Environmental and Economic Challenges in Dubai

Environmental and Economic Challenges in Dubai

Project description: Post-oil economy in Dubai: Overcoming environmental and economic challenges in a fast-growing cosmopolitan city

Dubai is one of the fastest growing Cities in the World and stands out in the Middle East due to its sparkling skyline. However, on the ground where it was built, environmental challenges make the city less appealing. The primary source of revenue is oil which has played a crucial role in the development and growth of the region. However, with the unstable oil prices and depleting resource, there is an urgency to transform the city from an oil-based economy. There are also environmental challenges that are rampant in the region due to urbanization.

Oil production has come at the cost of high emissions and other environmental problems. The surging population due to economic Boom has also contributed to the emissions. The Minister of Climate Change in U.A.E. Thani bin Ahmed, the increased population, has led to unsustainable production and sustainable pattern. Dubai not only has to decarbonize its power and the transport sector to achieve clean sources of energy but also the water sector (Connelly, 2018). Water consumed in the desert megacity is extracted from salt water using intense fossil energy.

Otherworld Cities like Las Vegas have endured similar challenges and provide a benchmark and model for Dubai to emulate. Las Vegas which is located in a desert has transformed to be a world leader in tourist arrivals and the fastest growing metropolitan in the United States. It began with Casino attractions before diversifying its business ventures like amusement attractions, hotels, and entertainment parks. The economic boom it experienced attracted a massive population like in the Case with Dubai creating unsustainable production and consumption patterns.


            Dubai is one of the biggest cities in the world battling to balance economic growth and environmental challenges. Although Dubai has made several steps to transform its environment for the past few years, it is going through hardships to maintain sustainable growth. Reports show that the government of the United Arab Emirates has made several strides to curb the increasing problem. The government has renewed its commitment to building a smart city where it can easily sustain growth. UAE has ensured that sources of clean energy are available to aid in protecting the areas natural resources like soil, air, and water (Wam, 2017). By providing clean energy alternatives, the government is overcoming the available challenges linked to development.

Taking a closer look at the current status of the environment of Dubai, more critical steps should be implemented to fight for a bright future. Environmental improvement strategies have geared up to feature in government’s plans like the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050 and Dubai Plan 2021 (Wam, 2017). Also, the technological side and other environmental agreements have a big part to play. Several technical companies like the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) have made innovations and provided empowering tools to face the environmental challenges which the human beings have caused. These ecological challenges solutions are in the backbone of UAE as the country is obliged to achieve.

Environmental challenges

The UAE is facing severe threats of its environment from things like carbon footprints, limited water resources, waste generation, land degradation, air pollution, and desertification. These challenges are immense and majorly come from the rapid development and the effects of climate change (“The Official Portal of the UAE Government,” 2010). However, the UAE government has keyed sustainable development and protecting the environment into its core agendas. The country’s rapid development in the economy has put UAE in serious trouble (“The Official Portal of the UAE Government,” 2010). The rapid population growth, increased demand for energy and water, high development rate, and a high level of emissions have contributed to the many environmental challenges in UAE and majorly in Dubai.

  1. Carbon Footprints

The UAE has the highest consumption of energy, carbon footprints, and water per capita globally. The hot and wet climate of Dubai contributes to the high use of power and the high number of imports which cannot be quickly produced in the area.

  1. Air Pollution

Controlling air pollution has remained to be a critical challenge to many states like the UAE. Dubai tries to keep an ambient quality of air according to the required standards. However, the accomplishment of this program has become a challenge. Increased human activities, carbon dioxide emissions from combusting fuels, industrial growth, and transport activities have made air pollution control unachievable.

  • Land Desertification and Degradation

Land degradation and desertification increases with an increase in population, and the change in the order of the society. On the one hand, drought and over-exploitation of Dubai’s natural resources have significantly contributed to its environmental degradation. The soil has severely deteriorated from the increased pressure on water resources, natural resources, and the encroachment of urbanization. The intensive use of insecticides and pesticides has also contributed to environmental deterioration. Dubai is one of the regions in UAE that are fighting desertification. On another hand, the harsh climatic conditions like high temperatures, low rainfall, and high rates of evaporation have contributed to Dubai’s environmental degradation. These factors have more profound effects on Dubai’s environment.

Economic Challenges

Development of Dubai has also raised economic challenges which different parties should address. Addressing economic challenges will help better understand the relationship between growth and the economy (Andre-Pascal, 2012). Dubai should improve the understanding of the relationship between the economy and its impact.

  1. Financial imbalance.

The government of the UAE should improve the understanding of the relationship between the economy and its effects. Dubai should put more attention on the emerging economic imbalances at all levels. More studies should research on why these imbalances exist and how they cause unsustainability. Valid deal with these economic imbalances needs more adjustments of the set policies.

  1. Risk underpricing

The current economy is modeled in an overall balance which creates a system of risk underpricing. The underpricing of risks has created the wrong incentives leading to insufficient management of risks. The consolidated view of the markets has also made it hard for authorities to view market behaviors and how they operate in the real economy. Therefore, for a better economy, Dubai should provide a better understanding of the coexistence of risk underpricing and the economy.

  • Rising inequality

There is an increase in an imbalance in the levels of income in Dubai under a set of policies addressing the unintended distribution of such systems. It is very evident that economic growth does not directly affect everyone in Dubai and this has attracted the policymaking approach trying to bring a social equilibrium.

Innovative Business Solutions

            Development in Dubai is enormous such that the people of that area have forgotten about the environment. People were just obsessed with the business side, and now they have landed into critical environmental and economic problems. Dubai needs to take measures and deal with these challenges carefully. Just like Las Vegas, Dubai faces a big issue of water which has spread along the Gulf and needs a lasting solution (Alderman, 2010). However, this process is impossible without desalinizing chemical-producing plants. These companies have contributed to the high carbon footprint in Dubai and other parts of the UAE. Other companies pump heated waste into the sea making the water unsafe for domestic use. Dubai desalinates more than 4 billion bottles of water daily but for a limited number of days in a week.

Therefore, to deal with these challenges, Dubai should shift from an oil-based economy and venture in other businesses. Dubai has invested heavily in the construction of mega projects that act as tourist attractions. The oil fields which are the primary sources of revenue are projected to reduce production soon. The alternative would be tourism, and so far the region has picked up as a popular tourist destination as people come to view the megastructures, hotels, malls, attraction parks and other forms of entertainment.

Adapt the use of renewable energy, like wind and solar power. Dubai should tap on solar radiation and develop solar projects. Solar production costs have reduced significantly and are much lower compared to fossil fuels. Moreover, they are environmentally friendly and will help in reducing global temperatures. Similarly, industrial projects example being steel production and aluminum smelting consume a lot of fuel, and this can be substituted by solar and wind power (Alderman, 2010). Nuclear energy can also be utilized as it produces clean energy. Nonetheless, nuclear reactors are not expected to be sustainable since they are not renewable, but they can be used in the meantime.

The region can also use technology which is cost effective and efficient in water production. They can be a switch from filtration to the cloud –seeding which involves dispersing chemicals into the atmosphere to trigger rainfall (Kaufman, 2018). Campaigns should also be spearheaded to reuse and recycle water. The government should also build extensive water storage facilities for water backups.

The government should ensure buildings are built with western-style environmental standards as is the case in Cities like Las Vegas with set control and regulation of water and energy. With the intensity in growth comes concerns on the environment and the government should ensure the region complies with environmental protection standards failure to do so may be hazardous. Fast population growth has contributed to both the economic and ecological challenges. The waste treatment plant in Dubai alarmed that the amount of sewage had doubled in 2009. Many of the new buildings like the skyscrapers do not meet water and electricity standards (Alderman, 2010). This development has stressed natural resources in the region. To tackle these problems, Dubai should set a groundwater monitoring system. The city can also recycle wastewater for forest irrigations.

Many industries in Dubai depend on the areas of electricity in their daily productions. Some of these companies like the smelting companies use large amounts of electricity. The alternative sources of power generation like solar and wind power are limited in the region and sparsely distributed (Alderman, 2010). As a result, Dubai has turned into using nuclear power as the new primary source of electric energy. To tackle the economic challenges, Dubai should undertake strict measures of analyzing the root cause of financial instability, risk underpricing, and rising inequality.


“The Official Portal of the UAE Government.” (2010). Retrieved from             Government.ae           website: https://government.ae/en/information-and-services/environment- and- energy/environmental-challenges-in-the-UAE

Alderman, L. (2010).Dubai Faces Environmental Problems after Growth. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/28/business/energy-environment/28dubai.html

Andre-Pascal, R. (2012). New Approaches to Economic Challenges – A Framework Paper.    Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/general/50452415.pdf

Connelly, A. (2018). Dubai: Can the city of black gold go green? Deutsche Welle. Retrieved from https://www.dw.com/en/dubai-can-the-city-of-black-gold-go-green/a-42803955

Kaufman, R. (2018, May 11). The water crisis in the West. CQ Researcher, 28, 417-440. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre2018051101

Wam. (2017). Dubai faces sustainability challenges: Report. Retrieved from Gulfnews.com website: https://gulfnews.com/uae/environment/dubai-faces-sustainability-challenges-report-1.2102107