Major environmental threats | WWF

Major environmental threats

Urbanization and Industrial Development

The major environmental threats in the UAE can be summarized as those that a fast developing country is facing.
The transition between a traditional economy based on subsistence fisheries, oasis agriculture and livestock to a modern, highly urbanized country in less than 30 years is affecting the environment.

Habitat for wildlife has been lost due to urbanization and industrial development (oil and gas), over fishing and over grazing. The fast urbanization is bringing problems of waste management.

Pollution concerns are rising, especially in the proximity of new industrial complexes; and also on account of the oil trade. Ground water is being extracted at a very high pace to satisfy the demand of green belt plantations and new farming.

Ecological Footprint
World resources are being consumed at a rate far faster on average than their availability. This trend towards overshoot (using far more of our natural resources than our planet can physically and biologically sustain) began in the early 1980’s. The Global Footprint Network estimates that the biocapacity or “ecological budget” of our planet Earth is roughly 2.1 global hectares per person. Currently about 2.7 global hectares are used annually to support the life style and consumption pattern of the average person living on Earth. In other words, we have taken out a loan with our planet. As of 2009, overshoot has been estimated to be at 40%.

All individuals on the planet contribute in some way to the increasing trend in overburdening our Earth’s renewable resources and ecological services, and the UAE is of no exception. According to the 2008 WWF Living Planet Report, the per capita Ecological Footprint of an average UAE resident in 2005 was the highest in the world at 9.5 global hectares - 3.5 times higher than the average person across the globe and more than 8 times higher than the ecological budget locally available (1.08 global hectares per capita).

Recreational outdoor activities are now starting to affect the environment, especially in fragile ecosystems such as 'wadis' in the Hajjar Mountains where an increasing number of occasional tourists are camping around, and swimming in, the 'wadis.'

The coastline is also affected by the development of large tourist resorts and several coastal areas of regional importance are being threatened by tourism development. Indirectly affecting the environment is the lack of an organized institutional framework and environmental legislation Awareness.

The environment is very much a concern that is being addressed at the government and non-government levels. However, people's understanding of what needs to be done is still very poor, and the link between lifestyles in the Emirates and its effects on the environment is not understood.
	© WWF / Michel GUNTHER
Petrol tanker waiting for its cargo, Fujeirah port, United Arab Emirates
© WWF / Michel GUNTHER
	© Bruno Pambour / WWF
Cement plant along Red Sea coast threatening the coral reefs with the dust.
© Bruno Pambour / WWF