FUJAIRAH- The Water Research and Learning Programme in Wadi Wurayah National Park, Fujairah, announces the successes of its inaugural fielding season following its launch in September 2013. The programme, which is the first of its kind in the Middle East, is committed to researching the biodiversity of freshwater areas and spreading awareness on freshwater issues.
In December 2013, the Crown Prince of Fujairah, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Sharqi, officially closed the gates of the wadi to the public in order to prevent further damage to the area’s biodiversity and to allow for the development of appropriate infrastructure to ensure the sustainable management of the park according to best international standards. One such development is the Water Research Centre which is home to the Water Research and Learning Programme. These initiatives were conceived by EWS-WWF and international environmental charity Earthwatch, and are sponsored by HSBC Bank Middle East and Fujairah Government.
Since opening its doors to more than 26 volunteer teams of HSBC employees from across the region, the programme has been host to eight main research activities inside Wadi Wurayah National Park, including a freshwater watch, dragonfly tagging, and camera trapping, among others.
EWS-WWF Director General, Ida Tillisch said: “Freshwater is a scarce yet important commodity, especially in the Middle East. It is important to better understand freshwater ecosystems, such as those inside Wadi Wurayah National Park, by gathering important data that will help us in proposing robust conservation measures. Thanks to continued research efforts in the wadi, we now know that by reducing the pressure on the wadi through measures such as preventing access to its pools, the quality of the water resources have increased as levels of E.coli and other coliform bacteria have dropped significantly.”
So far, EWS-WWF conservationists with the help of the volunteer teams, have tagged more than 400 dragonflies, performed over 275 freshwater tests, explored 30 bodies of water in the wadi and measured approximately 300 toads to help build a greater picture of the health of the area’s ecosystem – and this is just the beginning.
Sabrin Rahman, Senior Manager Corporate Sustainability- HSBC Bank Middle East Limited said: “A team of volunteers went above and beyond the call of duty by helping the park staff relocate Garra fish (Garra barriemiae), diving beetles and damselfly larvae to secured water catchments in the national park prior to a planned eradication of the invasive Tilapia.
Tilapia had been introduced by some visitors to the wadi before the gates were closed in the lower waterfall, and their rapid development at the expense of the native species was a matter of concern.”
The volunteers’ quick learning and understanding proved vital to ensuring the successful relocation of many wildlife that week.
Eng. Mohammed Al Afkham, Director General of Fujairah Municipality, said: “We are encouraged by the outcomes of the Water Research and Learning Programme to date and would like to thank the volunteer teams and our partners for their efforts. Together we are building a clearer picture of the health of Wadi Wurayah National Park’s ecosystem and as a result a greater understanding of how to best conserve it.”
Steve Gray, Head of Programmes for Earthwatch added: “It is inspiring to see changes already occurring in Wadi Wurayah National Park and we can look forward to many more years of conservation successes as all partners on this project, including the volunteers, seek to deliver important outcomes for those species whose lives depend on the freshwater pools inside this landscape.”
The next fielding season is due to start during the 1st week of October.