A free tracker that measures the amount of pollution in the air has been endorsed by Abu Dhabi's environment agency, as it acknowledged the scale of the problem and urged the public to be aware of its impact.
The EAD said the Plume Air Report app would help residents monitor air quality both in real-time and 24 hours ahead.
On Monday, the app's readings for Dubai recorded 'Excessive Pollution' while a reading for Abu Dhabi found 'High Pollution'.
Last week, The National reported that levels of air quality throughout the UAE were at times on par with heavily industrialised cities including Beijing, Bangkok and Mumbai.
“Through this app, our goal is to make data more accessible to inform and empower the community to better understand air quality, and better plan outdoor activities based on the quality of the air,” Ahmed Baharoon, executive director of the Environmental Information, Science and Outreach Management Sector at EAD, said in a statement.
Officials from the EAD said they were currently able to measure pollution in the UAE at 20 fixed points as well as two mobile stations. All the data is then fed live to the Plume Air Report, which offers readings for ozone, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter- which includes dust, ash and sea spray – that are created by power generation, domestic heating and vehicle exhaust.
At 3.33pm on Monday, for example, Abu Dhabi had 'High Pollution', with a Plume Air Quality Index (AQI) of 86. The readings were accompanied by a cartoon cloud with a neutral expression.
For comparison, at 3.35pm on Monday UAE time, Beijing, a city known for its high pollution levels, had a AQI of 105.
At the same time, Al Ain had 'Very High Pollution' – accompanied by a cartoon cloud with a sad face – with an AQI reading of 102.
The Plume app is available in Arabic and English and is produced by Plume Labs, a Paris-headquartered company founded in 2014. It is described as providing coverage for every city on earth.
“We are constantly seeking access to a broader range of data sources to bring the same level of accuracy to more cities around the world," said Romain Lacombe, founder and chief executive of Plume Labs.
"We're delight to work with EAD to bring our free mobile application to Abu Dhabi, and encourage other environmental agencies to reach out to us.”
The readings for Dubai, also at 3.33pm on Monday, recorded “Excessive Pollution”, a result illustrated with an angry-looking cloud.
Mr Lacombe said that in places such as Abu Dhabi, where the app has real-time data from “quality monitoring stations”, it can report current conditions very accurately and use machine-learning algorithms to provide forecasts.
“For the rest of the world, in urban areas where we do not have access to ground-level monitoring stations yet – including in Dubai – or in rural areas where coverage is non-existent, we use estimated concentration data from satellite-based models,” he said.
The results provided by the Plume Air Quality Index on Monday afternoon approximately tallied with those of another commercial air quality information provider, BreezoMeter.
It gave Al Ain, Dubai and Abu Dhabi 'Low Air Quality' readings of 28, 29 and 38 on its 100-point scale, where a higher number indicates better air quality.
These numbers represent a marked improvement over late July, when dust storms sent pollution levels soaring.
A week ago, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi had BreezoMeter readings in the single figures.
World Bank data from 2015 found that the UAE had the world’s most-polluted air, but the authorities in the Emirates rejected this at the time.
More recent figures published by the World Bank have indicated much lower pollution levels, however, and have suggested that the UAE is less polluted than countries including as China and India.