A nature trail built in Fujairah in celebration of the UAE's Golden Jubilee is set to become a major eco-tourism destination.
Al Bithnah Nature and Heritage Trail is the 50th location to be named a beauty spot in the emirate, but it is thought to be the first in the country to be community-built.
It is the result of a partnership between Etihad Rail, Emirates Nature-WWF, Fujairah Municipality, the Fujairah Environment Authority and Fujairah Adventures Centre. It is supported by the Fujairah Tourism and Antiquities Authority.
Members of the community also gave up their time to help shape the amenity.
The path, located in Wadi Ham, was created as part of the wider Al Bithnah Conservation Project and is in line with Etihad Rail's 'Good Neighbour' vision to support the communities that surround the development of its national rail network.
It is due to be completed in the first quarter of next year.
An inauguration event was held in which delegations from the bodies involved enjoyed a tour of the first section of the trail, which will show off the area's rich biodiversity and cultural heritage.
“As a Good Neighbour, Etihad Rail is committed to safeguarding the livelihood of local communities surrounding the Etihad Rail project,” said Mohamed Al Marzooqi, executive director of rail relations at Etihad Rail.
“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 50 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 tourism, supporting biodiversity, and protecting the environment.”
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 and enable the preservation of local biodiversity.
This will be accompanied by a socio-economic survey to identify areas which can be a source of further economic growth.
Laila Mostafa Abdullatif, director general of Emirates Nature-WWF, said the community had played an active role in the development of the project.
“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 who have participated in inclusive conservation efforts, by volunteering and doing hands-on field work to create this trail, a model which we hope will contribute towards building a green economy for the UAE,” she said.
“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.”
Rail project gathers pace
The first phase of Etihad Rail, completed in 2016, is largely used to move industrial products such as sulphur between key ports, taking thousands of heavy vehicles off the roads.
The extensive network will expand to include passenger train services running across the country, the UAE's leaders said.
Etihad Rail's network will grow from running heavy goods services to carry millions of passengers between its major cities by 2030, the government said.
The project — worth an estimated Dh200 billion to the economy — will allow “passengers to travel from Abu Dhabi to Dubai in 50 minutes, and from Abu Dhabi to Fujairah in 100 minutes”, a statement read.
“Etihad Rail is the largest project to consolidate the strength of the union for the next 50 years. It will connect 11 key cities and regions across the UAE,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.
“The project comes in line with the environmental policy of the UAE and it will reduce carbon emissions by 70-80 per cent".