Don't waste your breath

The poor air quality in Dubai is so obvious, yet few people in the industry and Dubai Municipality want to talk about it.

COMMENT, Projects

This summer has been brutal, and I'm not talking about the heat.

I can't remember the last time I saw truly blue skies here in Dubai. I mean like the ones in those television advertisements and travel brochures. Instead, we are treated to a milky white substance that is a cross between fog and smog.

Tall buildings disappear and there seems to be a malaise that settles during the day. The last thing anybody wants to do is leave the comforts of the office building or home.

The poor air quality in Dubai is so obvious yet few people in the industry and Dubai Municipality want to talk about it. Assistant editor Jamie Stewart discovered that during his two-month investigation into the causes of Dubai's poor air.

Significant dust levels are expected here since Dubai has more construction activity than perhaps any other urban centre in the world, not to mention the routine dust storms which aggravate the problem. But I suspect that construction industry leaders and the DM are not making a full effort to minimise the particulate matter in the air.

The most obvious evidence of a lackadaisical attitude toward air quality is the apparent total absence of erosion and sedimentation control on construction sites. In other words, very few sites have water trucks wetting the ground and steam rollers packing it to minimise dust.

Despite the building frenzy over the past six or seven years there are no legal requirements in Dubai to better regulate dust from work sites. And just to confuse matters, it's a complete mystery as to whether such regulations will be on the books after January 1 when new laws are announced.

Couple this negligence with the DM's rather cavalier approach to transparency. We all live, work and breathe air in Dubai but if we wanted to know whether it's healthy to breathe, the DM is not prepared to tell us.

The DM certainly wants us to know that its air quality records are available to the public, but just where we can find that information is, well, apparently a secret. When Construction Week was directed by the DM to a website with all the pertinent data, it was missing. When we notified the DM the data was not available, they not only had no answer for us they were less than enthusiastic to provide one.

What we did discover is that particulate matter in Dubai is substantially higher than the guideline levels of exposure established by the World Health Organisation. I can assure you that we did not get that out of choice from the Dubai Municipality.

Rob Wagner is the editor of Construction Week.

RELATED LINKS: Dubai: Takes your breath away?

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