View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

UAE at the Environmental Crossroads

Heat in the Cabinet
On 8 April 2008 the Federal National Council (FNC) tabled their report to Cabinet and sparked a heated debate.

A Gulf News article (‘Limit Use of Plastic Bags, FNC Urges Cabinet’, 8 April 2008) reported that “the FNC demanded that the [UAE Federal] government adopt more restrictive rules to strengthen environmental protection and contribute to sustainable development.”

The World is Watching
With the meeting taking place near to the site of the proposed Masdar, the ‘greenest city in the world’, it will be revealing to all concerned citizens of the world if UAE government officials really mean they are committed to be leaders in environmental concern. Is Masdar going to be a model that the UAE will project to the world but then turn their back on the very values that it conveys?

Recommendations for Environment
The UAE government needs to give a strong, unwavering lead to businesses, industries and municipalities on these vital recommendations from the FNC report:
* Limiting or banning the use of plastic bags.
* Reducing the life span of cars across the UAE
* Closing quarries and crushers adjacent to housing communities
* Treating by-products of desalination such as mineral salts and brine safely and efficiently.
* Ordering that all trucks be fitted with exhaust filters.
* Controlling the discharge of wastes from vessels and ordering these vessels to declare their shipments, especially those from nuclear powered ships.
* Approving and enforcing the National Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment at the earliest time.
* Addressing all types of pollutants, not only dust and noise pollution from quarries and crushers.
* Requiring environmental assessment reports by all projects every five years not just upon their launch.
* Demanding that the government stops burning wastes and adopts strict measures for the safe disposal of medical wastes.
* Issuing a federal law to regulate the use of underground water and water resources. (The use of underground water is currently under the jurisdiction of local authorities).
* Banning the import of scrap metals, especially spare parts of cars.
* Demanding that special roads be built for trucks and a railway system for passenger and cargo to ease road congestion in the country.
* Demanding that the government act diligently to enforce the federal law banning smoking in closed public areas.

Reducing Global Warming
The United Arab Emirates is at a crossroads. This far-reaching report is raising the heat in the government cabinet meeting. The leaders of the country with the dubious record of having the biggest ‘global footprint’ in the world must act decisively to reduce the global warming and protect the precious UAE environment.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “That all trucks be fitted with exhaust filters.”