UNITED ARAB EMIRATES ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATION
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) occupies the southern shore of the Persian Gulf, with Oman bordering to the east, Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and Qatar to the northwest. The country is primarily desert, with vast rolling sand dunes that stretch into the Rub-al-Khali or ‘Empty Quarter’ of neighbouring Saudi Arabia. Along the coast line saltpans are found, while the northeast of the country contains the Al-Hajar Mountains, with elevations up to 2,500 metres.
The climate of the UAE is typically hot and humid in the coastal regions and hot and dry inland, with very little rainfall. Due to the country’s desert climate flora is sparse and consists mainly of grasses and thorns; however in the oases date palms, acacia trees and eucalyptus trees can be found, while mangroves are common in the coastal regions. The fast development of the country has proved detrimental to its wildlife, with overfishing, urbanization, overgrazing and industrialisation key concerns. Conservation efforts have protected species such as the Arabian oryx and leopard. Other notable species include the sand cat, red fox, gazelle, wolf, jackal and lynx. Sharks, grouper, tuna, mackerel and perch are commonly found in the country’s waters.
PRINCIPAL LEGISLATION AND REGULATOR
The Ministry of Environment and Water administers the principal environmental law, which is Law No. 24 of 1999 Regarding Protection and Development of the Environment. This law covers every aspect of environmental protection including land, water and air. It requires all governmental bodies concerned with planning, construction and economic development to consider environmental protection, the prevention of pollution and the rational use of natural resources in carrying out their functions. Other laws are relevant within the federation as well as specific Emirates.
Law No. 24 of 1999 specifies that establishments which may cause harm to the environment are required to be licensed and may not commence operations without a licence (Arts. 3 and 4). The Law also regulates the disposal of waste and hazardous materials, which may apply to mining operations. The Federal Environmental Agency (a division of the Ministry of Environment and Water) is required to make a decision regarding an EIA / environmental licence application within one month from the date of the submission (which can be extended by one month) (Arts. 6 and 7). None of the rules contemplate mining and the general administrative framework is extremely weak.