Builders blasted for environmental impact
The construction industry has been named as one of the biggest polluters in UAE.
The construction industry has been named as one of the biggest polluters of the environment by the Emirates Environment Group (EEG).
The group is now calling on the sector to take more social responsibility towards the environment.
"The construction sector is believed to have one of the largest impacts on the environment in this region," said Habiba Al Marashi, EEG chairperson and member of the UN Global Compact.
Globally, the construction industry accounts for about 40% of the world's energy use and 40% of the use of the world's mineral-based materials, according to the British Constructional Steelwork Association.
"This has placed heavy demands not only on natural resources like aggregates, cement and sand, but also water, which is very scarce in this region. This in turn puts increasing pressure on desalination plants, resulting in higher carbon emissions and rising pollution levels," Marashi added.
But Mark Siddom, head of construction waste management at Dulsco believes that the only part of construction that is harmful to the environment is cement production, which for every tonne of cement made, a tonne of carbon dioxide is produced.
He said: "Construction waste is not hazardous at all. About 70% of the waste that comes off construction sites is actually concrete, the production of which is quite environmentally unfriendly. But I don't see any other materials that are very damaging; it's different if you were talking about oil waste, but not construction material."
According to Samuel Keehn, environment and sustainable energy manager for Energy Management Services (EMS), construction waste is harmful to the environment, but only if it is not dealt with correctly.
"If it's actually broken down, recycled and reused in its proper components it can actually be a materials dream. But if it's piled up, in the ocean or out in the desert then it's going to be a problem to the ecosystem."
Marashi added that with the huge profits the private sector is reaping off the back of construction, it could afford to invest in the environment, while Siddom thinks it is up to the government to take responsibility for the environment and work with the waste management companies to come up with solutions to construction waste.
"I don't think it's the industry's responsibility - it should be a joint responsibility between the companies who handle waste and the government to come up with solutions," said Siddom.