Abu Dhabi (Etihad)
The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and Etihad Rail are collaborating to ensure the adoption and application of best sustainable environmental practices in the planning and construction of the UAE National Rail Network project.
The two parties are cooperating to implement a set of initiatives to preserve the environment and natural habitats, protect animals, and rehabilitate local trees and shrubs throughout the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, to ensure the preservation of the country’s natural heritage.
The authority and the company are working to resettle indigenous national trees of great heritage value, such as Ghaf, Sidr and date palm, where more than 550 Ghaf trees have been successfully resettled and another 590 trees have been planted. The two parties are working to establish wildlife corridors along the 1,200-kilometre railway network, which includes 95 animal crossings.
Sheikha Ahmed Al Hosani, Executive Director, Environmental Quality Sector, expressed the authority’s pride in partnering with Etihad Rail in building the UAE national railway network, noting that this important partnership will ensure the development of important infrastructure while protecting the environment in an effective and sustainable manner. She emphasized that Etihad Rail’s objectives are in line with the vision of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and the Abu Dhabi government, which prioritizes the protection of the country’s natural resources. By conducting continuous environmental impact assessments and adopting flexible mechanisms, on behalf of Etihad Rail, we were able to realign the railway track in a way that ensures the protection of natural habitats, flora and fauna in the best possible way.” For his part, Mohamed Al Marzouqi, Executive Director of Rail Affairs Sector at Etihad Rail, said: “Etihad Rail is committed to the principles of ‘good neighborliness’ for the local communities surrounding the UAE national railway network, by applying best practices in the field of sustainability to preserve the country’s natural heritage. The United Arab Emirates, where the company continues its efforts to preserve the natural heritage and eco-tourism projects that contribute to the protection of nature and the environment, and provide new social and economic opportunities that enhance the quality of life.”
Environmental Impact Assessment Studies
The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and Etihad Rail have commissioned a team of EIA specialists, environmental experts, air, noise and forestry specialists to manage the complex environmental studies processes for the project. Extensive studies have also been conducted to understand and track the movement of various animal species around the network path.
Al Wathba Wetland Reserve is a protected area managed by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and is located approximately 270 meters from the railway track. The reserve was established in 1998 and included in the lists of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 2013, as well as being the first site in the country to be added to the Green List of Reserves and Protection Areas of the International Union for Conservation of Nature of protected areas and conservation areas in the world. Both the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and Etihad Rail have adopted aggressive measures to reduce the impact on the species living in the reserve, including migratory birds. These measures included imposing restrictions on the speed of trains when passing through the Al Wathba area, and declaring it a “horn-free area” in order to reduce noise.
During the construction phase, a buffer zone was created between the operation area and the reserve boundary to reduce dust pollution. In addition, a timetable was set for the project works to avoid construction during the breeding season of birds, especially flamingos. Etihad Rail has also invested in state-of-the-art trains that include advanced noise and vibration control technologies, engineering design and appropriate equipment to reduce train noise.
In line with the efforts of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and Etihad Rail to protect nature and wildlife, the lessons learned from the development of the first phase of the UAE National Rail Network project have been implemented to enhance environmental protection in the second phase. For example, the sizes of reptile crossings were increased by 300 mm, which facilitated the movement of reptiles and reduced maintenance work along the network path.
In addition, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi is cooperating with Etihad Rail and the International Fund for Houbara Conservation, a species of endangered bird, to find new feeding areas for this type of bird, as part of their efforts to protect the Houbara. In Al Dhafra region in 2008. A number of environmental activists will plant 750 arak trees and 3,200 plants in the new areas to provide food and shelter on an area of 500,000 square meters. These feeding areas will help houbara bustards, which migrate to the UAE from Asia, find a suitable environment to live in, as part of the ongoing international efforts to protect these endangered animals.