Fujairah is the region’s ‘bread basket’ for construction projects in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and it exports significant quantities of gabbro rock to Gulf countries and further afield. As rocks build Fujairah’s economy, some independent studies to assess the environmental damage and health risks would reassure residents that their wellbeing is not being sacrificed on the altar of progress.
Rocks Around the Clock
Before trucks were diverted from the main road between Fujairah and Dubai, motorists were constantly reminded of the scale of the quarry operation by the endless transportation of rocks from Fujairah’s mountains to the UAE’s major cities.
The construction of the ‘banana’ or ‘Banana Island’ with its rock port is further testimony to Fujairah’s growing export industry in mountain materials.
While this growth takes place there is no doubt that the companies overseeing the quarry operations in Fujairah are professional, efficient and attentive to issues of safety.
While Fujairah has moved towards nature tourism led by the preservation activity at Wadi Wuruyah, the environmental risks are great with the exploding of mountains and the quarrying activities that provide the bedrock for the emirate’s economy. Rock extraction has the potential to endanger the Fujairah brand with its nature and heritage tourism. This can be, according to The National, the “sickly side of the quarrying boom.”
Balancing Economy and Environment
From time to time protests have been staged in the UAE about the encroachment of quarries near towns, the noise pollution from the blasting and the damage to properties through extreme movement.
The environmental impact of quarrying in the UAE was brought to a head in 2008 when the Federal National Council tabled a report which included specific recommendation to close quarries and crushers adjacent to housing communities and to address the dust and noise pollution from quarries and crushers.
Federal and Fujairah Action
Federal laws were passed in 2008 to control and safeguard the environment against inappropriate quarrying and a process was instigated to evaluate old quarries. Local teams, which included the Crown Prince of Fujairah, were seen making an inspection on behalf of the local administration.
By mid-2009 Fujairah leadership was cracking down on hazardous operations resulting in seven quarries being closed, the equivalent of 10% of the total number of quarries in the emirate of Fujairah.
Independent Evaluation Needed
Since this time little detail has been made available about the thoroughness of the quarry evaluation, the way environmental damage by quarrying is assessed and the impact of the industry on the destruction of flora, fauna and areas of archaeological significance. These evaluations must be undertaken independent of those who have a stake in the economic benefits of the rock industries.
While citizens complain of sore eyes and throats and some doctors claim that Fujairah is a hazardous place to live for those with respiratory illnesses, it would be reassuring to all residents if regular independent studies were undertaken to assess the health risks caused by quarry dust and noise pollution.
See the Biggest Land Reclamation Project in the Emirates, Fujairah in Focus, 24 May 2010.
Fujairah Rocks! Fujairah in Focus, 24 May 2010.
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