x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Research centre for freshwater resources being built at Fujairah wadi

A research centre focusing on freshwater resources is to be built near the Wadi Wurayah protected area in Fujairah.

A research centre for freshwater resources is being built near Wadi Wurayah in Fujairah.

Building has already started on a plot just outside the protected wadi, which is one of the best-preserved freshwater habitats in the UAE.

The centre is a partnership between the Fujairah Government, HSBC Bank, the Emirates Wildlife Society - World Wide Fund for Nature (EWS-WWF) and the international organisation Earthwatch.

It will be funded over five years by HSBC, which has supported conservation projects there since 2006.

The funding will employ 10 full-time staff, said Ida Tillisch, acting director general of EWS-WWF.

"This will enable us to run really critical research for five years," Ms Tillisch said.

Research will focus on understanding the sources of fresh water in the wadi, measuring water quality and observing the rare animals and plants in the national park.

The scientists will be helped by about 1,200 trained volunteers over the five years.

The first batch of up to 12 volunteers will arrive in October. The programme will be open to HSBC staff at first but other volunteers will be able to join later, Ms Tillisch said.

"This is a centre for everybody who is interested to come and learn about science," she said.

It will consist of accommodation, classrooms, laboratories and offices in portable buildings. Earthwatch will train volunteers.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Sharqi, Crown Prince of Fujairah, said the centre would cater for researchers and volunteers from the region. The research will also have important implications for Wadi Wurayah.

"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," Sheikh Mohammed said.

Wadi Wurayah is home to more than 500 species of animals and plants. It is the last refuge in the UAE for rare animals such as the Arabian tahr, caracal and possibly even the Arabian leopard.

It is also home to about 300 plant species, including the UAE's only native orchid, Epipactis veratrifolia.

In March 2009, Wadi Wurayah was declared a Mountain Protected Area by Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed, Ruler of Fujairah.

vtodorova@thenational.ae