The programme aims to enrich the reserve’s biodiversity, enhance its habitats, improve vegetation cover and reduce noise from the surrounding areas – efforts that would help maintain this internationally-recognised site as a national and regional hotspot for environmental education and responsible ecotourism.
Ethel (Tamarix aphylla) also known as Tarfa, is the main native tree species that will be planted as part of this programme. This fast-growing species, considered one of the most important native trees in the UAE, can tolerate extreme heat, drought and salinity. Other species include the Ghada (Haloxylon persicum), Arak (Salvadora persica), and Ghaf (Prosopis cineraria). All these species need very little water and minimum care for survival.
To kick off the third phase, which will last for two months, and, as part of a sponsorship agreement, Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, EAD’s Secretary-General and Adel Ahmed Albuainain, Chief Executive Officer, Dolphin Energy Limited personally planted a number of seedlings at the Reserve.
The programme is also in line with the Year of Zayed as it honours and commemorates the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s deep connection to Sustainability. In 1998, after he observed the successful breeding of the flamingo for the first time at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, he established the site as a protected area, to be managed under EAD. Thanks to his belief in conservation, today the Reserve is the only site in the UAE where flamingos continue to breed regularly, and it has become an internationally-recognised wetland around the world as well as a popular sustainable tourism destination locally.
The Al Wathba Habitat Rehabilitation Programme, which began in October 2017 will last for 3 years (consisting of 4 phases). The first and second phases included the design and installation of an irrigation system along the Reserve.
Razan Al Mubarak, said, "We are delighted to partner with Dolphin Energy to rehabilitate A Wathba Reserve. This will help contribute to the improvement of the natural habitat within the Reserve and strengthen its role as a scientific centre for bird conservation research especially migratory birds."
Commenting on the initiative, Albuainain said, "We are proud of our association with the EAD and delighted to be involved in this tree planting ceremony because of the close connection Al Wathba has with our founding father, Sheikh Zayed. He was a pioneer in environmental sustainability and to undertake a program that supports his vision is both humbling, rewarding and a perfect tribute in this year, the Year of Zayed.
The Reserve, which covers an area of about 5 km2, has been a wildlife attraction since its inception and has become a haven for migratory birds. The reserve is now home to more than 4,000 Greater Flamingo, 260 species of birds that rely on the lake and wet areas for feeding and breeding. It also provides a safe haven for many other species of reptiles, small mammals and insects, and is an important area for the conservation of biodiversity in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Since it was opened to the public in October 2014, the Reserve has attracted approximately 20,000 visitors. It is open to visitors from mid-October until the end of April, every Thursday and Saturday from 8 am to 4 pm.