A conservation reserve that spans 10 per cent of the Dubai emirate’s total area was launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, on Tuesday.
The Marmoom Reserve project will be the first unfenced desert conservation reserve in the country and will host more than 20 environmental, cultural and sports initiatives.
Spanning more than 40 hectares of shrub land, the reserve is home to more than 204 species of native birds, 158 species of migratory birds, and 10 km of lakes, encompassing the Al Qudra Lakes, the state news agency Wam reported.
The new project will include 10 animal and bird observation platforms, star and sunset observations decks, areas for yoga, an outdoor theatre and will be powered by a 5,000 megawatt solar power complex.
By 2030, the reserve aims to host more than 20 annual sporting events. Its cycling tracks will add up to the longest in any desert anywhere in the world, about 100 kilometres.
"Preserving and investing in the environment means preserving and investing in one of our most important assets,” said Sheikh Mohammed.
“The Marmoom Reserve is an environmental, touristic and sporting addition to life in the UAE.
“The desert is beautiful and inspirational; it provides a peaceful shelter to plants, birds and people. Our goal is to provide a fertile and robust environment for plants, a natural reserve for animals, and an important destination for tourists and families."
He said the project reflected the emirates goals to preserve the local environment and provide a natural habitat for threatened wildlife.
Al Marmoom is home to 26 species of reptiles, nine mammal species, and 39 species of plants. It provides a sanctuary for 19 species of endangered animals and birds and houses between 300 to 500 large flamingos - the highest concentration in a desert region in the country.
The Saruq Al Hadid archaeological site, which dates back more than 3,000 years to the Iron Age, can also be found at the reserve.
The largest plant nursery in the UAE will preserve and protect local plant species and serve as a training and educational centre for school and university students, researchers and academics.
The Marmoom Biosphere Centre will mainly be dedicated to studying the sustainable development and management of the protected area. It will serve as a centre for sustainable ecotourism, and aim to be the main source of specialized ecosystem management practices in the region.
The Marmoom Reserve Protection Scouts will aim to develop young people’s outdoor skills and foster the spirit of connecting with the natural environment. The ultimate goal for the scout programme is to enhance conservation, wildlife and desert protection, and to instil positive values including self-exploration and problem solving in children.