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UAE PLANNING ZERO-CARBON, ZERO-WASTE CITY

by Meena Janardhan

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(IPS) DUBAI -- Urban planners in the United Arab Emirates are dreaming of a city that is pedestrian-friendly, free of cars, powered by renewable energy and surrounded by wind and photovoltaic farms -- all in the middle of a petroleum-rich desert.

Their dream, which would cost $5 billion is on track to be realized by 2009 in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. When complete, the community will be the closest thing yet to a zero-carbon, zero-waste city.

Using the traditional planning principles of a walled city, along with existing sustainable-development technologies, this expanse of 6 square kilometers will house an energy, science and technology community.

Called the Masdar (or "Source") Initiative, this ambitious plan for a "green" city is being driven by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, a private, joint stock company established and owned by Mubadala Development Company.

‘‘As the first major hydrocarbon-producing nation to take such a step, Abu Dhabi has established its leadership position by launching Masdar, a global cooperative platform for open engagement in the search for solutions to some of mankind's most pressing issues -- energy security, environment and truly sustainable human development," Masdar chief executive Sultan Al Jaber said.


Abu Dhabi accounts for more than 90 percent of the United Arab Emirates' oil resources, and the country's reserves, exceeding 100 billion barrels, ranked third largest in the world.

The green city will house the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, a graduate science and research institute that will be established in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; world-class laboratories; commercial space for related-sector companies; light manufacturing facilities and a selected pool of international tenants who will invest, develop and commercialize advanced energy technologies.

It will also host Masdar's offices, residences for its staff, a science museum and educational entertainment facilities. It is expected to house at least 50,000 people initially and as many as 100,000 eventually.

‘‘We are creating a synergetic environment. It is a true alternative energy cluster with researchers, students, scientists, business investment professionals and policy makers in the same community. It will combine the talent, expertise and resources to enable the required technological breakthroughs," Jaber said.

To encourage people to be a part of this setup amid harsh weather conditions that witness temperatures soaring up to nearly 50 degrees Celsius during July and August, a pedestrian-friendly environment has been planned, with narrow streets and shaded walkways. The maximum distance to the nearest transport link and amenities is likely to be no more than 200 meters and will be complemented by a rapid personal transport system.

This self-sustaining city is expected to provide up to 1,500 companies with an attractive incentives package, including a one-stop shop program for government services, transparent laws, 100 percent foreign ownership, a tax-free environment, intellectual property protections and proximity to nearby manufactures, suppliers and markets.

Mohammed Raouf of the Gulf Research Center said the Abu Dhabi plan could be replicated and improved upon. ‘‘We need more than just ideas, thoughts and studies -- we need ways to implement them effectively. Hopefully this initiative will trigger others in the region to follow suit."

Though the Dubai-based environmentalist was skeptical about achieving "zero levels of carbon emissions," he said, ‘‘There is no doubt this project will cut emissions drastically."

According to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the greenhouse effect on climate change in the Middle East will increase the region's temperatures by 1-2 degrees Celsius during the next 25 years. The Green City plan is a part of Abu Dhabi's decision in April 2006 to embrace renewable and sustainable energy technologies.

In another responsive initiative in March, the United Arab Emirates signaled the commencement of a major national carbon dioxide emission reduction program by announcing an initiative aimed at delivering a national carbon dioxide capture and storage network.

It is estimated that the network could reduce the United Arab Emirates' carbon dioxide emissions by almost 40 percent, increase oil production by up to 10 percent and liberate large quantities of natural gas. This could be achieved through the separation of the gas from industrial and energy related sources and its transportation to oil reservoirs for enhanced oil recovery.

Announcing the plan, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, told the media, "We are a leading provider of energy for the world. As such we must, and do, recognize the responsibility to constantly seek out and incorporate technologies to make that provision more environmentally efficient."

Abu Dhabi also plans to invest $350 million in a 100-megawatt solar power plant and hopes to tap into a growing global trend among environment-conscious investors. The plant will be expandable to 500 megwatts with a target to generate enough power for 500,000 households.

‘‘As an environmentalist I am ready to pay more to live in a place where the quality of life is better. But, ordinary citizens, especially those in the low-income group, do not care or understand this. Hence, it is important to keep the price of ‘green' development affordable," Raouf said.

‘‘By attempting the first carbon neutral city in the world, Masdar is demonstrating its commitment to change the way the world understands energy and sustainable resource utilization. One day all cities will be built like this," Jaber added.



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Albion Monitor   June 21, 2007   (http://www.albionmonitor.com)

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