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Public-Private Tie-Ups needed to Develop Solid Waste Management Infrastructure - UAE

An official of the global consulting firm on urban and transport planning, Hyder Consulting, has urged for a strong public-private partnership in the UAE to put up solid waste management infrastructure that could cost each emirate billions of dirhams but whose returns would be seen after two decades.

"Privatisation through public-private partnership brings in financing and have both parties learn from each other," said Deirdre Dudley-Owen, senior waste consultant, Hyder Consulting Middle East. "Both sides can also bring in international experts and learn from each other."

Dudley-Owen yesterday said private contactors would be needed to put up the facility to pre-treat and recycle solid waste materials before these are incinerated or dumped into landfills. The landfills should be lined in order to prevent liquid waste seepage while the residual wastes brought about by incineration should first be treated before they are released into the air.

She said this whole process is called integrated waste strategy, a mix of garbage treatment being used across Europe which is also the most suitable for the UAE, whose seven emirates all have no wide-ranging infrastructure built to manage the growing garbage problem.

"Waste generation continues to grow and will be a heavy burden to municipalities," she said, adding that there has been "indiscriminate dumping of untreated wastes" in some parts of the country."

Some environmentalists have seen, for instance, "kilometres and kilometres of various waste materials" including asbestos, oil and industrial wastes dumped into some open areas on the border of Umm Al Quwain, a tiny emirate of 750 sq km between Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah and located on the country's Arabian Gulf coast.

Dudley-Owen said the situation is not getting any better considering that the country's increasing population and fast economic growth has brought about increased individual and industrial wastes. She added that 725 kilogramme of garbage is generated by each person every day in Dubai and 730 kilogramme in Abu Dhabi.

She said the setting up of an integrated waste strategy facility ? which may include mechanical-biological treatment ? can be done in two years if financing is available. But the baseline work of data gathering and analysing them and formulating recommendations could take three to five years.

The country's fourth largest city, Al Ain, located in the capital Abu Dhabi, has the most advanced waste treatment facilities in the UAE. Dr Salem Al Kaabi, who recently joined the city government, said Al Ain has a sorting station for garbage, an incinerator for medical wastes, and a lined landfill site of 1km by 1km for hazardous and residual wastes.

Dudley-Owen described Ras Al Khaimah as the most "forward looking" emirate when it comes to having adequate facilities for garbage management, Ajman as "very keen", and Abu Dhabi as wanting to "emulate" Al Ain. "Dubai is my weak spot," she said. "We need to really clearly assess what is being done in Dubai with regard to garbage problem and what their needs are."

She said most UAE municipalities have signed contracts with waste collecting companies, which have not illustrated clearly how and where they are disposing the garbage. (khaleej times)

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