His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated, on Monday, the Wasit Wetland Centre (WWC) located in Wasit Natural Reserve (WNR), which spreads over an area of 4.5 km2, forming part of the eco-tourist system in the emirate of Sharjah and the UAE.
Wasit Wetland Centre is the first of its kind for wetland environments in the GCC countries. It has opened as part of the projects adopted by the emirate of Sharjah to promote its position as the capital of Arab tourism for 2015, to improve environmental conditions, and to keep the sustainability of natural life in the emirate for future generations.
The inauguration ceremony of Wasit Nature Reserve and Wasit Wetland Centre was attended by Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Finance Department, Sheikh Fahim bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Department of Government Relations, Khamis bin Salem Al Suwaidi, Chairman of the Department of Suburbs and Villages Affairs, Tariq Sultan bin Khadim, Chairman of the Directorate of Human Resources, Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Chairperson of Environment and Protected Area Authority, Eng Khalifa Musabah Al Tunaiji, Chairman of the Directorate of Housing, Ali Salem Al Midfa, Chairman of Sharjah Airport Authority, Afaf brahim Al Marri, Chairperson of Sharjah Social Services Department, Eng. Ali bin Shaheen Al Suwaidi, Chairman of the Directorate of Public Works, Saeed Musabah Al Kaabi, Chairman of Sharjah Education Council, Salem Mohammed Al Naqbi, Chairman of Municipalities and Agriculture Affairs Department, Mohammed Obaid Al Zaabi, Chairman of the Department of Protocol and Hospitality and a number of officials, environment experts and media representatives.
After the ribbon cutting, HH Ruler of Sharjah and the accompanying delegation toured the WWC. He listened to a briefing from HE Hana Al Suwaidi about the facilities in the centre and their importance for the enhancement of tourism and conservation of natural life.
His Highness then had a look into the WWC, which contains many modern buildings equipped with innovative technologies that allow visitors to learn more about the existing birds. The WWC contains 60 species of birds. It is located within the Wasit Natural Reserve (WNR), which is rich in natural features in regards to geologic formation, weather, soil, plant cover and animal diversity.
His Highness and the accompanying delegation toured the WNR and saw its facilities, including educational and instructive classrooms, platforms and towers that are equipped for watching birds near water features, along with a number of educational elements, tools, and guiding signs about the species of migratory and resident birds in the WNR.
Her Excellency Hana Saif Al Suwaidi said: “We are pleased to inaugurate Wasit Wetland Centre, which aims to protect the natural environment in certain areas of the emirate, conserve their natural resources and develop eco-tourism. This makes the Wetland Centre like a breathing lung for the emirate of Sharjah in terms of its natural beauty, charming landscape and diverse organisms. It includes scientific bird care facilities that protect existing birds from extinction.”
She added: “Wasit Wetland Centre is an important centre for learning and showcasing a number of birds. It includes world-class service facilities for its visitors, whether they be the public or researchers. It contains eight bird hides, each providing detailed information and signboards about birds and their species, so that visitors can know different rare species of birds through a distinctive display method and enjoy themselves in their allocated areas.”
Al Suwaidi emphasised that the WWC allows visitors to know more about existing birds through special telescopes for watching birds, as well as other state-of-the-art technologies that allow visitors to enjoy listening to birds in the reserve. The Wasit Wetland Centre contains a modern café that serves visitors and neighbouring areas. It is characterised by its direct view of wide areas of the Wetland Centre, which allows all visitors to see the wildlife and the diverse organisms. The WWC also includes a souvenir store, interactive games for children that provide information about birds, their species, reproduction and migration in an interesting way. The centre also contains many environmentally-friendly electric vehicles that transport visitors to see its key features and the different species of birds, trees, lakes and salt flats (sabkhas), where birds can be watched closely through watch-towers that are dispersed around the reserve.
HE Chairperson of EPAA indicated that there is a strategic plan underway to register the Wetland Centre in a number of global sites, including the Ramsar Convention (formerly the Convention on Wetlands) which provides for the protection of wetlands and environmental sites like the Sir Bu Nair, the Mangroves Protected Area and Al Hafiah sites. She added that the WWC is a haven for resident and migratory birds, an outlet for neighbouring areas’ residents, and a destination for nature lovers.
Wasit Wetland Centre contains a number of rare birds, including the: Northern Bald Ibis, Glossy Ibis, grey heron, marbled duck (which is the only threatened species of bird), purple swamphen, pink-backed pelican and greater flamingo. Both EPAA and the Wasit Wetland Centre will play a role in protecting these birds, caring for those that are injured and ensuring their survival for the coming generations.
Wasit Wetland Centre is located within the Wasit Natural Reserve, which was declared a protected area in 2007 by the Emiri Decree No. (7) issued by His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, on the establishment of Wasit Nature Reserve in the Emirate of Sharjah. The most distinguished feature of the reserve is the diverse ecosystem, which comprises coastal sand dunes and salt flats (sabkhas) linking ponds, and a large open lake.
The centre’s boundary screening trees purify the air and eradicate harmful gases and dust, increase the ratio of oxygen, and reduce greenhouse effect, thereby becoming the habitat to numerous migrating and rare birds. The reserve contains many lagoons, which are classified as high ground water.
The rehabilitation of the nature reserve started in 2005. In 2013, the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPPA) developed the reserve, making it a destination for visitors and those who wish to know more about wildlife in the UAE.