The Dubai Plan 2021 team paid close attention to the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that would be used to measure the achievement of the six themes. Image Credit: WAM/Gulf news archives

Dubai: Despite making significant strides in transforming its environmental outlook over the last few years, Dubai is facing serious challenges in maintaining sustainable growth, a new report has suggested.

However, the government’s renewed commitment to build a smart and sustainable city by ensuring the availability of clean energy sources and protecting natural resources such as soil, water and air will help overcome the challenges.

The Dubai Environment Outlook study, carried out jointly by the General Secretariat for The Executive Council and Dubai Municipality, notes that the constantly rising population demographics and heightened economic activities are the main drivers of environmental change in Dubai.

Providing a comprehensive assessment of the current status of the environment, while also highlighting challenges the emirate will need to overcome in the coming years, the report takes a close look at seven themes: air, water, biodiversity, land, coastal zone, built environment, and waste.

Offering a rare insight into the environmental status of the emirate, the report responds to global calls for greater transparency and access to environmental data, as Dubai makes a conscious effort to adopt a sustainably clean and healthy environment.

While noting that there was widespread environmental degradation during the construction boom of the last decade when developers often showed little regard for the environment, the report points out that the evidence now suggests that Dubai is now witnessing a turning point.

According to the report, environmental improvement now prominently features in national plans like Dubai Plan 2021 and Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050, as well as a number of corporate strategies in the country.

In addition, technological advances and multilateral environmental agreements have an increasingly large role to play. In Dubai, technological innovations by the likes of Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) present powerful tools for mitigating some of the environmental impacts caused by human activities. And all of these efforts will be central to the UAE’s broader global obligations, noted the report.

Commenting on the report, Abdullah Al Shaibani, secretary-general of the Dubai Executive Council, said: “Ensuring a sustainable pathway for the future is vital, and Dubai has taken bold and swift steps in that direction of late. Economic growth and the resulting increase in construction activity have both necessitated the need for a deeper examination of the resulting environmental impact, providing us with the opportunity to develop a greener and more sustainable approach and this report has given us a basis to build on, in line with the objectives of Dubai Plan 2021.”

He added that the importance of sustainable solutions for future generations is of unquestionable importance, and directing more investment towards research and development, innovation and advanced technologies should be given special priority.

“We are seeing increasing momentum in this regard, to create systems that are resilient to climate change, and institutions that are building sustainable development into their core business strategy. This report is a welcome step in that regard,” he said.

Key challenges Dubai needs to overcome

Diversifying its fuel mix without affecting total emissions

Reducing car ownership and controlling the size of its fast-growing vehicle fleet

Concomitant and costly expansion of the sewage networks and treatment plants

Changing the common perception by city planners and the general public that dry lands and deserts are wastelands with little value to society

Mitigating the long-term effects of completed offshore development schemes on Dubai’s shoreline and marine ecosystems

Mitigating the impacts of desalination on the marine environment