Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Saif M. Al Ghais, Executive Director of the Environment Protection & Development Authority (EPDA), on the importance of safeguarding the environment, its biggest achievements, and its efforts to regulate growth in the industrial sector.

 Dr. Saif M. Al Ghais
Dr. Saif M. Al Ghais is an associate professor of marine biology. He acquired his BSc in biological sciences from Seattle Pacific University, USA and his PhD from the University of Liverpool, UK and thereafter has been teaching and conducting research programs for the UAE University in biological and environmental sciences. He lead the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency of Abu Dhabi of the UAE as its secretary general from 1996 – 2001. He has published more than 28 research papers in reputed international journals, and secured the prestigious life membership of a number of renowned scientific societies.

What are the most pressing environmental challenges concerning RAK at the moment?

The major environmental challenges, which are presently faced by Ras Al Khaimah, are environmental protection and development, pollution control to mitigate environmental degradation caused by anthropogenic activities and climate change, encourage sustainable use of natural resources, and educate people about environmental awareness. The Environment Protection and Development Authority-Ras Al Khaimah (EPDA-RAK) was established in 2007 to achieve the goal of a clean and healthy environment and sustainable socio-economic development in Ras Al Khaimah.

Quarry crusher and cement production are the major industries in RAK. What measures does the EPDA implement to control crushers and quarry activities?

The EPDA-RAK inspects and monitors regularly the operation practices and management of quarry and crusher industries and enforces the regulatory guidelines for environment protection and conservation of natural resources in and around the industry, for example, all quarries and crushers establishments must have an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) from the Ministry of Environment and Water (MEW) and thereafter an Environmental Licence/Permit issued by EPDA-RAK following the approval of their Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) reports and other requirements. These industries are instructed to keep dust and noise control systems like hangers and curtains, bag-filters for dust collection and encapsulation devices in place during the crusher operation and maintain air quality parameters within the prescribed limits. The quarries and crushers in RAK are the most eco-friendly in the UAE in terms of compliance of environmental regulations.

The hospitality sector is booming in RAK. What is EPDA doing to control the impact of the hotels on the environment?

With the increasing socio-economic activities in RAK, the tourism industry including the number of hotels is also increasing and adding to the environmental stress. EPDA-RAK has been working with the hotel industry to find solutions to environmental issues concerned with the environment protection and development in accordance with the recommendations of the UAE Federal Law. The aim of these initiatives was to produce environmental awareness about pollution control measures, sustainable use of water and electricity, waste management and conservation of flora and fauna. The hotels are cooperating with us in the implementation of our recommendations.

RAK is known as the industrial Emirate, and many manufacturers chose to base themselves here. Does that make it more difficult for the EPDA to achieve its targets?

Industrialization is the key to economic development but it also causes environment pollution and increased consumption of natural resources like water and energy. Now we have many scientific, technological and economic solutions available to deal with the environmental problems we face. For example most of the industrial activities in RAK are restricted to three industrial parks/economic zones away from the residential area, which keeps most of the pollution concentrated in that area. This also makes the task of monitoring, controlling and managing pollution easier and effective by EPDA-RAK and the industries management. In this way EPDA has expertise and experience to deal with the environmental problems associated with the industrial and economic development in the future also.

Has the work of hte EPDA been recognised, and what are the department's areas of priority for the year ahead?

EPDA was awarded the Best Government Department Award in 2014, as well as the Best Department Award consecutively in the year 2013, 2014 and 2015, which is something we are very proud of. Our key aim is to cope with the environmental problems associated with the industrial and economic development of RAK. We are currently developing our capacity terms of work place expansion, infrastructure, such as e-services, work force, and expertise to meet those demands.