In response to the UAE's announcement of the 'Blue Residency' program, residents who are passionate environmental advocates are feeling a profound sense of ownership and excitement for what lies ahead.

The 10-year visa offers an exceptional opportunity for individuals who dedicate themselves to sustainability and environmental stewardship.

Khaleej Times spoke to UAE residents who have been environmental advocates and have contributed to sustainable methods in numerous ways, while calling UAE their home.

Hazem Qawasmeh, a Jordanian expat and senior advisor at the Secretary General's Office of the Environment Agency, shared his enthusiasm for the Blue Residency visa. "Obtaining a 'Blue Residency' visa would be a significant personal achievement. It would not only recognise my efforts in environmental protection, but also reinforce my commitment to sustainability."

Hazem believes that the visa would enable him to continue contributing to Abu Dhabi's environmental goals. He would also be part of the emirate's journey towards net zero by 2050. He sees the 'Blue Residency' visa as a powerful symbol of the UAE's dedication to sustainability, which also recognises individuals who drive environmental progress.

"This recognition would mean a lot to me, as it reflects the value of my work and the impact it has had on the community and the environment," he told Khaleej Times.

The newly launched residency scheme is part of initiatives to mark 2024 as the year of sustainability. The sustainability drive was extended into 2024 after green themes dominated last year — when the country invited residents to join in collective efforts to adopt sustainable practices.

Zoltan Rendes, is a Hungarian environmentalist who considers himself a citizen of the planet. He has lived in various countries, including the UAE, where he has been involved in environmental work for 12 years. Zoltan's career took a detour when he worked as a crisis correspondent, witnessing wars and disasters around the world. This experience led him to work with aid organisations and develop a deep concern for the world.

"I am thrilled about the Blue Residency initiative and would be honoured to be the first to apply. It presents an excellent opportunity to further my environmental advocacy and make a positive impact on a global scale," he told Khaleej Times.

Zoltan emphasised the importance of communities and individuals in addressing climate change, saying, "We all have a role to play in healing the planet. Small steps and gradual changes can make a significant difference."

The Dubai resident actively engages in advocacy work and collaborates with organisations like the UN Global Compact. He serves as a European Union Climate Ambassador and uses his platform to educate and inspire people about climate change.

Excited about the Blue Residency program, as it aligns with his passion for environmental protection, Zoltan believes that humanity will be healthier and happier if we take care of the Earth. "I see climate change as an opportunity to create a better world — a world where we have a more symbiotic relationship with the planet we call home."

Youshey Zakiuddin is a Dubai resident who has lived in the UAE for 13 years. Along with his work in sustainability, Youshey recently released a children's book titled, 'Summer Vacation Surprise'. The book takes the subject of climate change to children's minds in a fun way, teaching them the lesson of helping, through a story about a family thrown into an unexpected adventure when the weather goes wild.

"When I heard the news, I realised that the UAE prioritises sustainability for the environment, not just talking about it, but actually doing it. Attracting talents and rewarding individuals for doing positive things will eventually benefit the country," he said.

In addition to adult residents, younger environmentalists like Joseph Manoj Chittilappilly, a 15-year-old member of Emirates Environmental Group, expressed his joy upon hearing the announcement.

"This country has always been my home; it welcomed me. I think this visa acknowledges my efforts, and that means the world to me," said Joseph. Since the age of 11, Joseph has actively engaged in recycling campaigns and participated in talk shows to encourage recycling among his peers.

Joseph emphasised the importance of global coordination in addressing environmental challenges. He envisions the next 10 years as a period of continued dedication to making the world cleaner, safer, and more collaborative.

The news regarding the new visa also appealed to families who embrace environmentally friendly practices and instil them in their children. These families actively engage in various environmental initiatives, such as recycling drives, awareness campaigns, and clean-up initiatives, often collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations.

"We've always been deeply committed to environmental protection. We feel immensely fortunate and blessed to be residents of the UAE, which has sustainability so intricately woven into its ethos and provides a multitude of avenues to give back to the planet," shared Iram Rizvi, an Indian expat residing in Dubai.

Iram hasn't stopped there, but has also incorporated these methods into the lives of her 17- and 13-year-old children. Mishal and Mir Faraz have received recognition for their environmental initiatives, including the UK-based Diana Award 2020 and the Global Good Canon Young Champion of the Year Award 2021.

Mishal, a 17-year-old student, shared her family's commitment. "Sustainability is a way of life for us. It is a part of our identities and will be for the rest of our lives." Her 13-year-old brother Mir, chipped in by saying: "We are grateful that our efforts to nurture and protect our beautiful planet have been recognised by the place we call home."

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