Dust clouds over the Khor Khwair quarry in Ras Al Khaimah, one the world’s biggest, with reserves of four billion tonnes. Image Credit: Ahmad Al Shehi/Gulf News Reader

Ras Al Khaimah: Dust and noise from industrial activity around the small Khor Khwair settlement continues to bother residents even as authorities and corporate bosses try to limit operations.

Stone quarries and cement plants, running for decades, have been particularly blamed by residents there.

Emirati resident Ahmad Al Shehi fears “no relief is in sight.”

“The dust has ruined everything — our homes, our farms, our health. Sometimes the [industrial] work stops, but starts again. This has been going on for years and years,” said Al Shehi, who is in his late 30s.

He added that in late December 2013 a nearby quarry had stopped operations for a few hours during the day.

“It was the first time in a long while that we woke up peacefully, without the noise. We were so happy, we thought relief was finally here. But, by afternoon, the work started again.”

Meanwhile, some residents have rejected offers from government to relocate and rehome them away from the industrial activity.

Residents said that they could not abandon their ancestral settlement and way of life.

Calling for a balance between community concerns and economic needs, the Ministry of Environment and Water is keeping a watch on industrial operations and limiting activity and emissions. It has urged all quarries and factories to meet specified standards and warned those failing can face closure and fines.

One of the biggest quarries in the area, Stevin Rock, told Gulf News “it is doing what it can to minimise any impact.”

The company — 99 per cent government-owned — operates the Khor Khwair quarry, which is one the world’s biggest, with reserves of four billion tonnes.

It has a production capacity of 5,000 tonnes per hour, says its website.

Stevin Rock General Manager Naser Bustami said: “Our operations continue to be monitored by the Ministry of Environment and Water (MoEW) and we are fully licensed and approved by the MoEW.

“Our environmental performance certificate has recently been renewed and we continue to work with the authorities to improve the environmental aspect of our operations.”

He added: “Alongside ourselves, we are aware that other industrial operators in the area also possess improvement plans. We currently have a number of ongoing projects, which will further improve the impact of our operations over the last six years.”

Bustami expects the bulk of the initiatives will be completed in the next six months. The projects include laying down a two-kilometre paved road into the site, which will limit trucks kicking up dust on dirt roads. Also panned is three kilometres of conveyor belts in the quarry that will decrease truck movements. The site will also have more dust covers for buildings and stockpiles.

The company will also introduce more road sweepers and planting of trees in landscaping projects to turn the area more green, which will include “rehabilitating” older quarry slopes.