With the increase in Global Warming and the spread of awareness of its effects, the terms such as ‘sustainable development’ are always in discussion and we keep coming across them. As the term “sustainable development” signifies it refers to development in such a manner that it is compatible with sustenance. The natural resources that are utilized for the development must be consumed in such a manner that they may replenish and the remaining quantities are enough for the coming generations. Sustainable development thus refers to development which facilitates the continuance of life on our planet. The needs of the present generation must not undermine the aspirations of the future generation.
The UAE federal law no. 24 of 1999 (hereinafter known as ‘the law’) contains provisions regarding sustainable development. First, it casts a duty on the people responsible for development of the country or those who play any role in the process of development, who are responsible for planning, economic and constructional development, to consider aspects of protection of the environment, control of pollution and rational use of natural resources when developing economic and social plans and when establishing and executing of projects.
The second responsibility vested in the Federal Environmental Agency who is to consult and coordinate with the competent authorities and the people concerned with the development and undertake the preparation, issuance, revision, development and updating measurements and standards of environment protection. The Agency while determining the measures for environmental protection is to at all times keep in mind that the measures must be such as to facilitate sustainable development for which it must at all times strike a balance between the technological capabilities available and the economic cost in such a manner that the levels of pollution remain in control and the requirements for a healthy environment are fulfilled.
The measures and standards for sustainable growth and development and environmental protection by the Federal Environmental Agency are to be complied with at all times and the only time when non-compliance shall be tolerated is in the case of emergency or in case a non-compliant act is necessary in order to protect the lives or the ensure the safety of the establishment or work area. But it is essential that such acts of non-compliance must be notified to the Agency and the competent authorities so as to enable them to take necessary measures for damage control.
Further the law also prohibits certain acts enlisted below that are derogatory to the lives of animals that help maintain a wholesome environment:
1. It is prohibited to hunt, kill or capture birds, wild and marine animals identified and specified in three lists that are attached with the law.
2. It is prohibited to possess, transport, wander with, sell or offer such birds or animals for sale, alive or dead, without obtaining a license from the competent authorities.
3. It is also prohibited to damage the nests or destroy the eggs of the said birds. The executive regulations shall determine the areas licensed for hunting, the conditions for licensing and the means of supervision that are necessary for the implementation of this article.
The law has also prescribed sanctions for violation of any of the above three prohibitions. The degree of punishment is in accordance to the category of the birds and animals. For violations in respect to the birds or animals that are listed in the first list the punishment prescribed is a term of imprisonment for a period of no less than six months and a fine of no less than twenty thousand Dirhams. For violations in respect to the birds or animals that are listed in the second list the punishment prescribed is a term of Imprisonment for a period of no less than three months and a fine of no less than ten thousand Dirhams or either punishment. For violations in respect to the birds or animals that are listed in the third list the punishment prescribed is a term of Imprisonment for a period of no less than one month and a fine of no less than five thousand Dirhams or either punishment.
Apart from this, any other violation with respect of any regulation prescribed by the law is punishable by a fine of not less than Five Hundred Dirhams (AED 500) and not exceeding Ten Thousand Dirhams (AED 10,000). The punishment in all cases of repetition of violation is double the term of imprisonment and double the fine amount that was awarded during the prior conviction.
Apart from the above mentioned sanctions the law has also adopted the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP) according to which when a person either intentionally or due to any negligent act of his causes harm to the environment, he is to compensate for the loss suffered by all people due to the said environmental damage. Not only does the person have to compensate for such loss, he is also supposed to bear all costs that are incurred in the process of treating or removing such environmental damage.
The UAE is playing an active role in promoting sustainable development and in furtherance of that the 20th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development which took place on 29th- 30th May 2013 was hosted by UAE and was held in Dubai. The issues regarding the climatic change, food security, water security, increasing drought and desertification, land degradation, natural disasters and extreme events (dust storms, heat waves and floods), diseases and epidemics in the Arab region were the main discussion topics during this meeting and it reaffirmed the principles enumerated by the Rio Declaration in 1992.
There are also various private organizations that provide their services to industries and establishments in undertaking their projects in a sustainable manner. One such organization is the Middle East Centre for Sustainable Development (MECSD) which provides for guidelines for green building and efficient use of Energy. Also it provides for a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification for the establishments that undertake green building.
The Emirate of Dubai has often been criticized for its unsustainable rate of urbanization and the extreme use of natural resources for the transformation of the desert. Also the projects of creation of artificial islands is said to deteriorate the aquatic life forms. Dubai needs to re consider its own environmental policies in order to follow the principles of sustainable development and going green