Inspectors in Abu Dhabi have been granted powers to hand out hefty fines of up to Dh1 million ($272,257) to those who damage the environment.
There are 99 breaches covered under the new law, which grants Environment Agency Abu Dhabi the ability to issue penalties to people, projects and facilities.
They punish acts from graffiti to the discharge of toxic waste and the destruction of mangroves and marine environments.
Fines start at Dh1,000 and rise to Dh1m for repeat offences.
“The value of the fine is determined based on the type of the violation and the recurrence rate,” said a spokeswoman for the agency.
“The value of each fine is determined in accordance with the recurrence of the violation, gradually increasing upon the second and next violations.
“The value of the administrative fines ranges between Dh1,000 and Dh1m depending on the nature of the violation and the extent of the damage it causes to the environment.”
The powers also include the possibility of reconciliation — giving people and organisations the chance to fix the damage, according to criteria issued by the agency, in return for a reduction of up to 25 per cent in the fine.
The agency’s new powers to fine those who break the law, resulting from a resolution issued by Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, who is chairman of the EAD, come as authorities stepped up patrols of an ancient rock formation after it was damaged by vandals.
A carving and message scrawled in graffiti were discovered at the site by volunteers during a clean-up event last April.
An EAD team removed the spray paint and the area has since been granted protected status.
Potential breaches and fines
Under the agency’s new powers, anyone found spray-painting graffiti in an open-air area can be fined Dh5,000 for a first offence, rising to Dh10,000 if the offence is repeated and Dh20,000 thereafter.
Other offences include destruction, removal or having a negative impact on natural marine habitats such as mangroves, coral reefs, seagrass and marshes. This leads to a Dh20,000 fine for a first offence, Dh50,000 for another and Dh100,000 thereafter.
Spearfishing using compressed air cylinders and surface air supply tubes without a licence from the EAD is also punishable with a first-time fine of Dh20,000, a penalty of Dh50,000 for a second and Dh100,000 thereafter.
Failure of a facility to conduct periodic maintenance work leading to pollution costs is Dh20,000 for a first offence, Dh50,000 on for a second and Dh100,000 thereafter.
The most serious offence, with the highest fine, is the discharge of toxic or hazardous material into the sewer or rainwater network. That leads to a fine of Dh150,000, rising to Dh500,000 if the offence is repeated and Dh1m each time thereafter.
The discharge of polluted “non-degradable materials” into the terrestrial or marine environment is punishable with a fine of Dh100,000, rising to Dh200,000 if repeated and Dh500,000 each time thereafter.