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Posted On: 21 April 2009 11:45 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:09 pm

Club wants wetlands preserved as bird refuges

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At a meeting on Sunday evening of the recently founded Qatar Bird Club, held at the Friends of the Environment Centre, member Brian Hunter outlined plans to try and get areas of wetlands preserved as important refuges for birds, both resident and migratory. Wetlands? In Qatar? Qatar may well be the only country in the world with no natural surface water, but nevertheless there are large areas of wetlands here, surrounded by dense reed beds providing shelter and nesting sites for innumerable birds – the waste water lagoons formed by sewage treatment plants. Grey water, as it is often known, is treated sewage effluent, and these manmade sites, not only in Qatar but throughout the Arabian Gulf, make a vital contribution towards the bird life of the region. Major areas in Qatar are located at Al Khor and at Abu Nakhla, where the vast lakes are popularly known as the ‘Prison Pools’ because of their location not far from the main prison. One lagoon alone is over 3km in length, and the area shelters thousands of birds ranging from the rare and beautiful avocets to the reed warblers which regularly nest there. Hunter said that discussions with Ashgal are underway to discuss the best way of preserving the Abu Nakhla lagoons and an area of land surrounding them, to form an important wetlands reserve. Ideally, this would involve constructing safe walkways so that members of the public can visit, and the use of sluice gates to control the water flow and create areas of shallow and deeper water to serve the needs of different bird species. This has already been done at Al Wathba in the United Arab Emirates, said Hunter, and it is the hope of all those concerned for Qatar’s wildlife that the same thing could happen here. The Abu Nakhla lagoons have been recognised over the last 15 or 20 years for their importance by Birdlife International and similar organisations world-wide. “This site could be a national resource for conservation and for people to view wildlife,” declared the speaker. “Viewing hides could be provided, and school parties encouraged to visit. The lagoons are not far from Doha so they would be ideal for school education trips. The Bird Club could help by publishing leaflets and guides to enable people learn more about this resource and its wildlife.” Recently Ashgal increased the amount of water in the lagoons, flooding some areas of reed beds, but there are plans to reduce the quantity by diverting some of the water to other treatment plants. The Bird Club conservation team has been invited to look at around a dozen more sewage treatment plants and advise on the best way to preserve the wildlife there. Qatar Bird Club now has a logo, an outline of the Qatar peninsula with the head of the rare Cream-coloured Courser superimposed upon it, designed by Manjulakshmi Bharathan. Membership at present stands at between 50 and 60, many of whom are also members of the Qatar Natural History Group. Director Dr Elsadig Bashir announced that there are plans for the Friends of the Environment Centre’s website to include a page of Qatar Bird Club news.