During an inspection by Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi has issued Dh328,000 in 32 administrative fines for violating environmental legislation in the emirate.

The fines follow the implementation of a decision regarding environmental violations in April 2022 by Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region and chairman of the board of directors of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD).

The largest fine listed so far is for Dh50,000, and has been imposed for discharging materials into the marine environment that caused unpleasant odours, unnatural colours, or a noticeable change in the temperature and turbulence of the emirate’s waters. Other violations included submitting incorrect data to EAD, changing data contained in licenses, or polluting the soil or water or air in protected areas. The EAD followed up with the violating establishments to ensure that corrective measures were taken to remove or mitigate the causes.

Limiting harm

The decision to impose administrative fines was made to enhance the regulatory and supervisory role of EAD, and support mechanisms for addressing activities and actions that negatively affect the environment. The authority is also responsible for limiting harmful practices which are not included in the applicable environmental legislation in order to boost compliance with environmental legislation in Abu Dhabi.

Three categories

The April decision activated the system of administrative violations and fines stipulated in Law No. 10 of 2020, and amended some provisions of Law No. 16 of 2005 regarding the reorganisation of EAD. The authority was also granted the power to impose administrative fines for acts violating the provisions of the law and its organisational and executive regulations, systems, policies, decisions, and circulars.

The decision classified administrative violations and fines into three main categories:

• fishing violations and discharges into the marine environment

• violations concerning hunting, biodiversity and reserves

• violations regarding development and industrial activities

The table of administrative violations consists of 99 violations, 46 of which are non-reconcilable, and include a reconciliation discount of 25 per cent in the event of payment within 60 days of the date of issuance. The fines range between Dh1,000 dirhams and Dh1 million, depending on the nature of the violation, the extent of the damage it causes to the environment, and the rate of recurrence.

Of the total number of violations recorded so far, 87.5 per cent were incurred in the development and industrial activities category, with the remaining 12.5 per cent issued for violations related to hunting, biodiversity and reserves. There were no fines issued for violations regarding the marine fisheries sector, or discharges into the marine environment.

read more

Environmental controls

Faisal Al Hammadi, acting executive director of the environmental quality sector at EAD, said: “Since its establishment in 1996 as the competent authority in Abu Dhabi responsible for the implementation of environmental laws and regulatory controls in the emirate, we have taken several steps to provide a well-established regulatory framework in line with the directives and the vision set by the Abu Dhabi government to preserve the environment. We achieve this by applying best practices and the highest international regulatory standards in order to ensure the achievement of the emirate’s long-term economic vision in a way that preserves our natural heritage for a better future for all.”

He added: “The EAD derives legal and executive powers from 14 federal and local laws, as it implements policies in accordance with these laws. It is EAD’s responsibility to monitor environmental compliance and the enforcement processes, which are designed to help prevent environmental damage and reduce habitat degradation and loss.”

Khaled Al Hajri, section head for e-compliance and enforcement at the EAD’s environmental quality sector, said: “We at the EAD strive to work with the concerned authorities to prevent environmental damage. We are also intensifying our efforts to work closely with facilities and institutions operating in the emirate of Abu Dhabi to ensure we are providing full knowledge of the various environmental legislations, which contribute to limiting or minimising environmentally harmful acts, thus avoiding exposure to any penalties or fines. The compliance rate of establishments and projects licensed by EAD has reached 97 per cent.”

Keeping pace

The EAD is making unremitting efforts to keep pace with the rapid development witnessed by the emirate by working with relevant partners and making use of the latest smart electronic tools and systems. This enables inspectors to conduct environmental inspections with high levels of accuracy and efficiency, and to ensure the extent of compliance of licensed projects, facilities and activities with environmental conditions.

In addition to evaluating risks and enhancing the implementation of the integrated environmental compliance system, these tools also assist the Agency in preparing assessment reports for the various industrial sectors and provide a more comprehensive picture of the emirate’s environmental status, which supports effective decision-making that serves both the environment and society.

Additionally, the EAD is keen to build the capabilities of Emiratis in all technical environmental fields by granting a number of the EAD’s employees judicial officer status after they have been qualified in various environmental specialisations, including assessment, licensing, auditing, environmental compliance, air pollution, soil, and diversity, biodiversity, and marine fishing.