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MAKKAH: Al-Ghadha Park in Unaizah, which covers an area of ​​over 172 million square meters, won a Guinness World Record for the largest botanical garden in Saxaul.

The people of Unaizah, a governorate in Al-Qassim province, have been caring for native trees for more than five decades, and there are strict laws against logging them. Saleh bin Dakhil, spokesperson for the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, told Arab News that trees are synonymous with the region and its people.

“This strong spread of saxaul trees is due to the concern of people, since ancient times, to take care of this tree, which later became a symbol of the province and a tourist landmark,” he said. .

“The saxaul trees give the area a unique beauty and magic that attracts hikers to the Qassim region and beyond.”

To preserve the trees and their environmental importance, he said, the ministry made plans to protect them. For example, livestock that caused degradation and desertification in parts of the park were moved to less environmentally sensitive areas and laws were introduced banning grazing in the park.

In addition, efforts have intensified to restore degraded areas by planting trees. The Green Land of Qassim initiative, launched in June by the governor of the province, has had a significant positive impact, with local residents joining in the reforestation efforts.

“The National Center for the Development of Vegetation and the Fight Against Desertification, in collaboration with the office of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture in Unaizah, also organized temporary camps in the parks. of Saxaul during the winter, ”bin Dakhil said.

“These camps can only be set up after obtaining the necessary permits, which contain a number of conditions that contribute and help to maintain the vegetation and the cleanliness of the parks.

“The center has also developed a number of plans to preserve the parks, including increasing the number of inspectors monitoring environmental violations and enforcing regulations on violators, in order to contribute to the development and sustainability of vegetation in accordance with the Kingdom Vision 2030. . “

Saleh Al-Waneen, spokesperson for the Saxaul association, told Arab News how the trees evolved to withstand the harsh desert climate.

“The tree grows and reproduces without any human intervention, and can go without water for several months,” he said. “In fact, this type of tree flowers, grows and thrives in the hottest summer temperatures without any irrigation or rain. He likes heat and direct sun. Temperatures sometimes reach 58 ° C.

“The saxaul tree hates shade and excess rain and water, and has a distinctive feature where it absorbs the little moisture in the soil from evaporation due to high temperature.”

This helps trees take advantage of the sustainable ecosystem that forms around them, including plants, fungi, animals, insects, reptiles and birds.

Considering the importance of trees to the region and its people, they have also influenced local culture, inspiring poets for hundreds of years, Al-Waneen said. The association was therefore formed as an environmental organization in recognition of the ecological and cultural importance of trees.

“The number of people volunteering to help preserve and cultivate trees has increased in recent years, as the saxaul is considered to be one of the most important types of trees that help (to) stabilize the soil, which creates an integrated desert (ecosystem) that reduces volatile soils, noise pollution and carbon pollution, ”he said.

Al-Waneen added that locals are working hard to implement the Crown Prince’s Saudi Green Initiative and the wider Middle East Green Initiative, identifying areas of particular importance for initial cultivation efforts. , which will become a model for future projects.

“We wanted to highlight the importance of maintaining vegetation and the environment, in line with the Saudi Vision 2030, in terms of wildlife development, reduction of environmental pollution and community awareness of sustainable development. “, did he declare.

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