The Za’abeel area in Dubai bears a lush green hue. UAE’s journey from being ranked at 152 to being one of the most improved nations in the region in just a couple of years is the result of the efforts of the UAE leadership and those who have dedicated their lives to environmental causes in the country. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE has the cleanest environment in the GCC and it achieved this status within a short period of time, according to the World Environmental Performance Index (EPI) released recently.

The biennial survey, carried out by the prestigious Yale University in collaboration with Columbia University, ranks countries from across the world based on 22 performance indicators in ten policy categories.

This year, only 132 countries made the cut, with Switzerland topping the chart, followed by Latvia, Norway, Luxembourg and Costa Rica in the top five.

Though ranked 77, the UAE is the top-ranked GCC country, followed closely by Saudi Arabia, which is ranked 82. Among the Arab countries the UAE is number two, only behind Egypt, which is ranked 60. Other GCC countries that feature in the list are: Qatar (100), Oman (110) and Kuwait (126).

Not surprisingly, this is the best ranking for the UAE, which was ranked 152 — the poorest rating — and 112 in 2010 and 2008 respectively.

‘Fantastic result'

The journey from the worst to one of the most improved countries in just a couple of years seems surprising, but for those who have dedicated their lives to environmental causes in the country, it has been a hard-earned and much deserved achievement.

"The ranking is a fantastic result and great news for the country, but it hasn't happened overnight. It's been due for a long time as the groundwork has been going on for years.

"This is more like the way bamboo shoots work, once planted they remain underground for months together, but suddenly in four weeks it grows several metres," said Habiba Al Marashi, Chairperson of Emirates Environmental Group (EEG), who is excited by the country's environmental achievement.

Though still far behind the more clean nations of the world, the UAE features impressively at 27 in the EPI Trend ranking, a new tool launched this year to measure the environmental trends in different countries.

According to Habiba, the trend ranking is an indicator of the way things are shaping up in the country.

Playing a big role

"This reflects well on the kind of foundation we have built, the UAE leadership is really serious about its environmental credentials. The society is aware and participating now, the private sector is playing a big role, the education sector is giving a lot of space to environment in its curriculum and slowly things are getting better, and I believe we will continue to improve our performance in the future," added Habiba, highlighting the key factors behind the UAE's improved performance.

The rankings take into account performances of countries in 10 major categories including: Environmental Burden of Disease, Water (Effects on Human Health), Air Pollution (Effects on Human Health), Air Pollution (Ecosystem Effects), Biodiversity and Habitat, Forestry, Fisheries, Agriculture, Climate Change and Water Resources (Ecosystem Effects).