Wasit Nature Reserve (WNR), located on the Sharjah-Ajman border, was declared a protected area in 2007 by Emiri Decree No (7) of 2007, issued by His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.
On Monday, Shaikh Sultan inaugurated the Wasit Wetland Centre (WWC), a 1.5 square kilometre centre, equipped with air-conditioned glass-sealed corridors, which allows visitors to have a closer look at rare birds and other wetland species.
The nature reserve houses four natural lagoons attracting around 150 species of birds, both migratory and resident, throughout the year.
The reserve boasts a diverse ecosystem, which comprises coastal sand dunes, salt flats (sabkhas), and linking ponds, apart from a large lagoon.
The water bodies are supported by underground water channels flowing out of Hatta Mountain and Al Falaj areas.
“The Wasit Wetland Centre aims to bring nature closer to people. It will help educate people about the importance of protecting natural habitats and create awareness about their role in preserving vital ecosystems,” said Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, director of the centre.
The centre is equipped with special telescopes for watching birds, and amplifiers that allow visitors to listen to the sounds produced by the birds.
A 4-kilometre-long track has also been built for visitors to walk around the reserve. Environment-friendly electric buggies can also be used to travel around the reserve, giving bird watchers a close-up view of the birds’ natural habitat. Towers have also been built for watching birds near water areas.
She said the wetland was earlier neglected and was filled with trash, which caused mosquitoes and insects to breed.
“After it was declared a protected area, a great amount of work was done to clear the place of all the trash and clean the water bodies which helped in attracting migratory as well as local birds,” she added.
Sharjah’s Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPPA) began to develop WWC in 2013, with the aim of making it a destination for those who wish to know more about wildlife in the UAE.
“WWC houses about 60 species and 350 birds within the enclosed area that live on wetland. The enclosures are divided into six different type of birds according to their habitat. Detailed information is provided on each and every species,” said Paul Vercammen, operations manager at EPAA.
Detailed information is also provided on migrating and settling locations of different birds and their flight routes, as well as their status in nature.
The facility also houses scientific centres specialising in the preservation of wildlife in the reserve, including a centre for reproduction, sustainability and survivability of birds.
The wetland contains a number of rare birds, including Northern Bald Ibis, Glossy Ibis, grey heron, marbled duck — which is the only threatened bird — purple swamphen, pink-backed pelican and greater flamingo.
Wasit Wetland Centre (WWC) is located within Wasit Natural Reserve (WNR), at Ramtha District near Wasit on the outskirts of Sharjah city, adjacent to Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road.
The centre will open to the public on Wednesday and will remain open on weekdays between 9am and 6.30pm. It will remain closed on Tuesdays.
On Fridays and Saturdays the reserve will open at 2pm and 11am respectively.
Children under the age of 12 will get free entry, while adults get an entry for Dh15.
HOW TO GET THERE
Where: Wasit Wetland Centre is in Wasit Natural Reserve, Ramtha District, near Wasit on the outskirts of Sharjah city, adjacent to Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road.
Timing: 9am-6.30pm on weekdays, 2pm-6.30pm on Friday and11am-6.30pm on Saturday. It will be closed on Tuesday.
Entry: Children under the age of 12 get in free, while adults will pay Dh15.