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Dubai under stress due to fast growth

Population growth and economic development, are threatening water resources in Dubai.

india Updated: Jul 14, 2006 09:42 IST

Even as Dubai has been accepted as a success story for building world standard infrastructure, population growth and economic development are threatening its water resources.

Dubai, one of the seven sheikhdoms that make up the oil-rich United Arab Emirates (UAE), has been successful in the execution of new economic and real estate projects.

But this rapid expansion has taken its toll. Population growth and economic development, according to a team of UAE University researchers, are threatening water resources in Dubai.

The population of Dubai is currently said to be around two million, but by 2020 it is projected to reach four million.

Also, the eight million visitors Dubai is drawing every year are expected to grow to 22 million over the next 10 to 15 years.

"Scarcity of water resources in Dubai is evident," said the study conducted by Ahmad Ali Abdullah Murad and Hind Al Nuaimi from the department of geology at UAE University's College of Science.

"The emirate of Dubai is worried about finding sufficient water for each person living in the emirate and has great anxiety about how it will provide a suitable amount of water for its rapidly expanding economic activities," pointed out the study published this month.

A report during the first Middle East Water and Wastewater Management Conference in Dubai in February said the imminent shortage of water resources in the emirate has been compounded by the real estate boom, with new construction projects taking a larger share of resources.

"This is alarming since this region is already the driest in the world," said Fady Juez, the conference chairman.

"The Gulf remains the largest market for water desalination in the world and local municipalities are seriously examining ways ... to double existing capacity to meet regional demand," he said.

Local reports have quoted a top official saying that the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority expects daily water demand to reach 341 million gallons per day and daily electricity needs to reach 8,513 megawatts by 2011.

The arid climate of Dubai, where rainfall is sparse, limits conventional water resources and recent studies show that temperatures are increasing.

In August last year, Dubai temperatures reached 47.3 degrees Celsius, the hottest day in the city for six years.

In January this year, thousands of residents in the Springs, Emirates Hills, Desert Spring Village and Meadows housing projects in Dubai were hit by acute water shortages for about 18 hours.

Just last week, the same upmarket area was plunged into darkness because of a power shutdown.

In June 2005, Dubai suffered a hard blow from a power blackout caused by a technical failure that lasted more than four hours and incurred losses of tens of millions of dollars.

With temperatures soaring to more than 40 degrees for at least six months of the year, no water or electricity in households or in the workplace is a matter of serious concern.

In a recent editorial in the Gulf News, the paper's associate editor, Nicholas Coates, said: "I cannot but have certain lingering doubts that the exponential and dynamic expansion taking place has not fully taken into account the needs of its citizens.

"Where are the additional power stations, desalination plants and sewage plants?" he asked.

The increase in oil prices in the past years has helped fuel the construction boom. One of the latest projects to be unveiled in Dubai has been the Dubai World Central, the biggest airport in the world financed by the government.

Meanwhile, Dubai International Airport is continuing its huge expansion.

Dubai has also announced this year a $27-billion tourist complex, which will include the biggest hotel in the world.

Still under construction is the Burj Dubai, the tallest commercial tower in the world, to be completed in 2008 at a cost of $800 million.