Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Fujairah unveils its 50th nature and heritage trail in Wadi Ham

Etihad Rail, Emirates Nature-WWF, Fujairah Municipality, the Fujairah Environment Authority and Fujairah Adventures Centre, backed by Fujairah Tourism & Antiquities Authority, have inaugurated the historic Al Bithnah Nature and Heritage Trail in Fujairah.

The emirate’s 50th nature trail, which marks the UAE’s 50th anniversary, is the country’s very first community-built tourism trail and represents a pioneering model of ‘inclusive development’.

The nature path, located in Wadi Ham, has been created as part of a wider Al Bithnah Conservation Project. The trail’s inauguration took place with a number of VIPs including Mohamed Saif Al Afkham, Director-General of Fujairah Municipality; Shadi Malak, CEO of Etihad Rail; Laila Mostafa Abdullatif, Director General of Emirates Nature-WWF; Aseela Al Moalla, Director General of Fujairah Environment Authority; Saeed Al Memari, General Manager of Fujairah Adventures, as well as members of the local community.

During the inauguration, the delegation visited the first section of the trail and the surrounding areas, which are rich in biodiversity and cultural heritage. The trail is set to be completed by the first quarter of2022 and will open as an eco-tourism destination for tourists.

The project is part of Etihad Rail’s sustainability vision and commitment to being a ‘Good Neighbour’ to the local communities through which the UAE’s National Rail network passes. Etihad Rail continues to take a lead on projects which minimise the environmental impacts of rail construction and enhance sustainable development by opening up new opportunities for economic growth and increased ecotourism.

Mohamed Saif Al Afkham, Director-General of Fujairah Municipality, said: “Etihad Rail plays an essential role in consolidating the position of the UAE as a global and regional centre for transport and logistics services. The UAE National Rail Network is one the biggest infrastructure projects in the country and serves as a major contributor to the national economy, which will play a pivotal role in enhancing the economic development in the UAE and the Emirate of Fujairah. I would like thank all the parties who contributed to the completion of the Al Bithnah Nature and Heritage Trail, as well as the residents of the Emirate of Fujairah for their cooperation.”

Mohamed Almarzooqi, Executive Director of Rail Relations at Etihad Rail, said: “As a Good Neighbour, Etihad Rail is committed to safeguarding the livelihood of local communities surrounding the Etihad Rail project. This will provide unique opportunities for sustainable economic and social development and will play a strategic role in continuing the UAE’s journey towards excellence and success for the next fifty years. We are truly glad to partner with the residents of Al Bithnah area in the development of this trail and are looking forward to its seeing its impact on enhancing tourist attraction, supporting biodiversity, and protecting the environment.”

The joint environmental conservation and habitat rehabilitation project is part of a series of projects Etihad Rail is undertaking in collaboration with government, private stakeholders and NGOs. Following the completion of the nature trail, a comprehensive biodiversity study of the wider Al Bithnah region will be conducted to determine water quality, identify environmentally significant habitats, alongside seeking to enable preservation of local biodiversity.

This will be accompanied by a socio-economic survey to identify areas, which can further empower the local community and foster sustainable economic growth.

Emirates Nature-WWF Director General Laila Mostafa Abdullatif said of the occasion: “We launched this project together with our esteemed partners just a few months ago, and have seen tremendous enthusiasm from the residents of Al Bithnah village, as well as the wider-UAE community who have participated in inclusive conservation efforts, by volunteering and doing hands-on field work to create this trail, a model which we hope will contribute towards building a green economy for the UAE.

“There is still an opportunity for the community to get involved with building the rest of the nature trail, and they can participate by joining our ‘Leaders of Change’ programme. This is the beginning of us creating a strong foundation to activate civil society to create a greener, more sustainable nation for our next 50”.

The Al Bithnah Conservation Project, launched in March 2021, aims to assist the community in adapting to rapid changes in the socio-economic world. The agreement signed between the project partners involves three key pillars, which are supporting the growth of the local community, protecting the environment and biodiversity and preserving the UAE’s natural heritage.

The objectives of the project are as follows:

•    Build a Nature & Heritage trail to promote the eco-tourism potential of the area.
•    Renovate an abandoned ancestral falaj, and in turn sustainably manage and rehabilitate the natural habitat.
•    Involve the UAE community in taking a hands-on approach to support with implementing various elements of the project.
•    Engage with local communities and civil society to participate in and drive the shift towards establishing a green economy.

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