Nowadays, the problem of air pollution in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the most significant environmental threats, and the government should take measures to ensure progress in the ecological sustainability of the country. The respective target audience that I am addressing is the UAE government, and I believe that through the combination of various methods, it is possible to make positive improvements.
The importance of taking measures for fighting air pollution is on a large scale as it is connected to humans’ life and health, the most valuable things in the world. The root causes and predominant factors of the air pollution problem are human activities, such as transportation, construction, mining, agriculture, smelting, and industrial work. In addition, there are natural processes that contribute to this issue, for example, volcanic eruptions, wildfires as well as frequent dust storms. Regarding the latter one, the UAE experiences them in February-March and June-August, and it not only causes irritation, but also hazardous to health and safety (Madan, 2015). In comparison with anthropogenic (caused by people), natural sources of air pollution are not as significant. Natural sources that contaminate the Earth are local and relatively small, unlike human activities, which are happening daily all over the world and pollute the air in a huge scale. It is a well-known fact that humans greatly suffer from air pollution. A number of dangerous elements that get into air destroy the ozone layer and contribute to global warming. Furthermore, they negatively influence people’s health, as contaminated air can be the reason of respiratory tract irritation, cough, asthma, strokes, heart diseases, low birth weight, chronic lung diseases, and even lung cancer (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Climate Change & Environment, 2018). Moreover, in the case of prolonged exposure, air pollution can cause skin problems.
Another cause of air pollution in the UAE is petroleum production. The country is famous for its vast oil and gas resources, and it is the seventh largest producer of petroleum products in the world. Oil production, refining, water desalination, industrial processes, and power generation contribute to air pollution, since petroleum and other liquids and gases discharge dangerous pollutants in the environment when they evaporate (Khaleel, 2017). Moreover, various installations located at petroleum refinery stations, such as sulfuric acid plants, heaters, boilers, and fluid catalytic cracking units emit harmful substances in the air, in particular, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2). The aforementioned chemical elements produce volatile organic compounds when they burn. The evaporations negatively affect human health and make eyes, nose, and throat irritating, as well as cause headaches, nausea, and problems with liver and kidney (Hesperian Health Guides, n.d.).
One more reason that contributes to the deterioration of air in the country is the exhaust gases from the enormous number of vehicles. In fact, the UAE has one of the highest traffics in the world. According to the statistics of Roads and Transport Authority in 2015, Dubai, for example, has vehicle density of 540 per 1000 people. Between 2006 and 2014, the number of cars doubled, and it was 1.4 million in 2014 (Nowais, 2018). Since it is impossible to quit oil retriever for the sustainable environment, though it is possible to reduce the number of cars on the roads and change the type of fuel for them.
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According to the United Nations Organization, the greatest environmental threat to the population’s health is air pollution. Every year nearly 6.5 million people worldwide die from exposure to air pollution (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Climate Change & Environment, 2018). Hazardous influence of air pollution negatively affects not only the health condition of the citizens, but also the economic and social spheres of the country. Thus, the quality of air in the country is among the main issues of the National Vision 2021 agenda (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Climate Change & Environment, 2018). In fact, the agenda’s key point is to lift air quality from its current level to at least 90 percent. Therefore, in order to reach this goal, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, together with its partners, work both in public and in private sectors to make this goal close to realization. For instance, the Ministry proposed to use a state-of-the-art system and techniques, as well as to adopt many valuable practices that will help in tackling the issue. The proposed ideas are the following: to develop and increase national standards of air pollution and compliance control, switch to the green economy, expand the use of clean energy in many spheres, enlarging the facilities that control air quality, as well as implement smart technologies (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Climate Change & Environment, 2018).
Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) is responsible for checking and improving the quality of air in the capital. In 2017, it released a State of Environment (SoE) Report, which identified air pollution as the main environmental threat (Khaleel, 2017). Section manager of air quality Ruqaya Mohammad reported that EAD applied multiple efforts in order to reduce pollution and improve public health together with UAE’s Vision 2021. First, a network of 20 fixed and two mobile monitoring stations was established to control air quality in Abu Dhabi (Khaleel, 2017). Every hour, special equipment measures up to 17 types of pollutants and selects meteorological parameters. The results of measurement are necessary for providing accurate data on air quality, which helps EAD and other concerned authorities to inform the drivers and state of air condition. In addition, this information is needed to monitor the impact of targeted management and policy responses. Regarding the disadvantages of this policy, it is possible to say that it does not help to reduce harmful emission to the environment; it only examines the quality of air.
In 2016, a high-level committee of Abu Dhabi Executive Council accepted the Low Emission Vehicle Strategy main task of which is to popularize low emission vehicles in order to diminish air pollution. The strategy concentrates on three main areas, in particular, the rise of the awareness of the people to use sustainable transportation, comfortable infrastructure, and empowerment through various supporting incentives. Low emission cars play a key role as an effective means of supporting economic system, improving quality of life and environmental protection (Halder, 2016). Therefore, in order to encourage citizens to buy electric cars, Dubai proposed them to charge their transports without any fees until 2019, do not pay for the registration of the vehicle, get free tags so that they are excused from the Salik road toll system, and freely use designated green parking. As for the disadvantages of this policy, it is possible to say that it is not a fast process to switch all the available cars of UAE to electric or hybrid ones. In addition, environmentally friendly vehicles are very expensive and it is almost impossible to make people change their cars unless they have a strong will to do it.
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Monitoring air quality is significant, since breathing is a vitally important activity for all living creatures, and it is necessary to know the condition of air in order to take measures in case of dangerous indexes. Especially valuable this information is for people that belong to the sensitive categories, such as children, the elderly, and individuals with lung illnesses. Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi introduced an application called Plume app, which enables citizens of all major cities across the world to plan their outdoor activities based on the current air-quality indexes (Gulf News UAE, 2018). The data presented in the application plays a vital role in decisions making to help the nation achieve its targets. The current policy approach of measuring air quality with the help of application is undoubtedly useful as it recommends when one should avoid outdoor activities when air quality is poor, as well as proposes various entertaining choices when air condition is close to the norm. This approach can be improved in the following way – to spread this information to a greater number of people by locating screens that display the current data in public places, offices, hospitals, schools, and shopping malls. This recommendation is best suited to deal with the problem, since it can eliminate negative consequences regarding health worsening, as a higher percentage of people will be informed to stay indoors or reduce time spent outside to a minimum.
Obviously, the popularization of electric cars can be one of the best solutions in order to reduce harmful emissions that are released into the atmosphere. The government should promote electric car usage through all possible sources of information. It is also recommendable to lower the number of petrol vehicles on the roads because they contribute to worsening the air quality by promoting public transport and proposing affordable tickets. In addition, it is advisable to gradually increase the number of hybrid cars, as they are much less harmful to the environment. For the convenience of electric car users, it would be beneficial if charging facilities were located at petrol stations, close to main office complexes, parking lots, and various public buildings. In such a way, it would be possible to eliminate traffic jams for those who need fuel. Moreover, it is recommended to provide financial support for those who want to purchase a hybrid vehicle. The recommendations that I have suggested are best suited to deal with the problem of air pollution because the Plume application can inform citizens about critical air indexes, and promoting electric cars can eventually reduce emissions into the atmosphere.