Abu Dhabi saw a reduction of 2,800 cubic metres of toxic waste from drilling operations. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi saw a 99 per cent reduction in air pollutant emissions from the fluorine industry in 2021 and also saw a reduction of 2,800 cubic metres of toxic waste from drilling operations.

In a statement, the emirate’s environment sector regulator, the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD) added that it had also permitted the commissioning of clean energy projects during the year that save about 11 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year, equivalent to the emissions of 2.4 million cars that run on fossil fuels. The results of the environmental assessments in 2021 also revealed that the EAD managed to protect 60 square kilometres of marine critical habitats and 850,000 square metres of terrestrial critical habitats.

‘Very successful year’

“2021 was a very successful year for EAD, regarding environmental assessment and permits. We are keen to ensure that all new facilities adhere to environmental laws and regulations as we aim to achieve this right from the inception of the project,” said Faisal Al Hammadi, EAD’s acting executive director of environment quality.

“Figures reveal that there is an increasing number of industries and developers adopting best environmental practices, which means that we are on track towards ensuring a healthy environment for all. We know that several sectors can be detrimental to the environment, but through a proper permitting system and a rigorous assessment process, we can always reduce any risk to the environment,” he added.

Other achievements

Additionally, other key achievements by EAD included the completion of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Programme. This involved the development of a proposed implementation programme that aims to embed environmental considerations into the designs for strategic projects, master plans and development programmes.

EAD also developed permit conditions for new sectors by studying the adverse impacts of slaughterhouses and medical facilities. As a result, the authority devised environmental permit conditions that were linked to legal provisions in the environmental laws and regulations enforced in the emirate.

EAD also developed an Iron and Steel Sector Self Reporting Programme which identified the major pollutants of concern for the iron and steel sector, monitoring and reporting requirements, and conducted a cost analysis for implementation of those requirements.

Standardised permitting

Through the update of electronic systems, the EAD was able to enhance its capacity to standardise permitting requirements and facilitate the permitting process. In 2021, this update included reviewing all industrial, commercial and development activities in Abu Dhabi; establishing new criteria based on environmental risks and incorporating the updated programme in the design of new digital services.

As part of its digital transformation, EAD also restructured all environmental permitting in line with TAMM requirements. The authority completely transformed its process flow charts for all permitting operations and took a new environmental risk-based approach with more than 65 per cent automation. As a result, more than 2,000 permit conditions were reviewed, updated and simplified to make it easier for proponents to comply with environmental regulations.