Public transport is changing habits in UAE

In 2008, for a second time, the UAE was ranked the country with the highest per-capita environmental footprint.

When Kedar Iyer first moved to Dubai from Paris he could have easily done what most expatriates do upon arriving - rent or hire a car. But instead of shopping for the latest SUV, the digital media specialist checked out carpools, taxis and bus routes. After measuring his environmental footprint 18 months ago he went one step further and now walks and takes the Dubai Metro.

Speaking of his former habits, he said: "If everyone on the planet lived like me, we would need 13 planets. I decided to bring down my [carbon] footprint to five, which is the global average." Mr Iyer, 31, is one of a minority in the UAE who choose to walk and use public transport. In 2008, for a second time, the UAE was ranked the country with the highest per-capita environmental footprint, largely due to greenhouse gases released by power plants and vehicles. Driving less, carpooling and taking public transport are recommended ways to reduce emissions.

Peyman Younes Parham, a spokesman for the Roads and Transport Authority, said a year after the metro opened, 130,000 trips were made every day. "Hopefully this will lead to the formation of habits," he said. Mohamed Parham al Awadhi, an Emirati restaurateur living in Dubai, is one example. One day this spring, he took his car in for a service and "kind of left it there". "I don't think it is the right thing to go through life carelessly and selfishly," said Mr al Awadhi. "Of course with the car I can be there [at work] a lot quicker but I asked myself, 'At what cost does this come?' There is going to be an impact for everything you do in life."

Mr al Awadhi, 36, who runs a restaurant, Wild Peeta, with his brother, said the summer heat has made it more difficult to walk outside. "Not all bus stops have shades or air-conditioned shelters," he said. "I wear the khandoura, must always have a lot of water handy and always wear a cap," he said. Mr Iyer said opting for public transport saved time and stress. "Driving is a waste of time," he said. "When our company office was in Deira, everyone would spend 45 minutes... looking for parking. On the metro I can read a book or talk to friends."