Hospitality Magazine Ih How Sustainable Is Dubai, Issue 7 July 2007


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How Sustainable Is Dubai? : July 2007

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Hospitality Magazine Ih How Sustainable Is Dubai, Issue 7 July 2007

  1. 1. InTernATIOnAL How sustainable is Dubai? D Dubai’s current ubai, one of the seven emirates that vision of ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al image raises many constitute the United Arab Emirates Maktoum, who is said to run the country like a (UAE), is attracting international Fortune 500 company. Dubai nationals make up questions about its attention today as the commercial and less than 20 percent of the country’s population economic, social, tourist hub of the Middle East. It has a number of – the rest are expatriates who work in Dubai – a and environmental iconic structures, such as Burj Al Arab Hotel and situation seen as presenting a problem for the the Palm Islands, as well as economic zones, such emirates’ sustainability. future, reports as Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, Dubai Once all the developments – residential, Vishal Pandey Academic City, and Dubailand. commercial, leisure, and mixed use – are MIH Credited with signifying stability, security, and completed and inhabited by mostly non-UAE peace in the region, Dubai has experienced an nationals, observers say it will be interesting to economic and architectural boom in the past see how the diverse mix of expatriates, with their 15 years. Other Persian Gulf countries, at first own customs and values, blends with the much suspicious of Dubai’s success, are now following its more conservative Dubai nationals. example.Yet, Dubai’s image raises questions about Although Dubai is considered the most its economic, social, and environmental future. forward thinking and liberal city in the Middle The economic and construction boom Dubai is East, it is still likely to face challenges related to witnessing today is not being driven locally, but this mix of cultures, observers say. The UAE ranks by investors from overseas under the guidance 41st in terms of human development among of the emirate’s government, following the 177 member countries of the United Nations,34 HOSPITALITY ISSUE 7 | 2007
  2. 2. InTernATIOnALaccording to the 2005 Human DevelopmentIndex Report, compiled by the United NationsDevelopment Program. Because of its economicgrowth, the UAE has attracted large numbers ofpeople from all over the world, particularly fromAsia and Europe, who come to live, work, dobusiness, and invest in the country. The UAE has urbanised rapidly over acomparatively short time, with prominent citieslike Dubai expanding several times beyondtheir original size in the 1980s and 1990s. Today,Dubai features prominently on the global map ofemerging cities, and is now listed by some expertsamong places considered “world cities”. Sustainable development strategies in Dubaiare conceived and implemented by differentagencies, such as the Dubai Municipality, theRoads and Transport Authority (RTA), theFederal Environment Agency, and the ministriesof Economy, Environment and Water, Health,Education and Energy. Each autonomously plans,invests in, and executes activities in its specialtyarea. Dubai’s economic success today is primarily Transportationattributed to: Dubai is facing huge problems concerning traffic Although Dubai the leadership and vision of various leaders, congestion, noise and air pollution, and road such as the heads of the Dubai Municipality, safety. Traffic snarls are common. Sheikh Zayed is considered the the RTA, and the ministries, following the lead Road, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, for most forward provided by Sheikh Mohammed; example, is subject to traffic jams at all hours of thinking and the advanced level of administrative the day; the areas of Deira and Bur Dubai face decentralisation and coordination; congestion as well. liberal city in the quick decision making and execution; Dubai Municipality reports that 470,000 Middle East, it is the ability to fund developments through vehicles are registered in Dubai; this is in addition still likely to face various means and channels; to the vehicles driven by residents of other the slow and steady transition from an oil- emirates such as Sharjah and Abu Dhabi who challenges related based to a knowledge-based economy, with travel to Dubai for work. A minimum of two trips to this mix of emphasis on services and education; per day translates to almost one million vehicles cultures Brand Dubai, an image-creation effort on the roads – a figure very close to the present promoted through events such as the Dubai population of 1.3 million. It is estimated Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer that by 2020, Dubai’s population will climb to Surprises, has increased the perception of the four million and the number of car trips to a emirate as the safest destination in the Middle staggering 13.1 million per day. East for tourism, commerce, and investment. While the population of Dubai grows at anAlong with success come challenges of average annual rate of 6.4 percent, the number ofsustainability. Among the challenges facing Dubai cars is rising by an average of 10 percent per year,are the following: compared with a worldwide average of two to inefficient transportation, road congestion, three percent. and traffic accidents; The number of traffic accidents and fatalities housing affordability, infrastructure needs, rose sharply in the first half of 2006, resulting in and a rising cost of living; 156 deaths – or a death every 28 hours, compared a manpower shortage and an inability to with a death every 36 hours in 2005. Dubai’s road attract the best talent; congestion can be attributed to the affordability a need to integrate different cultures and of cars, comparatively cheap fuel, and the almost lifestyles; negligible availability of public transport. educational needs; The main objectives of the RTA are to pollution and waste management problems. integrate and streamline the city’s bus ISSUE 7 | 2007 HOSPITALITY 35
  3. 3. InTernATIOnAL property in Dubai. This was seen as a landmark Almost one million people a year are expected to move and has given residents, business owners, and investors increased confidence in the city. The join the Dubai population through 2010 government continues to invest in infrastructure. DubaiMunicipality has indicated that its five-year outlook includes $2 billion for roads and bridges, water transportation systems, as well as the including a new 12-lane bridge across Dubai rail system now under construction; to charge Creek; $300 million for drainage and irrigation a single, flat fare for their use; and to make projects; and $700 million for public projects. the transportation systems accessible to all To stabilise rents and accommodate population potential users. Currently, 417 peak weekday growth, Dubai needs to expand its housing bus schedules are run on 62 routes covering over inventory. 104,000 miles (168,000 km) in Dubai and nearby According to a report by Deutsche Bank, emirates, carrying about 240,000 people per day published 8 December 2006, in the Emirates – representing only 20 percent of Dubai’s entire Today newspaper, 92,000 residential units were to population. be ready for occupancy by 2007 and an additional The solution to Dubai’s congestion is widely 123,000 units will be ready by 2008. Many have believed to be the Dubai Metro rail system, long speculated that the property market may a project RTA is presently constructing at crash. However, the fact that almost one million a reported cost of $4.2 billion. The project, people a year are expected to join the Dubai commissioned in November 2005, is slated for population through 2010 may alone stabilise the completion in phases in 2009 and 2010, at which buoyant residential property markets. time it is expected to transport 1.85 million passengers daily. The Metro rail is expected to Employment ease congestion, cut travel time, reduce pollution, Dubai is facing major manpower issues. and enhance mobility within the city by serving Expatriates comprise almost 80 percent of all strategic areas of Dubai, with room provided Dubai’s workforce. There is a shortage of skills at for expansion. the lower level and potentially a skewed social Dubai also intends to implement policies such demographic. The annual Cost of Living Dubai as toll roads to persuade people not to buy cars, Report, released in December 2006 by online a goal achieved by Singapore. At the same time, recruitment firm, stated that high land use strategies would need to provide for inflation and meager salary rises have resulted in more mixed-use development with a housing expatriates, primarily blue-collar workers, going element to enable people to live closer to work to more attractive work destinations or back to and retail/entertainment areas, and thus reduce their home countries, particularly among those long-distance travel. people from the Asian subcontinent. However, the report also stated that Dubai Housing, infrastructure, and cost of living continues to be the preferred destination for As the Dubai Municipality prepares for a white-collar executives across the Middle East. population of five million by 2020, a main On the flipside, the new freehold property law challenge seems to be the rising cost of living. may transform Dubai from being a temporary Over 2005 and 2006, rents increased 10 percent destination to a place where people settle to as much as 100 percent; an official 15 percent indefinitely. This could lead to greater staff cap on rent increases was imposed until the retention because employees would not be forced end of 2006 to reduce the frenzy. Rent increases to seek higher-paying jobs to afford their annual have caused a number of expatriates, particularly rent increases. white-collar executives, to leave Dubai. Fuel prices have also risen 30 percent since late 2005, Cultural integration leading to ripple effects in costs for other services Dubai, with residents from nearly 200 countries, and goods. These cost increases hurt the ability of has always been seen as a melting pot of creeds companies to retain employees. and nationalities. But most people come to Dubai In 2001, Dubai pioneered the concept of for work and feel little need to interact with “freehold” property development, whereby those of different backgrounds. This is where the expatriate residents of the UAE, as well as problem starts. Some observers point out that residents elsewhere in the world, could purchase UAE nationals are difficult to know because of36 HOSPITALITY ISSUE 7 | 2007
  4. 4. InTernATIOnALcultural differences, whereas the UAE nationalsblame the expatriates for not making any effortto get to know them, for not speaking Arabic,and for not taking an interest in their culture,tradition, and values. An additional factor dividing the population isthe substantially higher pay offered to employeesfrom particular countries of origin. Until effortsare made to integrate the various culturespresent, most observers believe that Dubai willcontinue to be seen as a stopover – a place wherepeople spend a few years while making moneybefore returning to their homeland.EducationA comprehensive network of governmentschools, colleges, and universities has beenestablished throughout Dubai providing freeprimary, secondary, and higher education toUAE nationals. For expatriates, 85 private foreignschools and more than 30 private universitiesoffer a high-quality education from British,American, Indian, and Pakistani curricula. Arabicis the language of instruction in UAE schoolsand colleges; English is the main language of 90 percent of secondary-school graduatesinstruction for the other schools and universities. Dubai has one of the highest rates of enter a university, which has led to increasedadmission to higher education in the Middle investment in institutions of higher educationEast: 90 percent of secondary-school graduatesenter a university, which has led to increasedinvestment in institutions of higher education.However, the Ministry of Education’s 2020 emissions violations have caused pollution levelsstrategy for future educational development to exceed UAE government limits by 13 to 25in Dubai and the UAE takes into account only percent. The UAE has one of the world’s highestschooling for UAE nationals. There are still levels of domestic waste. Per-capita householdmore jobs than qualified workers, a situation waste has reached an annual average of 725 kgthat is not expected to improve in the short in Dubai and 730 kg in Abu Dhabi. In the Unitedterm. The key to solving this problem, observers States, the average is 710 kg; in Australia, 690 kg;say, is to retain expatriate talent and to reform and in the UK, 300 kg.the region’s education sector. The quality of Additional refuse comes from street litter,education is high for nationals, but they need to gardens, and from the waste dumped onbe persuaded to take up studies. beaches and in the sea. This has imposed a heavy Now, however, a new breed of young nationals burden on the municipalities. The problem isis emerging that is motivated to take up careers only partly solved by converting organic wastein government and the private sector. For the into agricultural fertiliser. Some waste, such aslong term, the solution lies in sustained efforts paper, glass, and tin cans, can be recycled, andto properly educate the local nationals who special incinerators have been set up to disposeare country’s future. This would be in line with of medical waste. A law aimed at reducing airDubai’s strategy of transforming itself into a pollution was passed in March 1999. Developedknowledge-based economy. in consultation with the municipalities, the regulations limit excessive use of harmful fuels.Pollution and Waste Management New regulations are also under discussion forDubai’s air pollution has continually worsened, controlling the use of leaded fuel.with vehicles contributing almost 80 percent of The UAE and Dubai enforce strict laws governingthe pollution. Between 1999 and 2003, vehicle the use of chemical insecticides in ISSUE 7 | 2007 HOSPITALITY 37
  5. 5. InternatIonal in order to protect public health and reduce Dubai has been aggressive about safeguarding the Vishal Pandey MIH lived and environmental damage. The import of 57 chemical gulf’s marine life and not allowing the release of worked in various capacities insecticides has been banned; only products already industrial waste directly into the sea. across operations, sales, marketing, and revenue licensed for use in agriculture in the United States, While a consensus exists that sustainable urban management in Hilton/Oberoi Canada, Japan, and the EU are allowed. development is a desirable goal that countries, Hotels and Resorts and Taj The UAE and Dubai have also refused to license regions, cities, and towns should commit to, Hotels Places and Resorts in the manufacture of chemical insecticides within the considerable confusion remains on how to Dubai before moving to UAE. Wherever possible, natural control methods translate this broad objective into national and Glasgow, Scotland, in September 2006 to study for are employed. In Dubai, for example, chemical local strategies. Sustainable development comes his Master of Science degree in pesticides were recently replaced with a product about through planning, proper execution, and real estate and regeneration at made from the common local neem tree that has control of the built environment. the University of Glasgow. the properties of a natural pesticide. The plant’s For Dubai to become more sustainable, it needs seeds are powdered and mixed with water so that to improve city planning, increase the social the active ingredient can be sprayed in parks and cohesion of its diverse residents, find ways to other landscaped areas. better attract and retain talent, provide efficient The Persian Gulf is a sensitive marine ecosystem. public transit, and provide affordable housing. The effects of industrial pollution and oil spills To become sustainable in the long run, Dubai on the marine environment require coastal needs to responsibly manage its present and plan conservation. The major sources of sea pollution efficiently for its future – before it is too late. are ships; land-based sources; dumping from ships and aircraft; exploration and exploitation of the How sustainable is Dubai? was written by Vishal Pandey MIH seabed, the continental shelf, and the subsoil; and for Urban Land June 2007. Reprinted with permission of ULI, other human activities. In the past couple of years, July 10 2007.38 HOSPITALITY ISSUE 7 | 2007