NYU Stern Students Business Plan for Wadi Wurayah Park

On Feb. 12, a team of five students from NYU Stern School of Business visited NYU Abu Dhabi to share their business plan for a national park in ...

Feb 14, 2015

On Feb. 12, a team of five students from NYU Stern School of Business visited NYU Abu Dhabi to share their business plan for a national park in Fujairah that will help in the conservation of the emirate's Wadi Wurayah, a region that the World Wildlife Fund has marked as an important area for conservation on their Global 200 list of ecoregions.
To bolster the UAE’s initiative to develop a national park in a protected area, WWF reached out to NYU Stern with a plan to incorporate the perspective of inspired youth. These students, as part of the 2015 NYU Stern Signature Projects, were selected to work on the project along with Fujairah Municipality, the Emirates Wildlife Society and WWF. Students in this program are also mentored by consultants from McKinsey & Company.
In 2005, WWF recommended that the H.H. Sheikh of Fujairah officially protect Wadi Wurayah. According to the WWF UAE website, “it is one of the few areas in the UAE that is bursting with unique biodiversity in flora and fauna, as well as having intact freshwater resources. The area also holds significant cultural and historical importance, with archaeological sites discovered in the wadi dating as far back as 300 C.E.”
Ruler of Fujairah, H.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammad Al Sharqi, declared Wadi Wurayah the UAE’s first mountainous protected area in March 2009. The area spans from Khor Fakhan to Bidiyah and covers a 129-square-kilometre area. A public and private collaboration working on biodiversity research supported the campaign for the wadi to gain protection.
“Fujairah was like [a place that] nobody heard about,” stated Sophia Kalantzakos, NYU Global Distinguished Professor in Environmental Studies and Public Policy. “Now, because of the all investment in oil and infrastructure, people are coming there for business. Therefore, the tourist aspect must be connected to the market and bringing particular types of people. Since you’re doing the business plan, trying to create a holistic approach and engage people who have been already working there is the priority.”
“To break stereotypes of tourist[s] about Fujairah is another goal,” said Gayatri Raghwa, Outreach Program Senior Specialist at Environment Agency Abu Dhabi. “There are a lot of ethnicities there; no other emirate would give so much ethnical heritage. Overall, it is a beautiful, unique place”.
Raghwa also expanded on the importance of a national park as a real learning environment for students to implement their skills and preserve the area's heritage and natural culture. She explained that the role of education in environmental protection is crucial for the creation of a global paradigm that supports sustainable development. After involvement in ecological projects, students may begin changing their behavior towards the environment and approaching it in different ways, said Raghwa.
The creation of a national park and its future maintenance aims to be a holistic process that will engage everyone: local communities, motivated educators, private investments and youth from around the world. However, certain difficulties arise for Stern students in the implementation of the plan.
“Our challenge is to find out why, for instance, between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, people would choose to go to Wadi Wurayah,” said Laura Fox, an MBA student at NYU Stern with five years of experience in marketing and branding in the USA, Qatar and Bangladesh.
The team, which is currently undergoing initial meetings, headed to the park on Feb. 13 to learn what potential options might look like for a business plan that will make Wadi Wurayah National Park sustainable for years ahead.
Some NYU Stern students were also inspired to affect the environment through more long-term projects.
“I want to look in [to] impact investing in a long run,” says Kanika Jain, an MBA student with a background in finance. “My grandfather has left blueprints of national parks in India. It’s called Jim Corbett National Park. So I really want to go down the line of a family — my father is the forest officer in India. I would expand my views of ecosystems outside India.”
The mix of student’s backgrounds and experiences play into their advantage.
“I am very interested in the Gulf region in terms of transition to [a] more creative economy,” said Fox. “My focus was on [the] private and public sector integration, and this project offers a lot of that. Typically, I’ve done more urban things, but I think that national park strategy is an incredible way to [understand] national profile and aspirations here.”
The goal is for Wadi Wurayah to become an outstanding model for effective environmental management in the region, along with economic cultural conservation and a pleasant place for nature contemplation.
“It is my second day being in the UAE and I’ve already experienced a very rich culture and heritage,” said Jain. “I am impressed [by] how warm people are everywhere ... It’s so similar to a place where I came from. It feels almost as home.”
Valeriya Golovina is a columnist. Email her at
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