Quality of air 'improved but more steps needed'

DUBAI — The ban on leaded petrol in 2003 has had a very positive impact on the air quality in the country, but a follow-up action involving the introduction of catalytic converters for cars would further reduce emissions, said Redha Hassan Salman, Head of the Environment Protection and Safety Section (EPSS) of Dubai Municipality's Environment Department.

By Zaigham Ali Mirza

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Published: Sat 12 Feb 2005, 9:17 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:29 PM

Exclusively speaking to Khaleej Times, Salman emphasised on the significance of making mandatory the installation of catalytic converters in cars (unleaded petrol), and an increased focus on enhancing the quality of diesel to further reduce air pollution.

“Banning leaded petrol was a very positive move, but that's half the journey. The next step in this line of efforts should be to introduce catalytic converters to cars,” he said.

According to Salman, the levels of sulphur in diesel, which are higher in the UAE as compared to those in developed countries, are also a significant factor as regards air pollution. “We call on the higher authorities to give priority to reducing the higher levels of sulphur in diesel, the fuel that powers heavy machinery and vehicles, aviation and shipping,” he said.

He, however, reiterated that these steps need to be taken irrespective of the normal environmental conditions prevailing in the country today, as a long-term plan. “We still maintain that health-wise the conditions (air quality) are according to our standards in general,” he added.

Meanwhile, according to the EPSS annual report on the air quality of Dubai, the incidence of "light pollution" (any indicator over the limit by 25 per cent at any monitoring station) and "significant pollution" (any indicator over the limit by 50 per cent at any station) in the emirate have been displaying an upward trend of late. Salman attributed this trend to the vigorous economic activity in the emirate.

The emirate experienced 39 incidents (days) of significant pollution last year as compared to 21 in 2003, and 37 incidents of light pollution as compared to 40 in 2003. In 2002 there were just 13 incidents of light pollution, but the figure crossed the 30 mark in both 2000 and 2001.

“Traffic congestion, extra power generation, economic activity involving shipping and construction both of which require heavy machinery powered by fuel are the causes behind the rise in light and significant pollution, mainly involving nitrogen oxides. But this is strictly an indicator of the rising trend, and in no way suggests we have reached a critical limit,” Salman explained, adding that a mechanism was in place to keep the trend in check and well below the threshold.

According to the report Dubai last year had some 222 days of clean air as against 227 in 2003, but with other factors involved it is not a significant drop. Salman explained that factors such as high dust haze, which is common in the arid region, can alter the final figures. For instance in 2000 there were just 81 days of clean air and 210 of high dust haze.

Salman said that the incidence of heavy dust haze is directly related to rainfall in a year. “In 1999 we had a lot of dust haze because the weather was extremely arid due to lack of rain that year. And since there has been little or better rain for three consecutive years now, we expect the level of particulate matter in the air to go down considerably this year,” he added.


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