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The Red Sea Development Company Urges Increase in Awareness on World Wetlands Day

By Dr. Damian Smith, Senior Environmental Manager at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) 

 

On World Wetlands Day, we at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) are taking the opportunity to highlight the importance of wetlands as valuable ecosystems that are critically important spanning from a local to a global perspective. World Wetlands Day is the ideal time to increase people’s understanding of these important ecosystems.

Since the 1700’s nearly 90 percent of the world’s wetlands have suffered a constant trajectory of degradation - globally we are losing wetlands three times faster than forests, clearly action is required to halt and reverse these losses.

At The Red Sea Project (TRSP), our wetland habitats provide invaluable ecosystem services through Natural Capital to the entire Al Wajh Lagoon and surrounding environs – including the Al Wajh Important Bird Area (IBA). 

Wetlands provide essential habitats for numerous plant and animal species, sustain many commercial and recreational fisheries, and contribute to Natural Capital. They are critically important ecosystems that contribute to biodiversity, climate mitigation and adaptation, marine resource availability, world economies and more. Wetlands, and in particular coastal wetlands such as those within The Red Sea Project Area are considered among the most productive and valuable ecosystems on earth. 

The Natural Capital of Al Wajh Lagoon includes a diverse range of habitats. These habitats include amazing mangroves, sand and mud flats, seagrass meadows and species rich coral reefs. Sand and mud flats hold an abundance of invertebrates for migrating and resident waders and wildfowl to feed upon, and seagrass meadows are crucial sources of food for the sea turtles and dugongs which thrive within the Al Wajh Lagoon. 

The coral beds we have found are undisturbed by unregulated activities and our aim and mission is to preserve these for our communities, guests, and the region. Mangroves support fish nurseries and birdlife and hold a wonderful Natural Capital ‘stock’ of carbon. Natural Capital encompasses the natural assets to include geology, soil, air, water, and all living things that make up the earth. 

Artificial wetlands too, form a crucial part of our development program: in our wastewater treatment facility we are creating 100 ha (hectare) of artificially constructed wetlands which will treat wastewater and form an important part of our regenerative approach towards water conservation and nutrient cycling. Not only is this design transformative but the outcomes provide additional benefits in terms of a rich and diverse resource for resident and migratory species of birds. 

As stewards of TRSP, including the wider Special Economic Zone, we are committed to ensuring our wetland habitats continue to flourish. This includes solid actions such as setting aside over 75 percent of the islands (over 70 islands) as no development zones, working to create marine protection areas and committing to aspirational ecological enhancement targets as core aspects of our business.

Here at TRSP, we are proud and protective of our beautiful wetlands, and we know that supporting their health supports us all. It is urgent that we raise national and global awareness about wetlands in order to reverse their rapid loss and encourage actions to conserve and restore them.