ABU DHABI // A new system to deal with waste in the Northern Emirates will be effective soon, the Minister of Environment and Water told the Federal National Council yesterday.
In four hours of questioning, members took Dr Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad to task over pollution and the problem of waste.
The reminded him of the country’s large ecological footprint, but he insisted this was no indication that the country was polluted.
“The [Arabian] Gulf, including the UAE, uses energy for water and electricity. It is natural,” he said.
“The country’s ecological footprint is not a measurement of pollution, but usage – but the UAE has voluntarily worked to lower it.”
He said the country had improved its place in international rankings but its footprint was still too big.
Hamad Al Rahoumi (Dubai) complained that companies in the free zone were particularly bad polluters. “Most fumes and waste from factories cause air and water pollution and there is no control of them,” he said.
“How can we control the pollution in free zones?”
The minister said that was true, but the UAE was not the only country suffering such a problem.
“We are working on a way to organise, separate and recycle the waste,” he said.
“Maybe our now low ecological footprint could be the special indicator.”
The minister suggested that the council should recommend that the Cabinet to look into it.
“It is a very important issue,” he added.
Sheikha Eisa Ghanem (Umm Al Quwain) highlighted the issue of the illegal dumping of waste in the Northern Emirates.
The minister said the Government had already approved a plan to tackle it. “Some emirates suffer huge problems in getting rid of waste,” he said.
He did not know when the new unified system, which will apply in the four Northern Emirates, would start, but he hoped it would be “very soon”.
But he said a law including a section on recycling would go to the Cabinet soon.
Members repeatedly complained that the minister was not answering their questions.
Ali Jassim (Umm Al Quwain) asked about the level of sea pollution and what was being done to combat it.
“The fish we eat are not clean, leading to diseases like cancer,” he said. “We should have laws to protect the soil to keep away from dangers.”
The minister said: “We are all responsible for a clean environment. It is a co-operation between individuals as well as entities.”
The speaker then reminded members that the debate was supposed to be about soil and vegetation. “But it is all tied together,” Mr Al Jassim protested.
In the report prepared by the council before the session, members listed problems with meeting international standards in regards to the use and monitoring of chemicals and pesticides, disposing of agricultural waste, keeping a database of endangered plants, and retraining workers whose skills became obsolete.
When Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman) brought up the issue of the ministry’s campaign to reduce the use of plastic bags, the minister said it was possible a “small and symbolic” fee would be placed on them soon.
Mr Al Shamsi said that first, customers needed to be made more aware of the down side of using plastic bags, and how harmful they were to the environment.