Ground-breaking 50th nature and heritage trail is inaugurated
- Part of Etihad Rail’s commitment to being ‘Good Neighbour’ to the local communities surrounding the UAE’s National Rail network
- First-ever nature and heritage trail built by members of the UAE community
- Marks the UAE’s 50th anniversary
26 December, 2021: In celebration of the UAE’s Golden Jubilee, Etihad Rail, Emirates Nature-WWF, Fujairah Municipality, the Fujairah Environment Authority and Fujairah Adventures Centre, supported by Fujairah Tourism & Antiquities Authority, inaugurated the historic Al Bithnah Nature and Heritage Trail in the Emirate of 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 of 2022 and will open as an eco-tourism destination for tourists.
The development of the trail marks an important milestone as part of the landmark agreement between Etihad Rail, Emirates Nature-WWF, the Fujairah Environment Authority and Fujairah Adventures Centre signed in March 2021. The agreement supports sustainable development within the local community, provides valuable opportunities for eco-tourism, protects the environment and biodiversity and preserves the UAE’s natural heritage.
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.”
Commenting on this milestone, 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: “It brings me great joy to see community-based ecotourism in action in the UAE for the first time ever – and that too coinciding with the golden jubilee. 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”.
Aseela Al Moalla, Director General of Fujairah Environment Authority, commented “The distinguished mountains of Fujairah are an example of the sustainable treasures of UAE, and one of our goals is to conserve them and show them to the world, and the Nature Trail of Al Bithnah is one of the steps to introduce this unique biodiversity to the people.”
Saeed Al Memari, General Manager of Fujairah Adventures, commented “We are proud to be a part of the cooperation to protect Al Bithnah’s natural heritage. The trail combines the magic of picturesque nature, archeological sites and beautiful stories inherited by our ancestors – which we must teach our children and future generations”.
The Al Bithnah Conservation Project, launched in March 2021 (press release can be found here), 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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About Etihad Rail:
Etihad Rail was established in June 2009 under Federal Law No. 2, with the mandate to manage the development, construction and operation of the UAE’s national freight and passenger railway network. The railway network will link the principal centres of population and industry of the UAE, and will form a vital part of the planned railway network across the GCC.
Etihad Rail has successfully completed Stage One of the network. Stage One is fully operational and was delivered on schedule and within budget. The route spans 264 km, transporting granulated sulphur from sources at Shah and Habshan to the export point at Ruwais.
Stage Two links the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia from Fujairah Port to Ghuweifat through Mussafah, Khalifa Port and Jebel Ali Port. Built to international standards, Etihad Rail’s state-of-the-art network will span approximately 1,200 km, acting as a catalyst for economic growth and sustained social development. Upon completion, the railway will redefine logistics and mobility in the region, providing a modern, safe, efficient and sustainable mode of transport that will connect all regions of the UAE to its neighbouring GCC countries.
About Emirates Nature
Emirates Nature-WWF is a non-profit organisation established to conserve the United Arab Emirates’ natural heritage and build a future where people and nature thrive. The organization was founded in 2001 under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Governing Board of the Environment Agency‒Abu Dhabi, as a legacy of the late Sheikh Zayed’s vision for the United Arab Emirates. For two decades, Emirates Nature–WWF has been a prominent and active partner in environmental conservation in the MENA region. They work in association with WWF, one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organisations. As a local conservation think tank and volunteer platform, they empower, convene and mobilise civil society, government and business to support the UAE’s sustainability agenda and deliver transformative impact at scale for the benefit of people and planet alike.