Capital's health to be gauged

Olabode Esan is to take a clean look at the grubbier side of Abu Dhabi life.

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ABU DHABI // Olabode Esan is to take a clean look at the grubbier side of Abu Dhabi life. Anything from air quality to litter to noise pollution will factor in his proposed Clean City Index - a plan to quantify the state of the city's environment. The index, which follows similar green measurement systems adopted in New York, Australia and Singapore, is to be developed next year. Mr Esan, the municipality's acting director of public sanitation, acknowledged that gauging the environmental toll of city life "can be very, very subjective", but added that establishing a point of reference was useful for identifying areas in which the city's environmental policy was lagging behind.

"It's a measure that's hard to quantify," he said. "We don't have any concrete plan yet for how we're going to do that physically. "The thinking behind this is to have a quantitative index so that we can measure cleanliness, but not just cleanliness on the streets - it's a big basket of things." Once the index is finalised, the municipality will dispatch a monitoring team to report on how the city is performing. "We have to look at what we're doing and look at how far it goes in order to give a clear perception to the public of how clean our environment is."

Mr Esan presented the plans at an environmental workshop yesterday organised by the Department of Municipal Affairs, during which the Al Ain, Abu Dhabi and Al Gharbia municipalities each spoke about their green initiatives. The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) also took part in a brainstorming session on how to better co-ordinate their activities. Mohammed al Jawdar, the EAD's director of strategy management, welcomed Abu Dhabi's plans for the index, saying it will complement another environmental measurement tool the agency is developing called the Environmental Performance Indicators (EPI) framework.

"We are working with Columbia and Yale [universities] to develop something that is scientifically sound that you can use to measure our environmental performance," Mr Jawdar said. "It is made of a different set of indicators - water quality, air quality, waste, biodiversity and will hopefully be finalised by the end of this year." According to the 2008 Environmental Performance Index, published by Yale, there is much room for improvement. The study ranked the UAE 112th out of 149 countries, scoring it with a 64 per cent for the nation's environmental policies.

Mr Esan said he looked forward to discussing with the EAD how the Clean City Index might complement its system. "We know that the EAD already has a similar index, but I think that's particular to air pollution and waste pollution, so I'd like to see how we can work together on that." The next step, he said, was to form a committee to conceive of key criteria for measuring the city's cleanliness. He added that the public sanitation division was studying how to modernise the rubbish tip at Al Mafraq and would also close and rehabilitate tips at Al Dhafra next year.

The municipality also plans to launch an awareness campaign in 2009 to educate residents about recycling.