Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi officials and media were greeted at the Emirates Float Glass in ICAD on Tuesday during their visit Image Credit: Samihah Zaman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi can issue up to Dh1 million in fines for offences that damage the environment, with inspectors intensifying random checks on companies, factories and all industrial operations in the emirate.

In fact, the emirate’s environment sector regulator, the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD), carried out a total of 1,089 inspection visits in 2022 alone, including three checks each for high-risk facilities, top officials said on Tuesday.

“By fulfilling its regulatory role, the EAD seeks to maintain the environmental standards in Abu Dhabi,” said Faisal Al Hammadi, acting executive director for environmental quality at the EAD.

Inspection elements

Naser Alkaaf

During an inspection, the authority checks the environmental impact of 38 operational processes, including provisions for waste management and storage. It also ensures that each facility has the right documentation and permits in place, and adheres to them, Naser Alkaaf, senior inspector for compliance and audit at the EAD’s environment quality division, told Gulf News.

A briefing during the visit to the factory Image Credit: Samihah Zaman/Gulf News

Site visit

Alkaaf was speaking on the sidelines of an inspection visit to a 52,000-square metre glass manufacturing facility located in Musaffah’s industrial area.

During the inspection organised on Tuesday, EAD inspectors and accompanying media were greeted at the Emirates Float Glass in ICAD. Factory personnel ensured that all individuals had the appropriate personal protective equipment, including safety goggles, footwear, and reflective vests.

After a safety induction, EAD inspectors checked the permits and documentation of the facility, before moving on to checks on raw materials, storage, waste management, and production areas.

Compliance rate

According to the EAD, industrial facilities showed a high level of compliance in 2022, reaching up to 96.7 per cent. The inspections covered 93 sectors that require licenses from the EAD.

Penalties and types

Administrative fines can be issued by the EAD for 277 different violations, with penalties ranging from Dh1,000 to Dh1 million, depending on the extent of environmental damage and the rate of recurrence. The violations are classified into three main categories, namely fishing violations and discharges into the marine environment, or violations concerning hunting, biodiversity and reserves, or violations regarding development and industrial activities.

The EAD said violations related to the lack of proper training in the fields of environment and hazardous materials handling are the most common. Many operators also fail to implement adequate controls, including filters and monitors, for air and dust pollutants.

The EAD announced earlier that the largest fine issued in 2022 was Dh50,000 for an offence that involved the discharge of materials into the marine environment that led to unpleasant odours, unnatural colour, and a noticeable change in the water temperature and turbulence.

In case inspectors note grave issues, they can also refer matters of concern to the courts.

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Technical support

Al Hammadi said EAD’s inspection visits ensure the provision of technical support to industrial operations.

“The EAD utilises educational initiatives, training courses and various communication channels to help industrial facilities implement environmentally-sound pollution control techniques, and [strategies that can ensure sustainability without] disturbing their production,” he explained.

Permits and complaints

The authority also issued a total of 1,400 environmental permits during the year, including 808 industrial licences, 414 licences for development projects, and 230 commercial licences.

In addition, the authority responds to environmental complaints and incidents reported through official channels in order to ensure that environmental damage is properly mitigated. In fact, officials have already investigated a total of 150 complaints.