x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Abu Dhabi unveils new facility to tackle environmental disasters

The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi unveils its new emergency operations centre as it fortifies plans to increase preparedness.

ABU DHABI // Oil spills and algal blooms are among the environmental disasters a new emergency centre will cope with.

The facility, part of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, was unveiled yesterday.

It will coordinate the government’s response to crises and train staff how to handle them.

Razan Al Mubarak, secretary general of the agency, said its role would be to draft crisis-scenario plans, maintain communications with other Government departments and create a central environmental database.

The agency will also be responsible for on-site inspections, data collection and recommending ways to avoid or mitigate the effects of environmental disasters.

“With a dedicated emergency response centre, the agency’s successful track record of crisis management in collaboration with Government counterparts, such as the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, will now be fortified,” said Ms Al Mubarak.

The centre will also “serve as training grounds for building a team of skilled and capable environment emergency staff”, she added.

About 400 agency employees will be trained in basic emergency response with some receiving further training. The centre will be kept on standby and activated only in times of need.

Emergencies will be divided into three groups – tier one will be dealt with by agency staff only, tier two will require collaboration with other Government departments, and tier three will require the involvement of agencies outside Abu Dhabi.

“I am sure we can count on the centre’s capacity to ensure a speedy response and an effective intervention, wherever and whenever required, to preserve and protect the environment,” said Mohammed Al Rumaithi, director-general of the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority.

The centre is part of efforts to increase the nation’s preparedness for disasters under the National Emergency Response Plan.

Jim Walker, the chief executive of Altor Risk Group and a consultant on the project, said that disasters worldwide in the past few years – such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010 – had prompted governments worldwide to review their preparations.

“When one considers the amount of oil shipped through the Strait of Hormuz daily, and the proximity of the UAE coast, preparedness becomes a fundamental requirement,” Mr Walker said.

vtodorova@thenational.ae