‘Give green Dubai a chance to grow’

City ranks high for busi­ness but is lag­ging be­hind when it comes to the en­vi­ron­ment

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Sar­wat Nasir @Sar­watNasir

It will take time for the UAE to ad­dress the en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges it faces, a lead­ing cam­paigner has said.

Habiba Al Marashi, founder of Emi­rates En­vi­ron­men­tal Group (EEG), was speak­ing af­ter Dubai and Abu Dhabi were ranked close to the top in a new re­port of the world’s wealth­i­est cities, but near the bot­tom in a mea­sure of en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity.

The 2016 Ar­cadis Sus­tain­able Cities In­dex noted the ef­forts made by the Gulf cities to in­vest in re­new­able en­ergy but said in gen­eral “en­ergy su­per­pow­ers find en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity more dif­fi­cult”.

Al Marashi told 7DAYS that it was in­evitable that Dubai’s rapid growth and an in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion – from 900,000 in 2001 to 2.5 mil­lion to­day – gave it unique chal­lenges to over­come.

She said: “Grow­ing cities have a num­ber of chal­lenges. We are fac­ing an in­flux of peo­ple. Neg­a­tive im­pacts on the en­vi­ron­ment are bound to hap­pen. But we need to learn how to work to­wards be­ing more sus­tain­able and pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

“It will take time for us to re­ally im­prove, but we can get there. In a few years, I’m pos­i­tive there will be favourable read­ings about us in these kinds of re­ports.”

She added: “So­ci­ety has a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity when it comes to the en­vi­ron­ment, not just the govern­ment.”

Dubai has been ranked fourth in a sur­vey of the world’s wealth­i­est and most eco­nom­i­cally sus­tain­able cities, with Abu Dhabi not far be­hind in 13th place.

The 2016 Ar­cadis Sus­tain­able Cities In­dex, com­piled by the de­sign and en­gi­neer­ing group, placed the emi­rate be­hind Sin­ga­pore, Hong Kong and Lon­don.

The in­dex mea­sured fac­tors in­clud­ing tourism, in­fra­struc­ture, GDP and busi­ness per­for­mance.

Al­to­gether, Ar­cadis used three mea­sure­ments to de­ter­mine how sus­tain­able each city is to­day - ‘Peo­ple, Planet and Profit’.

This in­cluded how live­able a city is, its en­vi­ron­ment, in­clud­ing pol­lu­tion and green­ery, and eco­nomic sta­bil­ity.

De­spite its high rank­ing in the Profit in­dex, Dubai was 52nd over­all.

That is be­cause it ranked 55th in the Peo­ple cat­e­gory and close to the bot­tom of the ta­ble – 96th - for in the Planet rank­ings.

The re­port said: “Dubai, fin­ish­ing fourth in the profit cat­e­gory, is to­day con­sid­ered the cap­i­tal of the Is­lamic econ­omy and the pre­ferred desti­na­tion for for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment into the Mid­dle East.

“With eco­nomic pros­per­ity pro­jected to rise, Dubai has the goal of be­com­ing the most busi­ness-friendly city in the world.”

It also said the city’s 2021 Dubai Plan “fea­tures a strong fo­cus on peo­ple, as­pir­ing to be­come a city of happy, cre­ative and em­pow­ered cit­i­zens”. The com­plex Peo­ple in­dex mea­sures a range of fac­tors, in­clud­ing eco­nomic dis­par­ity.

The re­port said: “Like many cities in the Mid­dle East, it scores lower on in­come in­equal­ity due to the dis­par­ity be­tween the mega-rich and the blue-col­lar ex­pa­tri­ate com­mu­ni­ties and lower-in­come work­ers.” High-rank­ing cities like Hong Kong - which was sec­ond for eco­nomic sta­bil­ity and 16th over­all - also scored poorly in the Peo­ple in­dex, in 81st place.

The re­port said the Asian hub “faces sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges in work-life bal­ance and the wealth gap”.

Ben Khan, Client De­vel­op­ment Di­rec­tor at Ar­cadis Mid­dle East told 7DAYS that as far at the en­vi­ron­ment goes, the UAE is start­ing to make strides.

He said: “En­ergy con­sump­tion and car­bon emis­sions do re­main high in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, largely due to the cli­mate, vol­ume of de­vel­op­ment, and the tra­di­tional re­liance on fos­sil fu­els.

“This is an area that both cities are ac­tively look­ing to ad­dress though and it forms a key part of the UAE’s Vi­sion 2021.

“The fo­cus on im­prov­ing the en­ergy ef­fi­ciency of build­ings will help, as will the fo­cus on re­new­ables in­clud­ing so­lar, and the planned in­vest­ment in up­grad­ing the wa­ter and trans­port net­works in both cities.”

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