Green in the Gulf: The UAE Confronts a Sustainability Crisis
March 16, 2010
Going green is a mixed blessing, especially in arid regions like the United Arab Emirates. The country’s huge increase in urban green space has stressed available water resources, and the UAE’s ecological deficit—the gap between resource consumption and regeneration—is the highest in the world.
Important initiatives like MASDAR, the effort to build a zero-carbon city for 50,000, are underway but in some cases are overwhelmed by the larger growth occurring in the UAE. The construction industry grew nearly 50 percent per year between 2003 and 2008, and between 2007 and 2008 alone, construction and demolition waste in the U.A.E. increased 163 percent. Water demand has doubled since 2000, and is expected to double again by 2030.
Other environmental measures target individual as well as industry practices. In 2009, the Center of Waste Management in Abu Dhabi decreed that recycling was mandatory for all citizens and the Ministry of Environment and Water announced that plastic bags would be phased out entirely by 2013. Additionally, Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council recently established a set of environmental standards that all buildings must meet. In the water sector, efforts are underway to encourage greater use of treated wastewater for irrigation.
The challenges will continue, particularly as the UAE’s construction industry is expected to grow nearly 20 percent per year between 2010 and 2013. With plans to more than double Abu Dhabi’s population over the next twenty years, sustainability is not a choice—it is a necessity.
This piece is a part of Mezze, a monthly short article series spotlighting societal trends across the region. It originally appeared in the Middle East Program's monthly newsletter, Middle East Notes and Comment. For more information and to receive our mailings, please contact the Middle East Program.