The federal government is taking steps to monitor emissions from some of the country's most worrisome polluters - and Abu Dhabi is taking the first steps towards fining offenders.
A resolution issued yesterday by Dr Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, the federal Minister of Environment and Water, will require cement factories to prepare environmental reports that measure furnace gases every six months to identify concentrations of metals and their compounds.
They will also have to issue monthly reports that monitor the quality of air and tiny particles of sand, dust and chemicals that can penetrate deep within the lungs.
The reports are to be compiled by environmental consultancies with experience in the cement industry, to be assessed by the ministry, according to the state news agency Wam.
Dr Fahad's resolution also orders the factories to plant trees to cover at least 5 per cent of their external borders, forming a green belt around the plant.
As cement factories and quarries have expanded in the past 10 years, mostly in the Northern Emirates, surrounding communities have suffered from poor air quality that can cause respiratory and heart diseases. Earlier moves by the ministry and by factories to reduce air pollution have included installing control filters and energy efficiency technologies.
Meanwhile, Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, head of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, said she wanted to amend its establishment law (no 16 of 2005) so it could issues fines for environmental violations.
"When the law went under review, it emerged that the mechanism for enforcing fines related to the environment was one of the weakest links there, and it needed to be amended in order to give the Agency adequate authority to enforce the law," Ms Al Mubarak told Al Ittihad, the sister newspaper of The National.
She did not say how far the penalties might go, but added that "the fines will be proportionate to the violations committed and to the institutions that committed them".
"The goal behind these amendments is not to impose fines for the sake of it," she added, "but rather to ensure, on the one hand, that the emirate's environmental potentials are protected, and on the other, that the economic planning we do is aligned with the approach and environment standards cited in the 2030 environmental policy for the emirate of Abu Dhabi."
The agency's preliminary request, she said, was being reviewed by the emirate's Executive Council and the Ministry of Environment and Water.
She did not specify what major offences the authority was targeting, but did point to challenges such as coastal development and overfishing which have led in some cases to a 20 per cent decline in fish stocks compared with 30 years ago.
Ms Al Mubarak said the rapid pace of development presented one of the main environmental challenges for the agency, as "economic development happens faster than the time needed to contain its effects on the environment".