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About Sharjah: Nature’s bounty

Lily B. Libo-on / 2 June 2012

Emirate on an ambitious ecotourism project to promote mangroves at Al Qurm in Kalba

An hour’s drive from Sharjah, a 150-hectare area of protected mangroves, the oldest in the United Arab Emirates, that abound with nests of turtles, crabs, kingfishers and other wetland creatures has lured tourists and local residents closer to nature.

Turtles, crabs, kingfishers and several other wetland creatures nest in the mangrove forests at Al Qurm in Kalba.

This special environment located at Al Qurm in Kalba, the serene tourist paradise on Sharjah’s East Coast, also offers the best place to enjoy canoeing and kayaking, which the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) is keen on introducing as a regular ecotourism activity in the area in the next five years.

Kalba, as a whole, has a great deal to offer to international tourists — from its mangroves and soft water sports like kayaking and canoeing to Emirati heritage. Sustainable tourism or ecotourism has been around for nearly 20 years. Yet, its potential has not been fully exploited by the industry in the UAE.

Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, EPAA Chairperson, says that these world-renowned mangroves of Avicennia marina have been existing in Kalba for 5,000  to 7,000 years. “This specie can also be found around Abu Dhabi. We are working towards the betterment of the mangroves by planting more mangrove trees,”  she says.

Looking at this great potential for eco-tourism, Al Suwaidi says, “In five years, we want to make it an important tourist destination.”

Plans are now on to further develop these oldest mangroves. Regular clean-up programmes are being undertaken in the area. “Many marine animals exist there. We do not allow throwing of garbage and cans in the water to protect the life around the mangrove trees,” Al Suwaidi says.

Many schools, universities, clubs come in large groups to participate in the events the EPAA organise there. Scientists and researchers are visiting the area to study this surviving oldest specie of mangroves that is extinct in other areas of the emirate.

Mohamed Ali Al Noman, chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority (SCTDA), said these world-famous mangroves are part of Sharjah’s strategy and efforts to promote the East Coast and sustainable ecotourism projects in the region. Noman is talking about the largest of its kind ecotourism project in the UAE and the region being developed by Shurooq, Sharjah’s Investment and Development Authority, in collaboration with the EPAA. It will feature natural reserves and diverse tourist and commercial facilities.

Marwan Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, has this to say,  “The six-year Kalba project is one of the most important development initiatives in Sharjah and the GCC region to date. Kalba will provide visitors with an entirely new type of destination and a diverse range of first-rate facilities and conservation schemes. A wide range of unique experiences will have a significant positive impact on attracting increasing numbers of tourists to the region, revitalising both local and international tourism.”

As huge as this project could be, visitors to Sharjah’s East Coast will certainly be drawn closer in giant steps to nature’s delicate biodiversity at Kalba’s mangroves and its endangered species that, for the first time, will open the emirate’s eastern gateway to the world.

lily@khaleejtimes.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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