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Construction sector behind GCC air pollution

Gas-flaring also one of the major contributors to pollution problem

Gas flaring is one of the major contributors to the GCC's air pollution problem (Getty Images)
Gas flaring is one of the major contributors to the GCC's air pollution problem (Getty Images)

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The GCC’s construction and energy sectors are the largest air polluters in the region and contribute significantly to its high carbon dioxide emission rates, experts have said.

Around 30bn cubic metres of gas is burned by the GCC countries per year, the equivalent of 900,000 barrels of oil per day, joint studies by the United Nations and World Bank have found. In addition, the region’s $2tn construction industry is considered to be a major cause of air pollution due to the dust and particle emissions from factories catering to the sector.

“It is a fact that the UAE has one of the highest per capita carbon dioxide emission rates in the world. Alarmingly, the underlying causes, rapid urbanization, along with air pollutants from construction and energy projects point to a deterioration of air quality,” said Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, director general of the Expo Centre in Sharjah, the venue for Green Middle East 2011.

The UAE alone has more than 10 cement and clinker factories, with a total production capacity of 30 million tonnes, contributing greatly to the country’s dust pollution problem, which some medical experts blame for the rise in asthma related illnesses, especially in children.

However, a number of companies in the UAE and the region have begun to develop technologies that will address the problem, Al Midfa says, citing the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) as one such example.

Masdar is developing one of the largest carbon capture projects in the world, a $3bn initiative that will pump around 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into mature oil fields, thereby increasing oil recovery.

In addition, the UAE is also part of the international effort to eliminate gas-flaring, which is a process that burns off unwanted byproducts from various processes across the energy sector. It is a leading contributor to green house gas emissions.

The country is also looking at methods for re-using byproducts, such as conversion into LNG or for use in power generation.

Green Middle East 2011 will comprise of an exhibition, a conference, seminars and workshops. It will allow industry leaders from across the region, along with international experts, to showcase the latest in technologies that will cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

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