Stringent environmental laws for the UAE to come into force

The Ministry of Environment and Water will be given new powers to penalise polluters and develop recycling under legislation expected to be introduced this year.

Broad reforms being considered for environmental laws will allow the ministry to bypass the courts and punish offenders.

Dr Rashid bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water, said his ministry was also drafting laws for management of waste, including hazardous materials.

The changes were part of moves to give the ministry and local bodies more control over cases where the law is broken, Dr bin Fahad said.

“It will give the law more teeth,” he said. “The ministry will have more power and will be able to respond quickly to cases.”

The draft law shifting authority for penalties is being revised by the Ministry of Justice.

It must then be approved by the Cabinet and Federal National Council before being passed by the President’s Office.

Dr bin Fahad said he had no timeframe for the introduction of the ministry’s own bill to regulate waste.

“This is still with the ministry and we are in consultation with the various local authorities,” he said.

“As you know, [effective waste management] is a challenge not only for the UAE, but for the entire world.”

The draft will spell out requirements for handling solid, liquid, medical and hazardous waste, Dr bin Fahad said.

The rules aim to make a distinction between disposal of the different wastes, depending on the harm they can cause on human health and that of the environment.

The lack of unified rules has often been cited as a major problem by environmental experts.

As some emirates lack the facilities to deal with some types of waste they are often placed in normal landfill sites, which can seriously affect the environment.

The new draft also attempts to change the existing rules to encourage more recycling, said Dr bin Fahad.

He said more recycling would greatly reduce energy use and mean less space would be needed for landfills, where most of the UAE's rubbish usually ends up.

“We need to create an industry and a market for recycled materials,” Dr bin Fahad said.

The UAE has an extremely high per capita generation of waste.

Studies carried out in 2010 by the Centre of Waste Management Abu Dhabi estimated the emirate produces between 1.8 kilograms and 2.4kg a person a day, almost double the amount of the United Kingdom.

If the current trajectory remains the same, the Government could be spending as much as Dh22 billion on waste management a year by 2030 for Abu Dhabi alone.

Experts have previously said that the Abu Dhabi figures were representative of the rest of the country.