Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Epaa Chairperson, receives the architecture award.
Sohaila Ahmed, Staff Reporter
Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority’s (Epaa) Wasit Wetland Centre was one of five projects to win the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. One of the world’s most prestigious awards for architecture, it is worth US$1 million. The winners were announced in Kazan Kremlin, a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site in Russia, and the celebration and distribution will be held later.
The Aga Khan Award for Architecture, established by Aga Khan IV in Geneva, Switzerland in 1977, aims to identify and recognise architectural concepts that meet the needs and aspirations of Muslim communities in terms of contemporary design, social housing and community development to improve, restore and reuse areas in need of conservation, landscape design and environmental improvement.
The Award is presented every three years, and it is presented for multiple projects. The award is associated with the Aga Khan Cultural Foundation and the Aga Khan Development Network. The first awards ceremony (1978-1980) was held in Lahore, Pakistan.
Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Epaa Chairperson, said, “We are delighted to have won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, an important international award. It is a well-deserved win for Wasit Wetland Centre, which is a beautiful addition to the Emirate of Sharjah that adds aesthetic, environmental and tourism-related value.”
“Both the Centre, which was built following the directions of His Highness Dr Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and Wasit Nature Reserve are part of the ecotourism sector in the Emirate of Sharjah and the UAE. The Centre, the first of its kind for wetlands in the GCC countries, is one of the projects that the Emirate of Sharjah undertook to strengthen its position as the Capital of Arab Tourism for 2015, to improve environmental conditions and to conserve wildlife for future generations” Hana Al Suwaidi added.
The Centre provides educational and informative classes; it has platforms and towers for bird-watching and teaching aids and boards with information about the species of migratory and resident birds in the Reserve.
These include common and rare birds such as the northern bald ibis, the glossy ibis, the crab plover, the gray heron and the Arabian golden sparrow. The Centre, which aims to protect environment, preserve natural resources and contribute to the development of ecotourism, is the lung of the Emirate of Sharjah with natural beauty, charming views and diverse wildlife.
The Centre also houses scientific facilities to ensure that the birds are protected from extinction. An important destination for education and bird-watching, it provides visitors and researchers with world-class facilities.
Visitors can use special binoculars to identify rare birds, and the Centre is equipped with advanced technology that makes it possible for visitors to hear the birds in the Reserve. The Centre has eco-friendly electric vehicles and visitors can enter the Reserve to learn about its birds, trees, lagoons, pools and salt flats.
Wasit Wetland Centre is an important attraction, with a view of the vast Wasit Nature Reserve in which many resident and migratory birds can be observed throughout the year. It helps to transform arid land into wetland, serves as a catalyst for biodiversity and environmental education, and helps to restore the original ecosystem.
Wasit Nature Reserve is the third protected area in Sharjah to be listed by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands after Sir Bu Nair Island Protected Area and the Mangroves Protected Area.
Wasit Nature Reserve is located at a meeting point between the land and the sea. It features extensive dunes, mud flats and salty lagoons, as well as fresh water pools, and is part of an ancient chain of historical wetlands along the Gulf coast. The reserve supports a wide range of wetland wildlife, providing food, nesting and shelter opportunities .
At its heart, the Wasit Wetland Centre brings visitors up close to coastal bird populations. Hosting over 60 species of resident and migratory birds, it offers unique viewing opportunities across large aviaries and from multiple hides located around the site. The centre also provides educational opportunities for visitors, with detailed bird information and activities.
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