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24 February 2024

Ramsar Secretariat recognizes Hatta Mountain Reserve as Wetland of International Importance

By Wam

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) and Dubai Municipality have announced that the Ramsar Convention Secretariat has declared the Hatta Mountain Reserve as a Ramsar Site of International Importance.

The announcement coincides with the World Wetlands Day, observed every year on February 2 and celebrated this year under the theme ‘Wetlands and Climate Change’.

Speaking on the prestigious accolade, Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: "The UAE's environmental efforts have led to the designation of 43 protected areas that are internationally acclaimed for providing shelter to many of the species considered threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Thanks to Dubai’s commitment to preserving its wetlands, the emirate now holds three Ramsar Sites of International Importance: the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, the Jebel Ali Sanctuary, and Hatta Mountain Reserve. We are proud to say that the Hatta Mountain Reserve is the third protected area in Dubai and the ninth in the UAE to make it to the Ramsar List."

Dr Al Zeyoudi reiterated the commitment of the public and private sector to protecting the environment and its natural resources, in line with the National Agenda of the UAE Vision 2021.

For his part, Dawoud Al Hajri, Director General of Dubai Municipality, said: "Dubai Municipality has completed its unique contract with the system of Wetlands of Global Importance (Ramsar Sites) today with three wetlands in the Emirate of Dubai; The Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary was declared as the first Ramsar Site in the country in 2007. The second is the Jebel Ali Wetland Sanctuary, which was announced as a Ramsar Site at the 13th Ramsar Conference of the Parties (COP13) held in Dubai in October 2018. And the third is Hatta Mountain Sanctuary. Its announcement on such a global occasion makes us proud. With these three sites, the Emirate of Dubai is now blessed with unique patterns of wetlands and in spite of its hot climate it has mangrove trees, marshes and coral reefs, and access to fresh water, which is scarce in the environment at the state level. Thus, the UAE has become the country with the highest number of Wetlands of International Importance at the level of Arab countries in West Asia, and Dubai becomes the emirate with the highest number of wetland sites in the country."

He added: "We wanted Hatta to be an example of the wise use of natural resources, an example to be followed at the regional level, realizing the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to make Hatta a tourist and investment attraction and to give priority to service, environmental and heritage projects in Hatta in order to preserve our national and cultural heritage, which is the symbol of our national identity."

Located in the Hajar mountains at the northern top of the Arabian Highlands, woodlands and shrub lands, the Hatta Mountain Reserve is part of the Oman-UAE ophiolite and the largest and the best preserved geological example of its kind in the world.

The Hajar mountains receive about 30 percent of the total annual rainfall in the country, and heavy rainfalls recharge the shallow aquifer, and produce large flood discharges that replenish two major reservoirs downstream at the Hatta and Al Ghabra dams.

Given the scarcity of freshwater wetlands in the region, the site represents a rare and representative mountain freshwater ecosystem which is home to a large number of species.

It supports 19 percent of all the plant species recorded in the country, 79 percent of its dragonflies, 27 percent of its birds, 44 percent of its mammals and 30 percent of its reptiles and amphibians.

Some of these are globally threatened, such as the critically endangered Arabian leopard, the endangered Arabian tahr and Egyptian vulture, and the vulnerable aoudad and greater spotted eagle.

The site is one of the very few along the mountain range with breeding habitats for waterbirds, fish and amphibians.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national events and global cooperation for the conservation of wetlands and the rational use of their resources.