Etihad Rail, Emirates Nature-WWF, Fujairah Municipality, the Fujairah Environment Authority and Fujairah Adventures Centre, supported by Fujairah Tourism and Antiquities Authority, inaugurated the historic Al Bithnah Nature and Heritage Trail in the Emirate of Fujairah, in celebration of the UAE’s Golden Jubilee.
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 in the presence of 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.
On this occasion, Al Afkham 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 Al Marzooqi, 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 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.
For her side, Laila Abdullatif said, “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. 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 said, “The distinguished mountains of Fujairah are an example of the sustainable treasures of the 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.”
Meanwhile, Saeed Al Memari said, “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 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.