Dec 14, 2013

Sustainable Transportation – EYE on the United Arab Emirates

For long-term sustainable development to be achieved, the various activities within a society must be adapted to what can be tolerated by humans and by the natural environment. Nowadays, we are noticing a growing interest in the concepts of sustainability, sustainable development and sustainable transport.

Land development and vehicles mobility continue to overtake the global population growth. All the efforts to manage this growth and the negative and adverse impacts associated with it have been mostly ineffective.

In a nutshell, transportation has significant and long lasting economic, social and environmental impacts, and so is an important dimension of urban sustainability. Deploying efforts into this field can help in creating a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come. 

Sustainable transport planning recognizes that transport decisions affect people in many ways, so a variety of objectives and impacts should be considered in the planning process. Three main objectives are to be taken into consideration while designing a sustainable transportation strategy:

  • Economic:  aiming for efficient reduction of the public congestion, creating sound financial basis for public transport and allowing for cheap, fast and high-volume transport.
  • Social:  the transportation infrastructure available has profound social impacts. It affects our health and safety, promotes equity in the public mobility and access to opportunities strengthens the social inclusion between the people of a society and fosters community cohesion. 
  • Environmental: transport activities are associated with growing levels of environmental externalities. Reducing pollution on local, regional, and global levels contributes to climate stabilization and develops an environmentally sensitive strategies framework. The most important impacts of transport on the environment are related to climate change, air quality, noise, water quality, soil quality, biodiversity and land take.

Today, we are seeing a strong interest in promoting more sustainable transportation patterns in the Middle East and specially the UAE. It is, therefore; increasingly important to be able to measure and assess the sustainability of present and future transportation trends and policies.

The UAE has been rapidly witnessing a substantial growth of population and urbanization. This was followed by a huge investment in the tourism, construction and finance sectors. The unprecedented growth has put a big pressure on the development of an advanced infrastructure and transportation system.

Less congestion, high standards for safety and sophisticated transportation solutions are today more needed than ever before. Lots of efforts have been put in place to enable the country to have an efficient, safe and environmentally sound transportation system.

Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport (DoT) was established in 2006 to support and regulate the development and growth of a world-class transport system in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. DoT has greatly supported the deployment of sustainable transportation solutions. According to its latest report, the focus has been on addressing the challenges of congestion, developing the capacity of public transportation and building roads and transportation network infrastructure in order to reduce travel times, facilitate the development of multimodal transportation networks and the use of intelligent transport systems.

The department has also addressed the issue of safety by creating road traffic safety and security programs, implementing safety and security standards in all construction projects and ensuring the safety and security of all the government’s employees, in addition to the integration of environmental solutions to augment efficiency and savings within the transport system.

The Road and Transport Authority (RTA) of the Emirate of Dubai has put in place comprehensive plans and policies to achieve its vision to make Dubai an accessible and environment friendly city. The Emirate of Dubai has pioneered the concept of public transport in the region by realizing in an early stage a high need for sustainable development.

RTA has put in place a range of environment-friendly services and products starting from the electric-powered driverless Dubai Metro generating zero carbon waste, to public buses that use a specific type of fuel that only contains 50 ppm of sulfur whereas the commercial fuel in use has a 500 ppm sulfur content, to car park machines operating with solar energy technologies, to the deployment of a number of hybrid vehicles in the Dubai Taxi fleet, in addition to  recently starting the trial run of a bio-fuel powered bus. 

Each year, the Dubai Award for Sustainable Transport (DAST) motivates the business community to present effective solutions that reduce the negative impacts of transportation issues in the UAE.  DAST awards governmental or private companies. These companies have enhanced sustainability through innovative transportation solutions that increase mobility for all and improve safety as well as reducing transportation greenhouse and air pollution emissions[1].

Sustainable transportation and mobility play an important role in the advancement of the sustainable development agenda of countries. It has an impact on the public’s health and safety and to some extent play a role in the economic growth of the country for better and sustainable life for us and the coming generations. The UAE has strongly encouraged, supported and invested in the development of sustainable transport systems. Where are the other Arab countries with regards to this?


Mariem Megdish