on the soil and land which resulted in their contamination. These activities caused overall devastation to vegetation and wild animals and environmental damages are still under investigation by the Government. Negative impacts are exemplified by the number of corals dying from oil pollution, as well as other pollutants (especially biological and chemical contaminants from the war), and by the level of fungal contamination in the air from burning fires, among other indications.

Overgrazing, uprooting of shrubs, seasonal increases in human activities, camping, entertainment, establishment of gravel and sand quarries and other environmental processes, have sped up the process of land degradation and led to biodiversity loss. Moreover, Kuwait’s small area (whether on land or sea) has created a high demand for suitable sites for the development of urban, residential, industrial and tourism areas, particularly on the coast. There are ongoing operations to bury various coastal ecosystems as well, particularly located in intertidal and muddy areas, by building artificial islands and harbours. Moreover, natural desert ecosystems are being lost because of urban expansion, road construction, oil production, transport and storage.

Overfishing, bottom trawling, as well as fishing in breeding areas are major threats to sea biodiversity. Also, amateur sport fishing has caused a lot of damage to the marine environment which is particularly associated to anchoring boats in coral reef areas. The sea surrounding Kuwait has had many pressures and pollutants due to an increase in population, mixing of treated and untreated wastewater, urban activities, power generation, water distillation, ports and ships, industrial facilities and the export of oil in giant tankers. For instance, the amount of dead fish totaled 2,600 tons between August and September 2001.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Examples of progress made in implementing the National Strategy for Biodiversity (1998) include: the adoption of a request for environmental impact studies for development projects with a focus on different aspects of biodiversity and ways to maintain it; the establishment of nature reserves (e.g. Sabah Al-Ahmad, Al-Jahra); research on desert plants and animals at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research. Kuwait has established nature reserves comprising 2% of the country’s total area, and anticipates further increasing protected areas coverage to 20%.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Large numbers of exotic plant species have been imported as a way of greening the country; however, this action is putting biodiversity at risk as these plants often carry with them insects, bacteria and viruses. It has therefore been proposed that focus be put on preserving areas that have not yet been desertified. Moreover, a law on quarantine prohibits the importation of any plants or agricultural products infested with pests; plans have been developed to regulate entry of these products into the country. Additionally, to maintain and develop local plants to rehabilitate natural pastures and fodder production, a gene bank has been created to store native plants and other useful products over the medium term.

There exists a severe shortage of studies and work to clarify the continuity of species diversity in different ecosystems which has led to a lack of appreciation for biological diversity; this phenomenon is particularly applicable to the diversity of benthic marine organisms.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Obstacles to implementation include: lack of coordination mechanisms between government agencies and NGOs responsible for environmental affairs; an acute shortage of specialists for the protection of indigenous plants and the lack of human and technical capacities to manage various aspects of biodiversity. Also, there is a lack of specialists for the classification of marine organisms and wild, migratory and endemic species, as well as a lack of legislation implementation (and biodiversity legislation), failure to adopt budgets for implementing policies, national strategies and action plans and, finally, a multiplicity of powers producing overlap in institutional actions. Kuwait intends to strengthen coordination and coherence among policies, programs and legislation in various sectors so as to fill gaps in its institutional arrangements and reduce excesses.

Bodies associated to biodiversity in Kuwait include the Environment Public Authority, Public Authority for Agriculture Affairs and Fish Resources (PAAFR), Kuwait University, Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, Environment Protection Society (NGO), and the Voluntary Work Centre in Kuwait (NGO). The PAAFR is responsible for establishing national parks, combating desertification in coordination with concerned authorities and in accordance with the plans developed by the Kuwait Municipality, among other functions.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

The Environment Public Authority (EPA) regularly monitors water benthic meiofauna that comprise about 304 species, 45 of which exist on Kuwait’s shores. The General Authority is working on various forms of environmental pollution monitoring on an ongoing basis. Further research is needed to monitor wildlife development and distribution and develop measures for habitat preservation. Attention must also paid to the application of laws banning hunting and the unsustainable use of biodiversity.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme