How Will Dubai Tackle Its Air Pollution Problem

13 August 2017

Lab Chat

Air pollution is a huge problem all around the world. It’s causing thousands of deaths each year globally, expected to rise to 60,000 by the year 2030. And in the big cities, the problem gets even worse. London, Paris, Delhi and Beijing are all awash with particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.

Dubai isn’t quite in the same league yet. But its rapid growth in the past few decades has led to growing concerns about the city’s air. Vehicle emissions, energy production and manufacturing are all leading to worsening air quality. Will Dubai react to the problem?

Air Quality Strategy 2017

Unlike most of the world’s major cities, it seems Dubai is keen on reacting before the problem becomes too drastic. The city’s authorities want to achieve world-class standards of air quality. To work towards this goal, they have launched the Air Quality Strategy 2017, investing Dh500m in new facilities and research.

Part of the plan is a new mobile air quality monitoring station. A first of its kind in Dubai, the station will be equipped with twenty different monitoring devices. They will keep track of around 100 different pollutants in the local environment, allowing authorities to pinpoint exactly where changes need to be made.

Work in progress

This isn’t the first action the municipality has taken, however. Dubai currently has 13 smart air stations, which have been researching air pollution prior to the Air Quality Strategy announcement. Vast amounts of data have been analysed and put into more than 300 digital pollution maps.

These maps display how pollution levels change in different locations, covering a whole range of pollutants:

  • Nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and ozone, which can cause (and worsen) serious respiratory diseases
  • Particulate matter – airborne particles of less than 10 micrometres in diameter, which can make their way deep into the lungs
  • Carbon monoxide – a gas which reduces the levels of oxygen in blood

The maps also indicate where the pollution is coming from, and how it is spreading. They include details of temperature, humidity, wind speed and wind direction, so researchers can see how the different factors are affecting pollution.

Medical complications – new and old

Doctors are becoming increasingly aware of air pollution’s effect on pre-existing conditions. "If they [people with pre-existing conditions] stay in a city with bad air quality, they can be affected....  If they already have asthma, problems can increase,” said Dr Trilok Chand respiratory specialist at Burjeel Hospital.

But pollutants in the air can also cause new diseases to develop. "The problem is that diseases can be caused by carbon monoxide and other materials in the air. People can face bronchitis, or even pneumonia," added Dr Chand. Air pollution has even been found to increase the chances of stillbirth in recent studies. Only time will tell, however, if Dubai’s strategy is successful in reducing the problem.

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