Bulletin 10 - March 1980: Al Bujair Nursery in the Western Region



Al Bujair Nursery in the Western Region

by M.I.R. Khan
Forestry Expert


Introduction

In most places in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, the ground waters available for afforestation and cultivation of agricultural crops have high to very high salt content and fairly high alkalinity. Only a few places are known to have underground sweet water. Waters containing salts up to a maximum limit of 12,000 parts per million (ppm) parts of water have been successfully used for afforestation by us so far. The ground waters containing high concentration of salts are, however, not suitable for raising tender and young seedlings of many tree species being used by us for desert afforestation. The use of waters with high salt content not only adversely affects and depresses seed germination but also produces high mortality in the newly spouted tender seedlings. The few seedlings, which may survive after germination, are unhealthy, retarded and sickly. A place had, therefore, to be found in the Western Region for establishing a tree nursery, where ground water of reasonable quality could be located, to raise a large number of healthy and vigorously growing tree seedlings.

Selection of Al Bujair

For the afforestation projects in the Western Region, started in the early seventies, seedlings used to be procured and brought from Abu Dhabi or Al Ain. A very high percentage of these seedlings were either damaged while in transit or were adversely affected while in storage under unsatisfactory conditions in holding nurseries. A serious effort was, therefore, made to search for a suitable for establishing a tree nursery in the Western Region itself. Al Bujair site, lying in an extensive tract of sand dunes, although difficult to approach, was reported to possess sweet underground water. The place is now located approximately four kilometers to the east of the Beda Zayed-Liwa metalled road, constructed during 1978-79, and at a distance of about 25 kilometers south of Beda Zayed. The place where it was decided to locate the nursery at Al Bujair is a depression in the midst of a tract of high and large sand dunes and has two open shallow wells and a few abandoned deep wells that contain sweet waters of a reasonably good quality. The deep wells were originally bored to obtain drinking water by the government but they were subsequently abandoned as the quality of their water was not considered of adequate standard for drinking and domestic use. The water table in the open wells is about seven meters below ground level and the deep wells are bored down to about 50 meters underground. Al Bujair ground waters contain salts varying between 1500 and 2000 ppm and alkalinity around 7.5 to 8 PH. This place along with the wells was kindly placed at the disposal of the Forest Department for raising a tree seedlings nursery by the Ruler's Representative in the Western Region in March 1977.

Layout of the Plantation and Nursery

After necessary reconnaissance and survey, an area of about five hectares was demarcated, leveled and fenced at the base of a large sand dune. It was planned to raise the nursery over an area of about one hectare to be surrounded by a protective tree plantation all around covering an area of four hectares. The commissioning of the two open and three abandoned deep wells, layout of the irrigation system, laying out of the nursery, and providing it with a protective outside walling of asbestos sheets and overhead shading were then taken up. It took more than a year to complete the layout of the nursery and the plantation around it. The Al Bujair nursery is now geared and able to produce about 500,000 tree seedlings from seeds and cuttings etc. in one year.

Tree Seedlings and Saplings

The plantation around the nursery has been raised mainly with Ghaf (Prosopis spicigera), Sidr (Zyziphus spinachristi) and Dates (Phoenix dactylifera) interpolated with fodder species such as Arta (Calligonum comosum), Markh (Leptadenia pyrotechnica) and Atriplex. The outermost row of the plantation consists of Eucalyptus and Casurina. The nursery is thus safely nestled in the middle of a protective plantation. The tree seedlings raised in the nursery are those of Ghaf, Samar (Acacia tortolis), Qarat (Acacia arabica), Rak (Salvadora persica), Kenya (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), Casurina etc. Plants like Arta, Daphla (Nerium odoratum), Zafar Yasmin (Clerodendron interme) and Figs are also raised from branch cuttings. The tree nursery can hold up to about 300,000 saplings and is producing around 500,000 seedlings annually. The tree seedlings are primarily used for planting in the afforestation projects of the Forestry Department but they are also taken by the public for planting in their private holdings. Surplus seedlings are also purchased by the afforestation companies working in the Western Region for planting in their projects.

Vegetables, Fodder Crops and Fruit

Besides raising tree seedlings and saplings, a number of vegetable, fruit and fodder crops have also been raised successfully at Al Bujair. The vegetables being grown at present are tomato, aubergine, okra, spinach, radish, carrot, gourd, bitter gourd, cucumber, beet root, cabbage, cauliflower, sweet potato etc. Fruits like watermelon and muskmelon thrive at Al Bujair. Fodder crops such as lucerne, barley, sorghum, maize, guar, millet and sugar cane have also been grown. Fruit plants like grafted pear, lime, chiko and guava are also being raised at Al Bujair.



Arboretum and Wildlife

On a small area beside one of the open wells, an Arboretum consisting of small groups of exotic species belonging to Australia, Indo-Pakistan, Americas and other parts of the world has also been established at Al Bujair. Some of the species raised in this Arboretum are Acacia, Albizzia, Casurina, Eucalyptus, Ficus, Melia, Parkinsonia, Pongamia, Terminalia and Thespesia etc. Most of these exotic species are doing well.

Natural vegetation consisting of a number of bushes and grasses like Arta, Khadram (Cyperus longus), Zahra (Tribulus terrestris), Thamam (Panicum turgidum) and Haad (Pennisetum divisum) has also made a tremendous recovery in the fenced area at Al Bujair. Wildlife like the hare (Lepis capensis) and a number of insects and birds also frequent the plantation now.

The plantation and nursery can be visited with a guide by driving in a four-wheeled vehicle from a suitable point along the Beda Zayed-Liwa metalled road.


 


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