Abu Dhabi: Officials conduct inspections to ensure firms comply with environmental law

Teams carry out surprise visits to industrial and commercial facilities to ensure compliance with rules

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Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Tue 28 Feb 2023, 8:11 PM

Looking for evidence of pollution or violation of environmental protection law, identifying potential environmental harm and ensuring that facilities have all the required permits or licenses from the regulatory bodies are the major tasks for an environmental inspector to protect the environment in Abu Dhabi.

At Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), the environmental inspection team conducts periodic field visits to ensure that industrial facilities, development projects, infrastructure works, and all related activities and operations consider the applicable environmental laws and regulations and comply with the conditions of environmental.

During a media tour with EAD inspectors at the Emirates Float Glass in Musaffah Industrial area on Tuesday, Hassan Saeed Aljaberi, Inspector-Compliance and Audit, Permitting, Compliance and Enforcement Division at EAD told Khaleej Times, that his job involves visiting the industrial facility and documenting the condition of the facility. He is also responsible for ensuring that the company has all the required permits, ascertaining any potential problems, and writing up inspection reports.

“For instance, at this glass facility, we have to ensure that the sand collectors are closed all the time to avoid air pollution. If there is non-compliance, we will issue a violation,” he said.

“We carry out surprise regular inspections to industrial and commercial facilities to ensure the compliance with applicable environmental laws and regulations. High-risk facilities are inspected three times a year while low-risk facilities are visited once in a year.”

These visits evaluate the adherence to the environmental permit conditions issued for industrial and commercial facilities, and infrastructure development projects, and related operational activities.

In its capacity as the competent authority in Abu Dhabi, EAD issues environmental permits for the EAD regulated community in Abu Dhabi. During 2022, EAD issued over 1,400 environmental permits distributed as 808 industrial licenses, 414 licenses for development projects and 230 licenses for commercial facilities.

Over the same period, 1,089 inspection visits were conducted, covering various industrial and commercial facilities and development projects to ensure compliance with environmental laws and regulations, in addition to the environmental requirements associated with the environmental license.

The scope of the environmental inspection and compliance regulation covers 93 sectors licensed by the Agency, so that the environmental impacts of 38 operational processes are evaluated by addressing 277 environmental violations that cover different environmental pollutants or potential pollution sources to ensure the protection of the environment from all activities that fall within EAD’s jurisdiction.

Classification of administrative violations

The environmental law in Abu Dhabi classified administrative violations and fines in three main categories: fishing violations and discharges into the marine environment; violations concerning hunting, biodiversity and reserves; and violations regarding development and industrial activities.

The table of administrative violations consists of 99 violations, 46 of which are non-reconcilable, and include a reconciliation discount of 25 per cent, in the event of payment within 60 days of the date of issuance.

The fines range between Dh1,000 and a maximum limit of Dh1 million, depending on the nature of the violation, the extent of the damage it causes to the environment, and the rate of recurrence.

EAD said in 2022, it imposed 32 administrative fines, totalling Dh328,000 against companies that were caught violating environmental rules. The largest fine issued was Dh50,000, and was imposed for discharging materials into the marine environment that caused unpleasant odours, unnatural colours, or caused a noticeable change in the temperature and turbulence of the emirate’s waters.

EAD keen on fulfilling environmental standards

Eng. Faisal Al Hammadi, Acting Executive Director of the Environmental Quality Sector at EAD, said: “By fulfilling its regulatory role, EAD seeks to maintain the environmental standards in Abu Dhabi, which leads to eliminating the negative impacts on the environment.”

Al Hammadi reiterated that EAD always seeks to enhance its inspection efforts to keep pace with the rapid developments in Abu Dhabi Emirate. EAD also strives to fulfill its commitment towards the environment by issuing environmental licenses and conducting inspection visits to ensure that environmental protection remains a pivotal part of operations, in both the industrial and development sector.

He also stressed that the objective of regular inspection visits is to prevent any activities that would harm the environment. These visits also help provide technical support to these facilities by providing guidelines that include the best and latest technical and environmental management practices, which was reflected in the high environmental compliance rate in inspected sectors that reached 96.7 percent.

EAD also responds to environmental complaints and incidents reported through official channels, to ensures that environmental damage, if any, is properly mitigated.

Recently, 150 complaints were investigated by the environmental compliance and enforcement team who conducted investigations and monitoring to ensure that environmental violations are corrected.

Results of regular inspection visits showed that the most common violations are related to the lack of proper training of facility personnel in the fields of environment and handling hazardous materials, and failure to implement preventive measures to control the generation of air pollutants and dust. Such measures include installing filters capable of capturing those pollutants and conducting monitoring.

EAD’s environmental compliance and enforcement team also uses modern techniques to conduct environmental inspections, as the Agency has developed systems and mobile applications which ensure compliance of industrial facilities and development projects with environmental laws and requirements.

The agency said it launched the Eltezam compliance system, with the aim of building a strong and efficient inspection system that covers all permitted industrial sectors, infrastructure projects, and commercial activities with the scope of the Agency. The system is built on algorithms that link industrial sectors to production processes and licensing conditions associated with a set of environmental violations, legal authorities, and administrative fines.

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