Crown Prince of Fujairah, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Sharqi, welcomes the establishment of the first fresh water research and learning centre of its kind in the Gulf
Fujairah, April 21 2013: The Government of Fujairah, Emirates Wildlife Society in association with WWF (EWS-WWF), HSBC Bank Middle East Ltd and Earthwatch today announce through this unique public private partnership, the development of an environmental research and learning centre within Wadi Wurayah National Park in Fujairah.
The purpose of the new centre will be to promote research and learning within the Middle East into the provision and protection of precious freshwater resources. Research into freshwater is highly important to the region, which has an arid climate and experiences limited rainfall. To realise this vision, construction of the centre has started just outside the protected zone of the wadi.
The Crown Prince of Fujairah, His Highness, Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Sharqi said: “It is important to continue the research and increase the knowledge about the unique biodiversity of Wadi Wurayah in order to further enhance our conservation efforts.
“It is a pleasure to welcome this collaboration of EWS-WWF, HSBC and Earthwatch. The research centre will be a useful platform for people from across the MENA region to learn more about freshwater and species depending upon this precious resource.”
The centre that is funded by HSBC, will be supported by Government of Fujairah and will run a 5-year programme that is delivered jointly between Earthwatch and EWS-WWF. This programme will operate field research as well as educational activities and in turn support the ongoing conservation activities within Wadi Wurayah National Park.
An official Memorandum of Understanding was signed by His Excellency Engineer Mohammed Saif Al Afkham representing the Government of Fujairah; Ida Tillisch, Director General of EWS-WWF; Ammar Shams, Regional Head of Corporate Sustainability at HSBC Bank Middle East and Sarah Brown, Programme Manager for Europe and the Middle East, from Earthwatch.
The MoU further illustrates the Government of Fujairah’s ongoing support for Wadi Wurayah National Park.The Government of Fujairah has been working closely with EWS-WWF since 2006 in Wadi Wurayah.
In 2009, the area was designated a Protected Area by H.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammad Al Sharqi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Fujairah, making it the first Mountain Protected Area in the United Arab Emirates. This declaration marked the successful conclusion of a three-year project, also sponsored by HSBC Bank Middle East Limited. In January 2o12, EWS-WWF was appointed by the Government of Fujairah to develop the management plan for the protected area and has been working closely with Fujairah Municipality on this.
H.E. Engineer Mohammed Saif Al Afkham of Fujairah Municipality said: “We are delighted to continue the successful governmental, private sector and NGO partnership and happy to welcome Earthwatch. Together we can take the right steps to establish a research and learning centre and programme in Wadi Wurayah National Park, and involve HSBC volunteers and other citizens in science. It is important to protect this naturally rich area in a way that aligns with our cultural and developmental needs, while recognising its rich biodiversity as an integral and unique part of the United Arab Emirates’ natural heritage. We would like to thank HSBC for their continuous support in Wadi Wurayah in collaboration with EWS-WWF.”
Ammar Shams of HSBC Bank Middle East said: “Water scarcity is a huge problem around the world and almost 60% of the countries that do not have access to fresh water, are here in the Middle East. This is a basic human necessity and something we’re committed to improving – through funding or through the time and dedication of our volunteers. Partnering with EWS-WWF and Earthwatch in the development of this research centre will ensure that collectively, we can find solutions to help us better manage our water resources and ensure lasting improvements for communities in this region now and in the future.”
Ida Tillisch of EWS-WWF, said: “We are grateful to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Sharqi, Crown Prince of Fujairah, for welcoming this partnership for further field research in Wadi Wurayah National Park. We aim to strengthen our scope with the help of extensive freshwater research, in order to make important conservation decisions and inspire those partaking to better understand the challenges and highlight solutions in freshwater conservation in the country that are also highly relevant to the region.”
Nigel Winser, Executive Vice President of Earthwatch said: “Earthwatch is very excited to be part of this collaborative initiative. As an organisation committed to conserving the diversity and integrity of life on earth, we recognize that this programme gives us a unique opportunity to engage people in the UAE and wider Middle East in scientific field research and education and will lead to a more sustainable environment for the beautiful Wadi Wurayah area and hopefully for freshwater habitats in the wider region.”
The next step will be for EWS-WWF and Earthwatch to establish and implement the programme in collaboration and the support of the Government of Fujairah, Fujairah Municipality and HSBC Middle East. This in turn, will ensure the environmental integrity of the project, through an in-depth process involving local, regional and international experts to ensure that the conservation of the wadi’s biodiversity keeps the needs of the local community in mind.
Since being declared the UAE’s first protected mountain area, continuous research has been carried out in the area with the installation of camera traps. 56 new species have been found as recently as September 2012 including insects, arachnids and crustaceans: 26 of whom are considered new-to-science.
In October 2010, Wadi Wurayah was recognised as a “Wetland of International Importance” under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, with a high ecological significance thanks to its freshwater resources.