Don't waste your breath

The poor air quality in Dubai is so obvious, yet few people in the industry and Dubai Municipality want to talk about it.


This summer has been brutal, and I'm not talking about the heat.

I can't remember the last time I saw truly blue skies here in Dubai. I mean like the ones in those television advertisements and travel brochures. Instead, we are treated to a milky white substance that is a cross between fog and smog.

Tall buildings disappear and there seems to be a malaise that settles during the day. The last thing anybody wants to do is leave the comforts of the office building or home.

The poor air quality in Dubai is so obvious yet few people in the industry and Dubai Municipality want to talk about it. Assistant editor Jamie Stewart discovered that during his two-month investigation into the causes of Dubai's poor air.

Significant dust levels are expected here since Dubai has more construction activity than perhaps any other urban centre in the world, not to mention the routine dust storms which aggravate the problem. But I suspect that construction industry leaders and the DM are not making a full effort to minimise the particulate matter in the air.

The most obvious evidence of a lackadaisical attitude toward air quality is the apparent total absence of erosion and sedimentation control on construction sites. In other words, very few sites have water trucks wetting the ground and steam rollers packing it to minimise dust.

Despite the building frenzy over the past six or seven years there are no legal requirements in Dubai to better regulate dust from work sites. And just to confuse matters, it's a complete mystery as to whether such regulations will be on the books after January 1 when new laws are announced.

Couple this negligence with the DM's rather cavalier approach to transparency. We all live, work and breathe air in Dubai but if we wanted to know whether it's healthy to breathe, the DM is not prepared to tell us.

The DM certainly wants us to know that its air quality records are available to the public, but just where we can find that information is, well, apparently a secret. When Construction Week was directed by the DM to a website with all the pertinent data, it was missing. When we notified the DM the data was not available, they not only had no answer for us they were less than enthusiastic to provide one.

What we did discover is that particulate matter in Dubai is substantially higher than the guideline levels of exposure established by the World Health Organisation. I can assure you that we did not get that out of choice from the Dubai Municipality.

Rob Wagner is the editor of Construction Week.

RELATED LINKS:Dubai: Takes your breath away?

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Posted by: Sue-Sharyn Ward

I have lived here since 1979 and been subjected to many and varied dust and sandstorms over the years with no adverse effects. It is only in the last 2 years that I have started having breathing problems due to the 'smog' hanging heavily over Dubai. So new irritants seem to be to blame. Black diesel smoke from poorly maintained construction vehicles and buses, along with the construction and destruction dust (particularly in the Satwa/Jumeirah Area) make Tai Chi on the beach less than pleasant. Who to approach to voice my concern? Dubai Municipality has been helpful with past issues but are probably overwhelmed.

Posted by: ClevaTreva

As someone who has suffered from pnumonia twice in the last three years in Dubai, I'm extremely concerned on what is happening here. The last visit to my GP confirmed that he has seen a huge increase in cases of people with respiratory problems. Possibly you should be looking at the healthcare data, if its available.

Posted by: Hani Zaitoun

This is another concern that has been added to my list of the disadvantages when living here. Unfortunately we shy away from discussing these issues as we are busy making a living, but what kind of living it is and at what cost. Gaining in wealth on the account of your health which may never be restored? With all the money GCC countries have, why are they using the outdated model, or benchmark for that matter? Another aspect why not being published? As citizens don't we have the right? Or all of this is a maze. My daughter suffered 2 asthma attacks in the UAE, once was sent to spend a year in Lebanon she was better. She still suffers difficulty in breathing sometimes. Just to add, another epidemic is the stomach bacteria, being H-Pylori, everyother person seems to have a caught this bacteria from eating in restaurants in the country. Europe and the US were successful in eradicating it, while here it is increasing. Where is the supervision and observation in restaurant kitchens and hygiene?!!! It seems the Municipality is busy giving construction permits. Well it seems everone has the money fever!!!! Well I keep asking myself at what cost.

Posted by: Louie Tedesco

The expat community is transient and we will leave after a few years here, tourists typically only stay a few weeks and they most likely will never come back. Conversely, it is the local population who will suffer the consequences of their poor environmental stewardship, burdening the health of their future generations. Of course, they can continue to travel abroad for their medical treatment after the completion of Health Care City. The expat population appears more concerned about the environment in Dubai than the empowered authorities are. Is this the message that the world should receive?

Posted by: Mohd

I have been in the oil & gas industry for ten years now. I can say that neither DM nor the industry leaders care about the environment. DM used to be tough on environmental regulations may be more than seven years ago but it has changed its stance dramaticaly most probably due to their organizational change and power stripped off from them in favor of other government departments. Leaders in my organization (mostly expat) are so greedy, they can't even see a problem in the air.

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