Interview: Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak
Which factors are the most significant contributors to growth in Abu Dhabi’s industrial sector?
RAZAN KHALIFA AL MUBARAK: The emirate is currently undergoing a significant expansion of its industrial sector. In this regard, its existing heavy industries, such as aluminium, steel, fertilisers and petrochemicals, are either increasing their capacity or have recently done so. These changes are all occurring in conjunction with a broader geographical expansion, as organisations extend their base of operations – in particular, to areas such as the Western Region, which has seen significant industrial growth in recent years.
Fortunately, this has all occurred partly thanks to improvements in infrastructure, both hard and soft, which was developed to attract investment. The sector as a whole has matured greatly, and as a result there is better coordination and organisation among stakeholders, including the Industrial Development Bureau, Kizad, ZonesCorp, industry players themselves and, of course, the EAD. The framework that has been developed creates an interface between these stakeholders, fostering an improved business environment.
There is now closer integration in how the EAD provides permits within the maturing institutional framework for industrial development. This is exemplified by licensing, as the current system helps companies ensure compliance at different levels. This is an area that has added significant value to investors, enabling them to adhere to local licensing requirements – whether these are regulations developed by the EAD or another entity – providing a one-stop-shop framework. Essentially, operators now benefit from greater integration and improved processes for various government agencies.
What is being done to address the water supply?
AL MUBARAK: The situation is such that we have to utilise every possible water source and solution that is available to us, as it is such a scarce resource. However, there are three primary sources of water around which we have developed strategies for conservation and greater efficiency: groundwater, desalinated water and recycled water. Going forward, our priority initiative will be to create and implement a water budget, meaning that water from various sources will be carefully allocated based on overall supply and demand. The allocation that is decided upon must be both economically feasible and environmentally responsible.
With respect to agriculture specifically, there has been tremendous work done already on efficient water use. Studying soil types helps us to understand exactly how much water should be allocated to certain crops. More efficient irrigation techniques are already being implemented, and other efforts are under way in conjunction with entities such as the Farmers Services Centre to promote more advanced agricultural technologies to reduce water consumption.
How can domestic ecotourism promote greater environmental awareness and conservation?
AL MUBARAK: The EAD comes from the school of thought that the environment has an intrinsic value and that it can both add value to the economy and improve the health and quality of life of the population. For Abu Dhabi’s protected areas, a holistic approach is being taken to ensure that the protected areas are properly managed with functioning ecosystems. Abu Dhabi has already made great strides in improving its international ranking on environmental indices. Moreover, the UAE has been ranked among the top countries globally for the protection of its marine life areas.
We feel that the conservation areas are a great resource for education and providing the populace with an opportunity to connect with the local environment. As such, we are not looking at the development of conservation areas from the perspective of mass eco-tourism, but rather as a resource for residents. When you engage people directly you have a better chance of making a meaningful impact and thus raising the level of awareness about the relationship between environmental protection and long-term sustainability.
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