Pollution in the United Arab Emirates

Problem Definition

Environmental pollution is one of the major problems facing the contemporary society. Environment refers to the air, land, sea, and generally, what surrounds people. Keeping the environment clean is vital as it ensures people live a better and healthy life. Environmental pollution has led to the global warming due to the emission of greenhouse gases. Global warming due to environmental pollutions threatens to lead to the extension of humanity as it is currently constituted. Fossil fuels, which comprise of mainly oil and gas, are some of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Their continued use in automobiles and machinery has led to environmental pollution in an unprecedented scale.

- +

Reason for Choosing Issue

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the major producers of oil and gas in the world. The fossil fuels the country produces not only have an environmental impact within the country but also in the countries that purchase the fuels. Therefore, it is pertinent to claim that the UAE is one of the major environmental polluters as its fossil fuels, which account for a significant proportion of the fossil fuels used across the globe, lead to environmental pollution. Burning of fossil fuels increases the levels of carbon dioxide in the environment. This increases the ability of air to retain heat within the surface, which subsequently leads to environmental pollution. Air pollution and the use of chlorofluorocarbons lead to the depletion of the ozone layer. The ozone layer is vital to life as it protects the earth from ultraviolet rays of the sun, which are harmful to the health of humans, plants, and animals. Therefore, it is vital to determine environmental pollution in the UAE regardless of whether the fossil fuels are consumed within the country or not.

Importance of the Issue

In 2015, an environmental report, which is published annually by the World Bank, in The Little Green Book, claimed that the UAE is the most air polluted country in the country. The level of air pollution in the country was higher than the level of air pollution in China, which most parties claim is notorious for its high levels of environmental pollution. According to the World Bank report, there are 80 micrograms pollutants per cubic meter of air in the UAE. This is slightly higher than the level of air pollution in China, which is 73 micrograms of pollutants per cubic meter of air. The level of air pollutants in the UAE was more than double than that of India, which stood at 32 micrograms of air pollutants per cubic meter of air. The quantity of air pollutants in the U.S. was less than 20 micrograms per cubic meter.

The report claimed that the UAE is the most polluted country in the world despite efforts by the government of the country to implement measures that would ensure compliance with World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines by 2021. There are currently more than 40 air quality monitoring stations in the UAE.  The stations monitor the quality of air near quarry, crusher sites and cement factories.

The UAE’s Ministry of Environment and Water refuted the findings by the World Bank by claiming that they did not cite the sources of the data they used to come up with the findings. Regardless of whether the World Bank’s ranking of the UAE as the most air polluted country in the world are right or not, the fact is pollution is one of the major problems facing the UAE. Most Emiratis we questions highlighted the importance of the issues. Several of the people we interviewed claimed that they had sought medical attention within the past one year due to environmental pollution with particulate matter being one of the most common sources of air pollution in the country.

Root Causes of Pollution in the UAE

Industrialization is one of the major factors that have led to environmental pollution. Industrialization has led mass production, which increases the environmental impact of the processes used to manufacture the products. Consumerism characterizes most parts of the developed world. Consumerism is the major factor that has led to mass production of goods and services. The products and services also have significant environmental impact. The UAE is one of the developed worlds. Consumers in the country purchase a wide variety of goods and services oblivious of the environmental impact of the goods and services or the processes used to manufacture them.

Vehicle exhausts and industry smoke are some of the major causes of environmental pollution in the UAE. There has been a significant increase in the wealth of Emiratis in the past few years. This has increased the levels of consumerism in the country. Roads in the UAE have several expensive fuel guzzlers. These vehicles increase the levels of environmental pollution causes by automobiles. Industries also increase the level of environmental pollution in the country. There are several petrochemical industries in the UAE as the country is one of the major producers of oil and gas on the globe. The petrochemical industries and other industries release toxic chemicals into the atmosphere. Sulphur dioxide is one of the major toxic chemicals that companies in the industries emit into the environment.

Urbanization is also one of the major causes of pollution. Urbanization leads to the concentration of a significant number of people within a small area. This increases the impact of their activities on the environment. The transition of the UAE from a traditional country to a highly modernized country has had a negative impact on the environment. The UAE has several artificial islands. The islands lead to environmental pollution as they require a huge amount of energy to sustain them. Making the islands also displaced or destroyed the marine forms of life that previously inhabited the area.

Dubai has experienced rapid urbanization in the recent past. This has made other emirates to seek to copy the Dubai’s rise. However, Dubai provides a good case study of the negative impacts of developing a metropolis in the vast desert. Growth of the city made various parties forget about the environment. Parties that advocated and facilitated the implementation of the city thought of business first before the environment. However, this has led to several problems. Provision of water is one of the major challenges facing the city. This is similar to the problem that Las Vegas faces. Despite the fact that Dubai and other large cities in the UAE are surrounded by water, the water has to be desalinated before it becomes safe for human consumption. Desalinating the water is an energy intensive activity. The UAE desalinates more than three billion bottles of water daily. As such, the process of desalination of water produces a huge volume of carbon dioxide emissions, which increases the carbon footprint of the UAE.

Effects of Pollution

Pollution leads to various health problems. A study on air pollution in the UAE conducted by scientists from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, U.S. in 2007 found that air pollution in the UAE was the cause of 607 deaths. It accounts for about 7% of all fatalities in the healthcare facilities in the UAE. This shows that it is one of the major problems that the country faces. Particulate matter is biggest health hazard. Particulate matter refers to tiny particles of chemicals, dust, and sand, which have the ability to penetrate into the lungs. Particulate matter accounted for the deaths of 545 people with the other 62 people dying due to ozone smog. Ozone smog is formed by the reaction between car exhaust fumes and other air pollutants in sunlight.

Ozone exposure may lead to various respiratory diseases, which include asthma and bronchitis. On the other hand, particulate matter is related to various heart and respiratory diseases. It is worrying that children were among the 545 people that died due to particulate matter in 2007. The researchers used data from UAE’s Ministry of Health 2007 annual report to estimate the number of people who died due to air pollution. They also used 2007 and 2008 data from 10 air quality monitoring stations located in Abu Dhabi. The information was used to estimate the level of air pollution in the whole of UAE.

Despite the fact that the researchers showed that air pollution was one of the major health problems that lead to deaths in the UAE, the data may have underestimated the real impact of environmental pollution. This is highlighted by the fact that Ras al Khaimah, an area where there is large scale quarrying and cement manufacturing, which leads to environmental pollution, does not have air pollution data. In addition, the researchers only conducted the impact of air pollution. It is a fact that other types of environmental pollution are also prevalent in the UAE. These types of environmental pollution lead to deaths of an additional number of people.

Admittedly, sand and dust, which have millions of tiny airborne particles, are prevalent in the nature of desert countries such as the UAE. However, construction activities may also stir up dust increasing the level of environmental pollution.

Pollution has significant impacts at the social level. Morbidity due to pollution may make people lose their loved ones, which would have dire consequences on the bereaved parties. Pollution also leads also leads to respiratory diseases that affect the ability of people to have social interactions with other people.

At the national level, pollution is one of the major healthcare costs. The UAE spends billions of dollars in healthcare costs to treat pollution-ailments. Morbidity or illness due to pollution also leads to the loss of productivity of the affected parties.

At the global level, environmental pollution leads to global warming and other calamities. For instance, environmental pollution is associated with global warming, which has to the rising of sea levels due to the melting of ice at the earth’s poles. Pollution also leads to changing in the normal ocean currents. This leads to hurricanes and other natural calamities. The change in the ocean currents also leads to a subsequent change in the seasons. This makes it difficult for people in developing countries, who rely on rainfall for farming to plan their planting seasons. The unpredictable seasons also lead to famine. This is highlighted by the fact that since the beginning of the 21st century, several regions have experienced unprecedented levels of famine and other natural calamities that are attributable to pollution and global warming.

Government Role

The government has an active role to play in tackling environmental pollution. The UAE government acknowledges that environmental pollution is one of the major problems facing the country. It has taken several steps to reduce the impact of environmental pollution due to vehicle emissions and industry pollution. The UAE government collects data on the level of environmental pollution due to automobiles and industrial activities. The UAE government also implemented measures that led to a significant reduction in the level of sulfur in diesel. As noted above sulfur dioxide, which is emitted due to the combustion of petroleum that contains the compound, is one of the major environmental pollutants. The UAE government also encourages the use of green engine oil, which is an ecofriendly petroleum product.

Legislation is one of the major methods that the government uses to reduce environmental pollution. The UAE government has passed several laws that strive to reduce environmental pollution. In 1996, the UAE government established the Environmental Protection Agency-Abu Dhabi. The agency helps the UAE government and the Ministry of the Environment and Water to ensure that various environmental laws are fully implemented. The UAE government has set up several monitoring stations in industrial areas to ensure that the industries comply with the environmental regulations. Companies that fail to comply with the regulations risk facing stiff penalties.

The UAE government also uses various initiatives and government bodies to help public and private organizations attain their commitments towards ensuring environmental sustainability. It also requires development projects to provide provisions for their environmental sustainability. The government’s efforts have made the word estidama, which an Arabic word that may be loosely interpreted to mean sustainability, become the buzz word in the UAE business environment. As such, almost all projects implemented in the country incorporate sustainability principles and goals as one of their main foundations.

Despite the fact that UAE is one of the largest oil producers in the world, it is implementing efforts to adopt renewable sources of energy. For instance, Abu Dhabi, one of the emirates in UAE embarked on a project carbon-free city that would use renewable energy. The city is called Masdar. This would help in reducing the overreliance on traditional sources of fuel, which lead to environmental degradation as they are associated with high levels of carbon emissions.


People can reduce environmental pollution at the individual level by ensuring they make purchasing decisions based on the environmental sustainability of the products. They should ensure that they purchase ‘green’ products. Currently, environmental sustainability is one of the major factors that affect the purchasing decisions of people in most developed societies.

People should also ensure that they make their homes more energy efficient by purchasing energy efficient products. They should also strive to reduce their energy bills without sacrificing their comfort or style. Use of green power technologies, such as use of solar energy would also help in reducing environmental pollution.

Households in the UAE produce hundreds of thousands of tons of household hazardous waste annually. As such, household hazardous waste account for a significant proportion of environmental pollution in the UAE. People may reduce the amount of domestic hazardous waste by ensuring that they carefully evaluate the amount of products they need before making their purchases. They should also strive to reuse certain household products whenever possible. People may also strive to reduce the toxicity of household products before disposing them.

Indoor and outdoor pollutants are some of the major sources of respiratory problems due to environmental pollution. Pollutants in the home environment include smoke, cleaning products, chemicals and pet dander. As such, grooming pets would help in reducing dander, which is a major source of air pollution in the home environment. People should also ensure that they do not smoke or burn things when not necessary. It is also vital to ensure that the home has good ventilation to prevent the accumulation of pollutants in the home. Finally, people should ensure that they use cleaning products and chemicals that have the least environmental impact.

It is also possible to reduce environmental pollution at the national or social level by advocating the implementation of laws that reduce the amount of environmental pollution. There should be stiff to entities that fail to adhere to the environmental regulations. The government should set up bodies that would have zero tolerance to environmental pollution. The government should check the sustainability of projects before allowing them to be implemented.

Members of the community should also be vigilant in the implementation of environmental laws. They should ensure that they report entities that fail to comply with the environmental regulations to the relevant agencies. The government may provide a bounty to people who provide information on the failure of entities to adhere to environmental regulations.

Pollution may be reduced at the global level through the concerted efforts of various governments of around the globe. The governments should pass a treaty that would help in reducing the levels of pollutants in the environment. Developed countries should play an active role in the passing and implementation of the environmental treaties. This is due to the fact that developed countries are the largest emitters of environmental pollutants. However, most developing countries are reluctant to ratify the environmental treaties as it would necessitate them to reduce the levels of their economic productivity. They perceive the treaties as being detrimental to their economic well-being. This necessitates countries to formulate strategies that would lead to a gradual reduction in the levels of environmental pollution without having a negative impact on the economies of countries that ratify the treaties.