Dubai: Wadi Wurayah National Park (WWNP) has become home to the region’s first water research centre, where volunteers and students can take part in environmental and conservation activities.
Run by Emirates Wildlife Society (EWS-WWF), in association with Fujairah Municipality and HSBC Bank, the centre was launched on Sunday by Shaikh Mohammad Bin Hamad Bin Mohammad Al Sharqi, Crown Prince of Fujairah.
Earthwatch, a UK-based environmental charity, is partnering with EWS-WWF in shortlisting and selecting the participants.
WWNP is recognised as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention because it encompasses one of the few permanent freshwater sources in the UAE, and conservation partners gathered here on World Wetlands Day on Sunday to officially recognise the Water Research and Learning Programme.
As part of the agreement with HSBC Bank, which is funding the project for five years, only HSBC employees from around the world will participate in the programme initially.
However, in the next stage, the programme will be open for UAE students and researchers as well as other volunteers.
“We have signed a contract with HSBC, and the first batch of volunteers from the bank have already started the programme. We will be watching the progress very closely and will be developing the course further and later we will welcome local students and researchers to participate,” said Ida Tillisch, Director of EWS-WWF, speaking to Gulf News following the launch of the centre.
The launch coincided with World Wetlands Day “as there is no better time or place to learn about water conservation than in Fujairah where the arid landscape serves to remind visitors of the scarcity of water and the archaeological sites within the wadi attest to those communities whose survival depended upon this water”, she said.
“Through this programme we are not only working to conserve this wetland of international importance but also create awareness about the importance of water to life. We believe that the participants following the programme will work as the ambassadors of environment,” added Tillisch.
The programme will run every week, apart from the four months of peak summer, as teams of volunteers from across the MENA region will converge on WWNP to participate in an intensive five-day hands-on programme.
“The participants at the Water Research and Learning Programme will be carrying out a long-term freshwater monitoring programme by collecting freshwater ecology data on a continuous basis. The programme is crucial to implementing the Wadi Wurayah National Park conservation strategy. The work done by EWS-WWF and the Water Research and Learning Programme participants is significantly contributing to this goal,” said Eng Mohammad Saif Al Afkham, Director-General of the Fujairah Municipality.
Each batch of participants will spend five days and four nights inside WWNP participating in this intensive and rewarding programme.
The Water Research and Learning Programme is designed to involve the participants in hands-on freshwater research activities, and a series of complementary learning sessions in the classroom, providing them with the opportunity to learn more about global and local freshwater issues and to form a personal plan to take action to protect and preserve freshwater in their own lives.
The participants enter the Park at daybreak to collect data on water quality, observe hydrology, and monitor wildlife. After lunch, participants report to the Water Research Centre classrooms and laboratories to analyse data, discuss results and their discoveries in relation to water issues across the Middle East.
After a good meal and a night’s sleep, participants return to the field and laboratories for another day’s work.
Over the next five years, more than 1,000 volunteers are expected to complete the programme and return to their respective communities and workplaces with newfound knowledge of water challenges in the Middle East and North Africa.
“The programme is expected to motivate them into action against wastage of water and create awareness about water scarcity in the world,” added Eng Al Afkham.