‘Give green Dubai a chance to grow’
City ranks high for business but is lagging behind when it comes to the environment
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.”