UAE News Agency – Environment Agency

ABU DHABI, July 11, 2021 (WAM) – The Abu Dhabi Environment Agency (EAD) and Etihad Rail, the developer and operator of the UAE’s national rail network, have collaborated on the implementation sustainable management of the environment during the planning and construction of the Etihad Rail Project, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the United Arab Emirates. The first phase of the project is already operational, while the second phase will extend across the United Arab Emirates from its border with Saudi Arabia to Abu Dhabi and further into Dubai and Sharjah to Fujairah on the coast. is.

From the early stages of the project, the two entities have collaborated on a range of initiatives, including habitat conservation, animal welfare and the rehabilitation of native trees and shrubs across the emirate of Abu Dhabi to conserve the diverse natural heritage of the United Arab Emirates.

As part of collaborative efforts, EAD and Etihad Rail are actively moving native and high conservation value trees, such as Sidr and date palms, with more than 550 Ghaf trees successfully moved and another 590 trees planted. In addition, EAD and Etihad Rail are constructing wildlife corridors along the nearly 1,200 km stretch of railway line and integrating 95 animal crossings and culverts throughout the project.

Ing. Shaikha Al Hosani, Executive Director of Environmental Quality Sector at EAD said: “I could not be more proud to have worked with Etihad Rail during the construction phase of the new railway. This important partnership will ensure the development of critical infrastructure while ensuring environmental protection. Etihad Rail aligns with the vision of EAD and our government and prioritizes safeguarding our natural resources. Through diligent impact assessments and a flexible approach, on behalf of Etihad Rail, we were able to realign the track to avoid our critical habitats, plants and animal species. “

She added: “EAD will continue to work closely with Etihad Rail and build an even stronger partnership as we enter a new era of growth and sustainability with the environment as one of its fundamental pillars. A fully functioning rail network will help reduce our carbon emissions. and help mitigate the impacts of climate change ”.

Mohamed Almarzooqi, Executive Director of Rail Relations Sector at Etihad Rail, said: “Committed to being a ‘good neighbor’ to the local community surrounding the rail network, Etihad Rail applies best practices in sustainability to preserve natural heritage diversity of the United Arab Emirates. At Etihad Rail, we actively support heritage conservation and ecotourism projects that act as a guardian of nature and the environment, creating new social and economic opportunities and improving the quality of life. “Etihad Rail plays an important role in the sustainable development of the United Arab Emirates and actively contributes to the preservation of the environment. With a fully loaded train equivalent to taking 300 trucks off the road and producing 70 to 80% of emissions daily. less CO2 than the trucks needed to transport the same tonnage, the network reduces pollution, lowers fuel and maintenance costs and increases road safety.

EAD and Etihad Rail have assigned a dedicated team of environmental impact assessment specialists, environmentalists, air and noise scientists, as well as forestry specialists, to handle the complex study review process. environmental aspects of the project. They also conducted extensive studies to understand the species movement paths along the project construction path.

Habitat studies have been carried out, in line with Etihad Rail and EAD’s priority to protect and conserve Abu Dhabi’s pristine natural heritage. In addition, detailed baseline environmental studies were carried out for the project’s terrestrial ecology, which assessed species such as gazelles and Dhub, as well as their habitats along the railway line to identify their natural corridors. .

As a result, EAD and Etihad Rail have integrated the design and construction of culverts and wildlife crossings that allow animals to move under the track safely. The two entities have also carefully organized the transport of wildlife to other suitable and protected habitats. So far, more than 300 animals, including 242 Middle Eastern short-toed geckos, 24 Baluch rock geckos, five saw-faced vipers, have been relocated, among others.

The Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is an EAD protected area and is located approximately 270 m from the proposed route of the railway line. The Al Wathba Wetland Reserve was established in 1998 and was declared a Ramsar Site in 2013. It is also on the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas – the first protected area in the United Arab Emirates to be awarded. this recognition. EAD and Etihad Rail have adopted strict measures to reduce the impact on species inhabiting the Al Wathba wetland reserve in Abu Dhabi, including migratory birds. These measures included speed limits for trains passing through Al Wathba and a “horn-free zone” to reduce noise pollution.

During construction, a buffer zone was created between the works and the reserve boundary to reduce dust pollution. In addition, the project schedule has been calibrated to avoid construction during the breeding season of birds and in particular flamingos. Etihad Rail has further invested in state-of-the-art trains, which use sophisticated noise and vibration controls, engineering design and suitable equipment to significantly reduce train noise pollution.

In line with nature and wildlife stewardship efforts, key lessons learned from the development of Stage One have been implemented to further improve environmental protection in Stage Two. For example, the size of the reptile culverts was increased by 300mm during the second stage, making it easier for reptiles to pass and improving maintenance work along the railway line.

Additionally, to support the Houbara Bustard, a vulnerable bird species that was reintroduced to the Al Dhafrah region in 2008, EAD and Etihad Rail are collaborating with the Houbara International Conservation Fund (IFHC) for further feeding areas for the bird. Spanning an area of ​​500,000 square meters, environmentalists will plant 750 Arak trees and 3,200 plants in the new food and living areas. The feeding grounds will support the Houbara, who migrate to the United Arab Emirates from Asia, as part of an ongoing international effort to protect this vulnerable species.

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