Policies to Buildings: The UAE’s Emergence as the GCC’s Sustainability Leader

UAE Map

Karim Elgendy

Settling along the shores of the gulf

In the barren deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, people have always settled in locations that provided freshwater and enough natural resources to enable trade and economic development. Human settlements in the southern shores of the Gulf, in what we now know as the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are no exceptions to this.

For the last four centuries, the Bedouins of the Banu Yas tribes have settled a strip of land along the northern edge of the dune fields of the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter. Drawn to its plentiful ground water resources they established what is now known as the Liwa Oasis and developed date plantations which provided subsistence. But when fresh water was discovered on the Abu Dhabi Island in the late 18th century, Al Bu Falah branch of Banu Yas moved to the coastal location which – in addition to providing fresh water- also allowed them to develop pearling industry and trade.

In the early 19th century, another branch of the Banu Yas, known as Al Bu Falasa, moved from the Abu Dhabi Island to settle near a natural creek 90 miles east of the Abu Dhabi Island. In addition to ground water and pearling, the creek – now known as the Dubai  Creek- allowed the establishment of a port which facilitated trade with neighbors across the gulf and beyond. They quickly established a settlement on the western shore the creek – known later as Bur Dubai – but had to abandon it two decades later and move to the eastern shore after a smallpox outbreak. By the end of the 19th century, the combined advantages of fresh water availability, the natural port, the pearling industry, and the good geographic location, were sufficient for the new settlement to endure a sweeping fire that burnt through most of it dwellings. The Bedouins that have settled in Dubai sought no other location and simply rebuilt their settlement.

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Empowering Egypt: Strategies

Rokia Raslan

Wind Turbines in Egypt - Copyrights: Igor Srdanovic

Wind Turbines in Egypt – Copyrights: Igor Srdanovic

In aiming to analyse the underlying issues that contributed to the rolling power blackouts of 2012 in Egypt, the first part of this two-part article focussed on attempting to offer an answer to the question of why did the  blackouts occur. Following on from this,  this second part attempts to answer the next crucial question of how do we solve this problem. While the previous Egyptian Government has focused on promoting behavioural change strategies as their primary approach for bridging the energy gap, a number of alternative strategies such as infrastructure upgrade, demand side management, increasing energy efficient of buildings, and diversification of energy sources were available. In an aim to explore this diverse range of policy options, the following will highlight and discuss the potential impact of a number of these possible solution pathways.

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Empowering Egypt: Challenges

Rokia Raslan

Power Infrastructure in Egypt. Copyrights: Rémih

The past summer has seen something that many Egyptians had long forgotten: rolling power blackouts. Reports have cited that these month-long power cuts have affected everyday life for Egyptians in many ways. The outages stranded passengers on the Cairo Metro, raised concerns about night time safety and contributed to water supply interruption. Over a period of over a month the frequency of power cuts increased dramatically and were mapped by the crowd-mapping website, Kahrabtak. Power outages in some areas lasted 18 hours a day, hitting poorer residential districts especially hard and prompting protests in Fayoum, Gharbiya and Giza among others.

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Two Unsustainable Urbanisms: Dubai and Gaza

Karim Elgendy and Joumana al Jabri

An infographic comparing the two extreme urbanisms of Dubai and the Gaza Strip. While the two urban regions demonstrate surprising similarities when their geographic and demographic data are compared, their political and socio-economic conditions have produced urbanisms that are radically different and equally unsustainable.

A  version of this infographic was first published by Portal 9 Magazine under “Reading Gaza Through Dubai”. Copyrights for the infographic are reserved for the Authors above. No reproduction or republishing of theinfographic or any part thereof is permitted without prior written consent from the authors. To discuss this infographic, please join Carboun’s  discussion group on Linkedin. For news and updates on sustainability in cities around the region, join Carboun’s Facebook page or follow its Twitter feed. Continue reading Two Unsustainable Urbanisms: Dubai and Gaza

The State of Egypt’s Sustainability Agenda

Karim Elgendy

Two weeks ago, The English version of a leading Egyptian daily published an opinion piece on entitled “Our local ‘green’ agenda.” In his article, the author made a number of intriguing arguments that suggest that Egypt has a unique environmental agenda and a set of sustainability priorities that are different from the predominant global ones.  He also suggests that imported ‘green’ concepts fail to take into consideration ingrained conservationist behaviors that already exist in Egypt.

While I agree that each country must develop a local approach to sustainability which responds to its specific socio-economic and environmental needs, I found many of the author’s arguments to lack sufficient context, and was therefore concerned that the article could potentially result in an inaccurate representation of the state of sustainability in Egypt.

Cairo's Old City. Copyrights: Karim Elgendy

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