Project 1: Masdar City
Location: Abu Dhabi’s outskirts
Estimate completion date: First phase set to open in 2013
What is it? In 2006, the UAE made its greenest move yet by revealing designs for a 6km-square eco-city called Masdar (‘the source’ in Arabic). Its aim is ‘to be the world’s centre for future energy solutions,’ says associate project director, Dr Nawal Al Hosany. The Dhs81billion plan hopes to foster sustainable development in the UAE and trigger economic diversification by developing the alternative energy sector.
Greater efficiency is the key to achieving these goals. ‘Electricity and cooling will be generated by solar panels,’ continues Dr Al Hosany. ‘Landscaping will be irrigated with treated waste water produced by the city’s treatment plant, which will significantly reduce water consumption.’
The city will be designed in such a way that walking and cycling are feasible forms of transport. But in case that seems a little extreme, the city’s estimated 1,500 businesses and 40,000 residents will be served by over 3,000 PRTs [Personal Rapid Transits – automated passenger vehicles].
In short, the Masdar Initiative represents an unparalleled undertaking that will be carbon neutral, car-free and result in zero waste. It will also host the Institute of Science and Technology and the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena – see below), thus positioning Abu Dhabi as a global knowledge hub in terms of environmental protection.
Of course, we can’t expect a project this big to be finished any time soon. Construction has been divided into seven phases throughout the next decade –with the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and Masdar headquarters set to be complete by 2013.
So only the future will tell if Abu Dhabi’s sustainable city is more than just utopia.
For more: www.masdaruae.com.
Project 2: The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)
Location: Abu Dhabi (Masdar City)
Estimate completion date: Introduced earlier this year What is it? Irena was set up in Bonn, Germany to encourage the world to cooperate in the fight against climate change. With 136 signatory states and an annual budget of Dhs92 million, it will try to promote sustainable energies worldwide – and look to support policies that can help deliver cleaner practices in developing and developed countries.
Because of this, the intergovernmental organisation will mainly play an advisory role, providing reliable data, sharp expertise and suggesting financing policies, while working closely with industrialists, researchers and the public. The decision to place Irena’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi is a significant boost to the UAE’s green credentials.
For more: www.irena.org.
Project 3: The Green Building Code
Completion date: Enforced since January 2008
What is it? The name ‘Dubai’ tends to conjure up images of endless skyscrapers – hardly the vision of a green city. Thus, the ‘Green Building Code’ directive from Dubai municipality aims to ensure the city’s future growth goes along environmentally friendly lines and is the cornerstone of the sustainable development strategy from The Dubai Strategic Plan 2015. In short, it’s a big deal. The ‘green building’ concept – identical to that enforced by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) – guarantees sustainable building design and construction for all establishments, from businesses and homes to schools and hospitals. How does it work? Basically, the USGBC enforce a rating system – named after the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) programme – made up of four levels: certified, silver, gold and platinum at the top. ‘Dubai is the first city in the Middle East to adopt green building specifications’ H.E. Mohammed Al Gergawi, Chairman of the Executive Office in Dubai, pointed out while presenting the initiative in 2007.
For more: www.usgbc.org.
Project 4: Bee’Ah
Completion date: In progress
What is it? ‘Together we can’. The Obama-style slogan belongs to the Middle East’s biggest recycling company. Bee’ah focuses on developing initiatives to protect Sharjah’s environment by involving its residents.
The eco-company relies on every sphere of society to work towards a ‘cleaner and healthier city’. Citizens, children, industrials, educators and politicians are being solicited to join their efforts via special events or their web campaign. Bee’ah pushes the message that local and minimal actions can all help tackle global warming. ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ – on your own scale, however slight – is its main message to the individual. The organisation is also developing state-of-the-art-technology as part of its recycling programme. This year it launched Tandeef, a cleaning vehicle offering ‘a complete range of waste collection, management, street cleaning and beautification services’. And if you don’t spot this as a sign of Bee’ah’s hard work, look out for their blue collection boxes posted in various public places to collect recyclable items.
For more: www.beeah-uae.com.
Project 5: Zayed International Prize For The Environment
Completion date: In action since 1999
What is it? Perhaps in an effort to prove the UAE’s commitment to green policies, HH Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum – the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai – established the world’s most valuable environmental award, the US$1million [Dhs3.7million] Zayed Prize. The biennale Zayed Prize honours individuals – regardless of their nationalities – who have contributed remarkably in the sectors of sustainable development and the environment. Three categories are listed: ‘Global leadership in environment and sustainable development’ (US$500,000/ Dhs1.8million prize money), ‘Scientific/technological achievements in environment’ (US$300,000/ Dhs1.1million) and ‘Environmental action leading to positive change in society’ (US$200,000/Dhs734,620).
Over the years, former US President Jimmy Carter, the BBC and former UN Secretary General Kofi Anan have been presented with the prize, ranking it as one of the most prestigious eco-awards worldwide. The organisation even has a chair on the UN Economic and Social Council. In layman’s terms, it’s the Golden Globes of the green world.
For more: www.zayedprize.org.ae.