In recent years, the UAE has taken significant steps to protect the environment. These include: the establishment of the Federal Environmental Agency (FEA) in 1993; the creation of the Environmental Agency for Abu Dhabi (EAD) in 1996, the establishment and the full implementation of the UAE Federal Environmental Law 24 of 1999, the adoption of programs by municipalities for better environmental practices, the creation of separate entities by the major industrial institutions for the protection of the environment, the treatment and disposal of solid and medical waste, the treatment of wastewater, air pollution and several other initiatives.
Considering the vast commercial and industrial developments and a population increase of approximately 10%. The UAE is also one of the fastest growing electricity industries in the world. Electricity generation doubled between 1995 and 2003, reaching 50 terawatt/hour (TWh). The per capita electricity generation, in excess of 12000 kilowatthour (kWh) is higher than the OECD average. Natural gas fuels over 99 percent of total electricity generation, the remainder being based on oil. Electricity generation in the UAE will continue to increase rapidly over the current decade, at 5.6 percent per year on average. Moreover, the UAE is the Middle East and North Africa’s second-largest producer of desalinated water. Fuel requirements for desalination are expected to raise from 9 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 2003 to 16 Mtoe, or nearly one-fifth of total primary energy demand in 2030.
All of the above puts more demand on the countries resources, thus requiring the government to invested several billions of US dollars by the turn of the decade in environmental and pollution control projects. These projects are linked to the oil and gas industries, conservation of water and power generation, waste management, land management, air pollution, and renewable energy.
Waste Water Treatment
The UAE production of water is approximately 510 million gallons per day of which 80 percent is desalinated seawater. An estimated US$5 billion will be spent on improving water resources in the coming years because the need for water in general and desalinated water in particular, will triple to 713 million gallons per day by the year 2015. Nearly all of the wastewater in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi is treated and re-used. The Emirate of Abu Dhabi has formed Abu Dhabi Sewerage Services Company (ADSSC) with assets valued at US$2.45 billion was founded in 2005. ADSSC will be building four treatment plants to handle increasing volumes of waste from development. ADSSC recently announced the award of two contracts. One contract, a joint venture of the UK's Biwater Group, Kuwait's Mohamed Abdulmohsin Kharafi & Sons and the secibd ti local Al-Qudra Holding for two plants. This group will develop the 300,000-cubic-metre-a-day (cm/d) Al-Wathba plant in Abu Dhabi and the 65,000-cm/d Al-Saad facility in Al-Ain, under a build-own-operate-transfer contract. A French/Belgian joint venture of Veolia and Besix has been selected for a further two plants at Al-Wathba and Al-Saad, with the same capacity. Both groups will take a 40 per cent stake in project companies, which will then sign 25-year agreements with the government to develop the plants. Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority will hold the remaining 60 per cent of the project firms indirectly. Australia's Cardno is advising Adwea on the technical aspects of the privatization program for its wastewater treatment plants. US law firm Dewey Ballantine and French bank BNP Paribas are advising on the legal and financial aspects respectively.
An award is also pending for a program to supervise ADSSC's US $1.1billion strategic investment program to upgrade Abu Dhabi's sewers. The main component of the program is a 45-kilometre sewer tunnel, from the northern part of Abu Dhabi Island to the mainland. The tunnel will relieve pressure on the existing system serving Abu Dhabi Island and will allow for the eventual removal of existing pumping stations. It is hoped the scheme will reduce operating costs. Other works planned as part of the program involve upgrading treatment plants at Mafraq and Zakher, and the rehabilitation and upgrading of major trunk sewers and pumping stations. The entire scheme is expected to take seven years to complete.
Residents of Abu Dhabi may soon have to pay sewerage charges in addition to their water and electricity bills to offset the subsidy coming from the government.
The Drainage and Irrigation Department of Dubai Municipality has a sewage treatment plant in the Aweer area with a capacity for treating 330,000 gallons of sewage water per day used for irrigation of municipal parks and landscapes. The flow of effluent into this sewage treatment plant is increasing by up to 25 percent a year. It is now handling almost twice its original design capacity. The burden is also being increased by effluent trucked to Al-Awir from labor camps accommodating construction workers. According to Dubai Municipality, no less than 3,000 trucks carrying untreated sewage arrive in Al-Awir daily. Dubai is building membrane-based water treatment plants to cover the shortage. Residents of Dubai are paying sewerage charges.
The Emirate of Sharjah has awarded a US$540000 turn-key contract for the construction of a sewage treatment plant at the housing complex within the Hamriyah Free Zone in Sharjah. This plant will be equipped to treat all sewage and wastewater within the complex at a capacity of up to 500 c/m of waste per day. The treated water will be later used for irrigation and landscaping. Residents of Sharjah are paying sewage charges.
The emirate of Ajman has constructed US$140.2 million sewerage, through a BOT contract with Ajman Sewerage (Pvt) Co. The plant is comprised of a main 49,000cm/day wastewater treatment plant on the outskirts of the city, 22 individual and for the most part underground pumping stations, and a 250 km pipeline network to connect properties to the system. Ajman population will be required to pay connection fees to the company for cost recovery.
Two years ago The Emirates of Fujairah awarded to Tanqia (a local project developer largely owned by Infrastructure Capital Group and Mubadala Development Company) a $150 million contract to build and operate a sewage treatment plant (STP) and associated network under a 33-year concession. The Fujairah government, which will be paying the developer a fee for collecting and treating the wastewater, will be charging the population of Fujairah a sewage fee. Tanqia appointed a German consortium of Bilfinger & Berger and Passavant-Roediger to undertake the plant and network construction and will operate the project. Phase I includes a central STP of 16,000 cm/d built to serve 44,000 residents in the concession area, 16 pumping stations and installation of a 95 kilometers of network. Phase 2 calls for the secondary network to be extended by 81 kilometers and a further 11 pumping stations. On completion, 72,000, or 90 per cent of the concession area's population will be served. A further 8,000 people will be linked to the network during the subsequent operating period. By 2013, the plant's capacity will be raised by another 8,000 cm/d and by the same amount again in 2027, effectively doubling the plant's start-up capacity.
Municipal Solid Waste
The UAE generates approximately 561,000 tons per day of solid waste, which includes household, commercial, industrial, animal, agricultural, and medical waste.
In 2004, the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) collected in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi amounted to about 670,000 tones. Abu Dhabi has privatized solid waste treatment and disposal services. In late 2006 it awarded a 10-year contract worth $135 million for the design, construction and operation of a municipal solid waste management services for the whole of the Emirate to be completed in a period of 36 months The contractor entered into a 10 years agreement with the Abu Dhabi Municipality to include a MSW composting facility at the AI Dhafra site, a new sanitary landfill beside the existing Landfill at the Al Dhafra site, and a new inert waste landfill area at the AI Dhafra site. Also included in the agreement are five transfer stations for MSW in the Western Region on the sites of existing dumpsites, a new sanitary landfill beside the site of the existing landfill of Ruwais, a green waste composting facility at the Ruwais site, upgrade of the green waste composting facilities at Liwa and Ghayathi. Transportation of waste between the different sites, in particular the transfer stations and the transfer and sorting facility to the sanitary landfills is also included in the agreement. A government committee made up of Abu Dhabi Municipalities & Agriculture, Mubadala Development Company and the Environmental Department is overseeing the program. The committee's consultant is Germany's Fichtner. The Abu Dhabi Municipality contracted collection and transfer of MSW to private firms.
In 2006, Dubaj government launched Tadweer, a solid waste sorting and recycling facility, it was created as a private sector venture with Dubai Municipality as a strategic partner. Tadweer is a US$136 million recycling facility that will treat 4,000 tones of MSW per day. Tadweer is considering recycling MSW into renewable energy using new innovative techniques to supplement the government’s increasing energy needs, mainly electricity.
Private waste collection companies accounted for 49% of the General Waste collected in Dubai in 2003 and 53% in 2004. They are also involved in collection of construction & demolition (C&D) waste and are the sole collection service providers for hazardous waste and medical waste. Organized collection of recyclable material by private companies commenced in the early 1990s.
In 2005, the Emirate of Fujairah Municipality collected approximately 50,000 tons of MSW of which 30%-40% was sent to the Fujairah Fertilizers Factory to be processed into compost and the rest dumped into landfills. The Fertilizer Factory is a government owned facility established with the aid of an Italian company in 1986. The Fujairah Government announced plans for a new solid waste composting plant at their STP's site. The facility will use solid waste and sludge generated in the STP to produce high-quality fertilizer. The sludge will be treated with digesters developed by Passavant-Roediger to convert the organic mass into methane gas, water and stabilized sludge. The methane generated will in turn produce power for the plant, whose primary electricity source will be the Federal Electricity & Water Authority (FEWA). Ras Al Khaimah generated 208,050 tons of solid waste in 2004, of which 325 tons are MSW and the rest is C&D Waste, green waste and tires. Ras Al Khaimah developed the first integrated waste management program for solid waste disposal in UAE and in the entire region, which is based on US EPA standards. Collected waste is transferred to a material recovery facility where all MSW is sorted for recycling and the remaining is sent to landfill in bales. It now only takes 5 truckloads of baled waste where previously the trucks took at lease fifty trips to the landfill, reducing the pollution from the waste collection vehicles. The landfill has a gas recovery system, which has been operational since 2000-2001 and meets all US EPA stringent compliance requirements. The green waste, wood waste and the C&D waste go to inert waste landfill. There are future plans to start recycling green waste; wood waste and C&D waste.
In 2006 waste generated in the Emirate of Sharjah was 3000 tons from municipal solid waste [MSW] (generated from household sources); 16,000 tons from construction and demolition waste (CDW); and 1000 tons from industrial waste. Waste is delivered to Al Saja'a waste management site which is operated by Emirates Environmental Technology (EET) Co. LLC, and The Sharjah Environmental Company (Bee’ah). Al Saja'a’s total capacity is approximately 25 million cubic meters. The volume of waste arriving at the site from the Emirate of Sharjah grows by around 14 percent every year.
The Emirate of Umm Al-Qaiwain has signed a contract with a private company to build a garbage disposal enclosure of an international standard. The project will be built on a 400m x 600m area and should be complete soon.
Abu Dhabi National Oil Co and its group of companies are addressing vital environmental issues under their new Health Safety and Environment (HSE) policy and objectives. These include elimination of hydrocarbon flaring, abolition of continuous venting of hydrocarbon disposal, optimization of land use and energy resources, and reinjection of produced water and other effluents. HSE also examines ways to minimize the use of oil-based muds and the disposal of drilling muds and cuttings, so as not to contaminate the environment. It also looks at reducing and controlling solid and other wastes, including treatment and disposal as per international standards. Most importantly, HSE not only plans the clean up of oil and chemical spills, but also works to prevent them.
Approximately 21.5 tons per day of medical waste, including infectious and noninfectious wastes, are generated in the UAE. This figure is expected to increase to more than 35 tons per day by 2015 due to the population growth and the subsequent increase in the number of medical and healthcare facilities, not only in the urban areas but in rural areas as well. It is worth mentioning that several new government and private hospitals are in the pipeline.
A Royal Decree was issued in 2002 on medical waste from medical facilities in the UAE. The decree calls for a total ban on the disposal of medical waste in containers not designed for this purpose. It stipulates that all health centers should separate their medical waste from other waste material, and then dispose it in specially designed containers supplied by the municipality Medical waste in the UAE is simple as it is mainly generated by hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, drug manufacturing facilities and laboratories.
In Abu Dhabi there are currently only two private companies that collect, transfer and treat medical waste by non-incineration techniques. The performance of these companies has been below international standards and their replacement is imminent. The Government in Abu Dhabi is investigating the possibility to tender a BOT contract for contractors to handle medical waste from the collection stage to treatment and disposal based on international standards using new approved techniques. In Dubai there are three private companies that collect waste from private medical facilities and transfer the waste to Jebel Ali for incineration at Municipality Facilities. Ministry of Health and Dubai Department of Medical Services collect and transfer their own medical waste to the Jebel Ali Facility for disposal. Recently, Dubai Municipality signed a deal with a local group to build the UAE’s first vertical medical incinerator plant for the safe treatment of medical waste. The incinerator will be located in Jebel Ali Free Zone area and will have a treatment capacity of 20 tons per day.
In The Emirate of Sharjah, handling of medical waste is still not 100% regulated. Sharjah Environmental Company, a limited liability company that handles all of the Emirate’s solid waste, handles medical waste. The company’s treatment/recycling 6/1/2008 facility will begin operating by the beginning of 2008, but currently the medical waste is being incinerated at a municipality facility.
Medical waste in Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Al Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah Emirates is collected and transferred by private companies to Municipality incinerators. Ministry of Health (MOH) hospitals in these Emirates transfer their own medical waste to municipal incinerators for disposal. The government has placed certain rules and procedures for medical waste management, although they are not endorsed as a federal law. These rules and procedures require all health installation to dispose any medical waste in containers prepared for this purpose, to segregate their medical waste from any other wastes, to sort their medical waste according to the 6 groups mentioned above, and to pack waste in packages or containers made for this purpose. Companies in charge of medical waste transportation should be qualified and licensed operators and should pack, transport and store medical waste according to internationally approved standards. Licenses for medical facilities are not renewed until they provide copies of valid contracts for the collections of their medical waste with licensed medical waste transport companies.
The main source of air pollution in the UAE is the oil and gas industry, followed by the power and transportation sectors. Also the UAE has a relatively high, naturally occurring level of particulate matter in the air. In the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD) is about to complete the third phase of a four-phases, emirate-wide, air quality monitoring and management project. So far, it has collected baseline data, analyzed emissions and dispersion patterns, determined optimal number and locations of monitoring stations, and are in the process of establishing the monitoring network. Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) is in the process of installing six ambient air quality-monitoring stations at selected locations, and also installing on-line stack monitoring devices for selected emission sources.
EAD controls air emissions through pollution permits and inspection of industries, projects and activities. A model project to introduce compressed natural gas (CNG) into Abu Dhabi Emirate is being implemented by ADNOC under the supervision of a technical committee formed by the Executive Council and headed by EAD. Unleaded gasoline was introduced in the UAE in 2003, and leaded petrol was phased out The UAE is well known for the construction of building towers. Buildings that are 15-20 years old are knocked down and replaced by new, taller ones. Dust resulting from the demolition of old buildings is enormous. However, the used iron bars are recycled by smelters in order to be re-used while cement fragments are crushed and treated for reuse in landfill operations.
The Federal Environment Agency and the General Secretariat of Municipalities spend millions of dollars annually on environmental feasibility studies, awareness campaigns and development of human resources for carrying out environmental missions.
Article 4 of the UAE Federal Environmental Law #24, mandates that the implementation of any project in the UAE requires an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) This is 6/1/2008 done to ensure that the project does not adversely affect the environment. An application for an environmental permit has to be submitted for any proposed project by the project proponent/owner to the (EAD), which will decide whether the project needs a comprehensive EIA, a limited EIA or no EIA. Once it is decided that an EIA is needed, the project proponent (or his consultant) has to prepare the EIA scope of work. The latter will be reviewed by EAD, which approves the project based on the review of the EIA study report. EAD will also oversee the implementation of the EIA recommendation. Only pre-qualified consultants by EAD should carry out EIAs.
Environmental protection equipment and supplies that are locally produced are limited in the UAE. However, water pipes, fertilizers, cement, paper products, nylon bags, valves, and a few other items are locally produced. US manufacturers and exporters enjoy an excellent reputation for product technology, quality and durability and US market share is expected to increase. US companies face tough competition from the Europeans in the UAE, who generally have offices here and travel frequently to the region. Providing after-sale maintenance services is essential and US companies are advised to establish a presence in the UAE to be able to compete. In general, US companies with a manufacturing presence in the UAE and the GCC are most likely to be able to compete in the UAE market, given the relatively low cost of production. The UAE enjoys a free trade market system. An over-the-board custom duty of five percent applies to all imports with the exception of a few items. There are no restrictions on foreign exchange and money transfer operations.