The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), has announced the winners of the "Al Wathba Photography Competition" which was launched on its Instagram account in February.
The competition aimed to bring nature and people closer together and encourage professional and amateur photographers to capture creative images that reflect Al Wathba Wetland Reserve's natural beauty and rich biodiversity. It also contributed to raising environmental awareness on the importance of this valuable and fragile habitat and the need for preservation.
The 5 km wetland reserve, which is located approximately 45 km Southeast of Abu Dhabi Island is home to over 250 bird species that depend on it for nesting, feeding and/or breeding. It provides a safe refuge for many other species of reptiles, small mammals and insects, and is an important area for biodiversity conservation in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Participants, who visited the recently-opened reserve, captured the pictures and uploaded them on @EAD_Community Instagram account using two hashtags, #InAbuDhabi and #InAlWathba. About 50 photos were submitted by 30 contestants.
The winning photos were chosen by a jury comprising a group of Emirati journalists and photographers, including Khadija Al Marzouki, Saeed Jamouh, artist and Emirates Photography Society member, Hamad Al-Kaabi, volunteer photographer at the Emirates Red Crescent and amateur EAD photographers Ahmed Al Dhaheri.
The jury chose the first, second, and third prize competition winners, while EAD offered @EAD_Community Instagram accounts followers the opportunity to choose the fourth and fifth prizes winning photo on the basis of the largest number of likes. Winners were awarded in a private event held at EAD on Monday with competition prizes, worth a total of Dh 15,000.
The winner of 1st place was Arisha Wickramasinghe, in 2nd was Ferdinand Bedana, 3rd place went to Dexter Bacani, 4th place to Salama Al Qubaisi and winner of 5th place was Mario Bejagan.
Khansa Ibraheem Al Blouki, Section Manager-Environmentally Sustainable Communities at EAD, said, "The man-made wetland at Al Wathba is unique and of global significance, it has been recognised as a Ramsar site joining more than 2,000 acclaimed wetlands around the world and making it Abu Dhabi Emirate's first Ramsar site".
"We at EAD are keen to ensure that such natural treasures are accessible to the general public. The photography competition enticed a number of people to experience Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, many of them beautifully captured the abundant nature within its natural habitat. We too are motivated to run many more similar competitions and other initiatives to connect our community with our nature heritage" she added.
EAD recently announced that the reserve is closed through the summer months due to the breeding season of flamingos and to enhance the facilities for the visitors. Enhancements will include the accessibilities for people with special need. The site will resume receiving visitors by Mid-September 2015.