UAE Urbanization Impact: Examining Dubai and Abu Dhabi Environmental Changes

Eslam Mobarak
Published 2 weeks ago on 2 July, 2024-121 views
UAE Urbanization Impact and Dubai and Abu Dhabi Environmental Changes

UAE Urbanization Impact from an inadequate desert to the urbanized city we see today cost the government and the tireless people who helped make this dream a reality. The UAE is located along the Persian Arabian Gulf, with the highest net migration rate (12.36), a GDP of 382.575 billion in 2017, a GDP growth rate of 2.82%, and a rate of urbanization of 2.32%. The Emirates UAE has already gained numerous urbanization projects, which have paid off with the economic and social standing that it currently enjoys. Dubai has urbanized at an extraordinarily quick rate in just 40 years.

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UAE Urbanization Impact

The United Arab Emirates has witnessed significant urban transformation since its inception in 1971. One apparent shift is urban development in the form of vast infrastructure, such as new residential areas, highways, airports, and sophisticated transportation systems. Major terrain changes and disruptions, such as urban growth, are significant contributors to global climate change.

Metropolitan heat islands (UHIs) occur when metropolitan areas are 3.5 degrees Celsius warmer than nearby rural areas. As a result, urban expansion in the UAE was predicted to follow a similar pattern and significantly contribute to the country’s influence on global climate change. The analysis of multi-temporal (1988–2017) land surface temperature (LST) data derived from Landsat satellite datasets over a desert city in the UAE yielded unexpected results. The impact of urbanization on desert surfaces in the study area reduced the total LST by 3 degrees Celsius.

This was attributed to the increased green space in newly created metropolitan areas, the spread of date plantings, and possibly a cooling of the previously desert surface. As a result, the UHI effect was not proven in the examined desert surfaces that had been transformed into urban areas.

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UAE Urbanization Impact & Social Impacts and Economic Impacts

Dubai’s population structure has altered dramatically as a result of urbanization, however, there is still disparity. The Dubai Frame, which opened in 2018, provides a clear view of both old and modern Dubai, demonstrating how inhabitants in modern Dubai live a far more advanced and safe lifestyle than in old Dubai. Jobs in old Dubai may not pay as well as those in new Dubai, and parents may struggle to care for their families with what they earn. The GDP has increased significantly as a result of the high demand for goods and tourists, which has resulted in significant economic benefits for Dubai, as well as the introduction of new facilities such as schools and colleges.

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Environmental UAE Urbanization Impact, Bank Credits, and Energy Use

UAE Environmental Urbanization Impact
UAE Environmental Urbanization Impact

The United Arab Emirates has rapidly developed into one of the world’s greatest per capita income nations. The travel and tourism industry makes a significant contribution to the country’s GDP, employment, foreign exchange revenues, and economic diversification plan. However, the sector’s rapid growth and increased international tourist arrivals contribute significantly to carbon emissions and long-term environmental issues.

In this regard, we used a tourism-induced Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) model for the UAE between 1984 and 2019. The autoregressive Distributed Lag (ARDL) model was used in the study to calculate the marginal impact of tourist arrivals and related factors, such as bank credits to the private sector, urbanization, and energy consumption, on CO emissions.

The Pesaran limits test demonstrated the redundancy of short-run estimations. The long-run coefficients corroborated the EKC hypothesis of an inverted U-shaped relationship between carbon emissions and per capita income, as well as environmental deterioration caused by tourist arrivals and financial development. Notably, urbanization and energy utilization highlighted the government’s beneficial initiatives. Granger causality studies revealed a unidirectional relationship between GDP, bank loans, energy use, and carbon emissions.

Importantly, tourist arrivals and urbanization had a bidirectional relationship with carbon dioxide levels. This is the first study to use the tourism-induced EKC model in the UAE, and the findings have significant implications for policymakers and practitioners. The causation results underscore the importance of balancing tourism goals with long-term economic growth by implementing ‘green’ criteria.

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Sustainable UAE Urbanization Impact

By the middle of the last century, one out of every three people lived in cities and towns. Back in 1950, only New York City had more than ten million people. Today, it is widely acknowledged that the vast majority of the world’s population, more than 3 billion people, lives in cities. In the next 25 years, two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to have moved to cities. By 2015, there will be 23 “megacities,” 19 of which will be situated in poor countries. Rapidly rising cities in developing countries will increasingly fight for resources. It is up to metropolitan administrations to create chances for economic, social, and cultural well-being. Cities provide much more than jobs and housing.

They are centers of human contact and exchange, offering spaces for the arts, entertainment, sports, and recreation that allow us to unwind and recharge. Cities, in this sense, serve as catalysts for social, cultural, and intellectual development. Thus, cities may play an important role in promoting sustainable development both locally and globally. If half of the urban infrastructure that will exist on the globe by 2050 must be developed in the next 45 years, the chance to design, build, run, and maintain new cities better than existing ones is immense, fascinating, and hard.

Urban areas are notorious for their heavy development urbanization and electricity consumption of natural resources, and prolific production of waste materials. They also import commodities and services and export waste materials, affecting not only their immediate surroundings but also distant habitats over time. The issue of civic authorities providing appropriate living conditions, water, sanitation, public transit, and waste management is important in all urban development strategies and initiatives.

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Overcrowding is Poor-Quality Housing that Leads to Crime

The steady growth in population and the lack of fatalities are forcing Dubai to become extremely overcrowded. Overcrowding occurs when there aren’t enough houses in a neighborhood for everyone who wants to live there, resulting in a crowded living environment. This leads to disease transmission and poor cleanliness, ultimately resulting in a low quality of life. ‘Many crimes perpetrated by bachelors living in residential districts, including prostitution, violence, theft, real estate fraud, and residence law breaches, have been reported to the Public Prosecution.

Landlords are squeezing bachelors in a building where families live, allowing crime to occur. This demonstrates that there is a severe housing shortage in Satwa and Karama for poor families; nevertheless, families living in the Palm or JLT (Jumeirah Lake Towers) would never suffer the same situation. To ensure safety and prevent crime from spreading, one viable approach would be to build more houses in a neighborhood or community and prohibit bachelors from living in family homes.

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Overcrowding is Leading to Congestion and Pollution

Overcrowding causes traffic congestion since people must commute to work, resulting in a greater number of vehicles on the road, which leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions (air pollution) and noise pollution. Sheik Zayed Road (highway) is congested since it is located near or leads to the core commercial districts. Congestion could be alleviated by building broader highways, extra highway lanes, tunnels, overhead bridges, and parking spaces. Some alternatives to noise pollution include living in less congested locations and having double-glazed windows.

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Strain on Resources and Waste

Overcrowding is also putting further strain on resources, as oil, on which the entire country is dependent, will soon run out, but it is being utilized as if there will be no tomorrow. The UAE is attempting to prevent oil from being used irresponsibly by developing electric vehicles that operate on electricity and will not add to greenhouse gas emissions. The ongoing use of fossil fuels generates a lot of waste because they are non-renewable resources, whereas energy is a renewable resource. Instead of using fossil fuels, which have a negative influence on the environment, it is better to utilize electricity.

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Sustainable Urbanization Impact & UAE Greener Future

Urbanization Impact UAE Greener Future
Urbanization Impact UAE Greener Future

Urbanization is the movement of people from rural areas to urban centers, which is fueled by causes such as economic expansion, industrialization, and improved living conditions. In contrast, sustainable urban development addresses the issues of urbanization by incorporating environmental, social, and economic considerations into urban design and administration.

The United Arab Emirates is well-known for its fast urbanization and industrialization, which have converted its cities into global centers of trade, tourism, and innovation. However, this expansion presents considerable environmental challenges. The UAE is increasingly focusing on sustainable urbanization to strike a balance between development and environmental protection.

Rapid Urbanization Growth

Over the last few decades, the UAE has seen tremendous urban growth. Cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi have swiftly grown, attracting millions of inhabitants and visitors. This fast urbanization has put tremendous strain on natural resources, resulting in higher carbon emissions, trash output, and water usage.

UAE Environment Challenges

The UAE faces unique environmental issues, such as desert climate, scarce freshwater supplies, and high energy use. These difficulties require a move to sustainable methods to preserve long-term environmental and economic stability.

Green Building Codes

The UAE has enacted stringent green building rules to promote energy efficiency and minimize the carbon footprint of new buildings. The Estidama Pearl Rating System in Abu Dhabi, as well as the Dubai Green Building Regulations and Specifications, are examples of programs aimed at ensuring that structures are constructed to be sustainable.

Adoption of Renewable Energy

The UAE is investing considerably in renewable energy. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai is one of the world’s largest solar power projects, with a projected capacity of 5,000 megawatts by 2030. The Barakah Nuclear Power Plant in Abu Dhabi is another key step toward lessening dependency on fossil resources.

Sustainable Transport

Transportation is a significant contributor to urban carbon emissions. The UAE is addressing this by expanding its public transportation network, promoting electric vehicles (EVs), and investing in cutting-edge transportation alternatives such as the Hyperloop. The Dubai Metro and Abu Dhabi’s integrated public transport system are lowering traffic congestion and emissions.

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Urbanization Planning Innovation in UAE

The UAE is at the forefront of smart city development, leveraging technology to improve urban living while reducing environmental impact and urban development in the UAE. Smart city initiatives, such as Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, are built to be sustainable from the ground up, with renewable energy, smart grids, and efficient waste management systems.

Green spaces and urban landscaping are critical components of sustainable urbanization. The UAE is growing its green cover through programs such as the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan, which intends to expand green spaces and public parks to improve air quality and citizens’ quality of life.

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Awareness and Community Involvement

Community participation is essential for sustainable urbanization. The UAE promotes environmental awareness through campaigns, education programs, and community activities. Events like Earth Hour and the UAE Green Festival urge locals to incorporate sustainable habits into their daily lives. Businesses in the UAE also play an important role in promoting sustainability. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts aim to reduce environmental effects, support renewable energy projects, and promote sustainable development.

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Movement from Rural to Urbanization

People from both domestic and international rural areas are flocking to metropolitan cities such as Dubai, causing a significant shift from rural to urban areas in the UAE. Domestic rural areas are arid and difficult environments to live in. These areas are also experiencing major desertification as climate change affects the entire country.

This results in the inability to grow crops on previously fruitful ground. For these reasons, individuals are packing their bags and heading to coastal cities. Immigrants from other nations are flocking to UAE cities for economic opportunities, as Dubai and Abu Dhabi are major trading and economic hubs.

Every area of life has both advantages and disadvantages. Every possibility presented in the UAE’s urban growth has implications. Economic opportunities, higher education, improved communication connections, and easier access to public services are some of the benefits of urban living. Overcrowding, pollution, unequal development, and rising crime rates are some of the drawbacks of living in cities.

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UAE Sustainable Urbanization Commitment

UAE Sustainable Urbanization Commitment
UAE Sustainable Urbanization Commitment

The UAE’s long-term goal demonstrates a commitment to sustainable urbanization. The Centennial 2071 plan lays out ambitious goals for a sustainable and diverse economy. The UAE intends to become a global leader in sustainable urban development through the use of technology, innovation, and collaboration.

Sustainable urbanization is not only necessary but also a strategic objective for the UAE. The UAE is making tremendous progress in creating cities that are both modern and dynamic, as well as environmentally sustainable, through a combination of innovative legislation, technical developments, and community engagement. As the UAE continues down this route, it sets an example for other countries seeking to strike a balance between urban growth and environmental stewardship.

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Global Heating, Urbanization & Severity of UAE Floods

Global Heating Urbanization UAE Floods
Global Heating Urbanization UAE Floods

The World Weather Attribution Group attributed severe rain to enhanced El Niño effects, ruling out cloud seeding as a possible reason. A study concluded that fossil fuels and construction exacerbated the “death trap” circumstances during recent record flooding in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

According to the World Weather Attribution team, human-caused climate disruption has led to a 10–40% increase in downpours during El Niño years like this one.

Additionally, a lack of natural drainage has turned roadways into rivers. After regions of the Arabian Peninsula were deluged by heavy rainfall on April 16–17, at least 23 people died in flood waters, including ten children in a swept-away school bus.

Dubai experienced more than 14 cm of rain in 24 hours, which is equivalent to a year and a half’s worth of typical precipitation. This was the biggest rainfall since records began in 1949. Flooding in the UAE and Oman damaged houses and cars, caused power outages, and forced school closures. The runway at Dubai Airport, the world’s busiest international airport, was flooded, causing more than 1,000 flights to be canceled and several days of delays.

In the immediate wake of the deluge, there was conjecture that artificial weather modification was to blame, given the UAE’s use of cloud-seeding technologies to address water shortages. However, the latest analysis found that “cloud seeding had no meaningful role in the event.” The UAE’s National Center of Meteorology has also denied conducting such an operation on the day of the deluge.

However, human intervention exacerbated the effect in other ways. Although the researchers were unable to identify how much of the rise was caused by human-induced climate change due to a lack of historical rainfall data, they concluded that global warming driven by the usage of fossil fuels was the most likely reason for the record precipitation.

This region of the Persian Gulf is one of the driest locations on Earth, yet it is historically prone to strong rain and flash flooding every few years, particularly during the El Niño periods. Climate change is expected to intensify El Niño episodes in this region by 10–40%, according to most scientists.

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What is the urbanization rate in the UAE?

The UAE urban population for 2022 was 8,265,048, up 1.09% from 2021. The UAE urban population for 2021 was 8,175,678, up 1.13% from 2020. The UAE urban population in 2020 was 8,084,399, up 1.12% from 2019. The UAE urban population in 2019 was 7,994,705, up 1.09% from 2018.

What are the impacts of urbanization?

Poor air and water quality, insufficient water supply, waste disposal issues, and high energy usage are compounded by rising population density and urban needs. Strong city planning will be critical to addressing these and other challenges as the world’s metropolitan regions grow.

What are the effects of urbanization in Dubai?

From 1972 to 2011, Dubai saw tremendous urbanization and spread, which were influenced by both local and global factors. In this hyperarid climate, urbanization has increased vegetation cover and the number of inland water bodies.

How did urbanization impact the economy?

Urbanization can also cause several economic issues, including the demise of conventional businesses, the emergence of informal economies, and increased infrastructure and service expenses. It can also lead to problems like unemployment, underemployment, and inflation.


UAE Urbanization Impact reveals that the transformation of Dubai and Abu Dhabi into highly urbanized cities reflects broader global trends. As the United Arab Emirates navigates the challenges of rapid urbanization, the focus on sustainable urban development becomes crucial. With the UAE’s urban population growing, the nation stands as a model for balancing development with environmental stewardship. This commitment will not only shape the future of its cities but also influence urban planning on a global scale.

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