Eco-tourism project launched in Sharjah

His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, released on Friday 18 gazelles of the endangered species, “Damani”, in the Al Hafiya natur

Eco-tourism project launched in Sharjah

His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, released on Friday 18 gazelles of the endangered species, “Damani”, in the Al Hafiya natural reserve in Kalba.

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The release of gazelles marked the inauguration of the first phase of the Kalba Eco-tourism Project undertaken by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) in collaboration with the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) and the International Conservation Services.

Shaikh Sultan also approved the Discovery Centre, to be set up in Al Hafiya, where other gazelles, birds of prey, foxes, donkeys and other animals have found a home.

The Ruler of Sharjah also witnessed the release of 21 falcon species and a number of predatory birds in Al Ghail Fort of the Kalba Eco-tourism Project. The falcon species included Al Hur, Shaheen, Al Wakri, Hawk falcon and Eagle owl, one of the largest of its kind in the world inhabiting deserts and wooded areas.

The event was attended by Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq; Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Director-General of the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA); and Abdullah Saif Al Yamahi, Chairman of the Kalba Municipal Council.

Al Sarkal lauded Dr Shaikh Sultan for his efforts to preserve the environment and achieve a balance between environmental protection and comprehensive development. “Dr Shaikh Sultan issued on February 1, 2012, a decree that no one has the right to develop in protected areas such as Al Hafiya Natural Reserve, Al Qurm Mangrove Reserve and Al Ghail Fort area,” Al Sarkal said. He said that the project will contribute to protecting these areas for future generations and making them sustainable.

“The release of gazelles comes within the first phase of the Kalba- Eco-tourism Project, which was launched recently. The project will be implemented in three phases, the first of which will see the redevelopment of natural reserves in Kalba (Hafiya and Al Qurm natural reserves) in cooperation with the EPAA, release of rare animals and birds and the establishment of Discovery Centre within the reserve for visitors, as well as the restoration of archaeological sites within the project,” Al Sarkal said Work on Phase One is already underway.

The second phase will involve the development of Kalba Creek and the construction of a commercial complex featuring shops and restaurants overlooking the creek. It will include the development of recreational spaces that will enable holidaymakers to enjoy the area’s natural biodiversity without causing harm and affecting its wildlife.

This phase will also comprise the development of a number of islands in the creek, as well as rehabilitation to revive their natural marine and bird life.

“Phase Three has been designated for the tourism part of the project, which will see the setting up of a number of hotels and fantastically designed chalets overlooking the Gulf of Oman,” he said. “More than 300 rooms would be built in line with eco-friendly standards.”

The project will include a dedicated art building, a centre for diving and marine hobbies, as well as offering trips to explore Khor Kalba and the mangroves.

Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Director-General of the EPAA, said: “The Kalba project is one of the important Eco-tourism projects in the UAE and the region, and Kalba in particular.”