Dubai’s sustainable city plan is modelled on a 100- year strategy. It includes plans for sustainable transport, sustainable skyline, sustainable tourism and sustainable industries. Relevant to all of these is water conservation and efficiency.
Sustainable development began as a global agenda long before the UN declared its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the turn of this century. The sustainable development approach was first mentioned in 1987 by then- UN General Secretary Javier Perez de Cuellar, and more recently it has been highlighted as a key to sustainable development by Robert McNamara (former President of the World Bank) and the late Rajiv Gandhi (former Prime Minister of India).
The three core elements of Dubai’s water conservation and efficiency are:
1) The reduction of potable water consumption;
2) the recycling of wastewater; and,
3) the use of alternative sources for irrigation.
Over half (51%) of the freshwater produced in the UAE goes to agriculture, according to a report by the Ministry of Environment and Water. The UAE has a sustainable water per capita consumption rate of about 220 litres per day, twice the world average. Albeit impressive in terms of improvement in comparison to most other countries, it remains unsustainable because the population growth rate in Dubai has now slowed to 3.4 per cent per year, down from the 2006 rate of 5.3%.
In 2007, Dubai launched a landscaping campaign called ‘My City is Green,’ in which it pledged to increase green areas in the city by 10% within five years.
Dubai has set an example to the world with its efforts at water conservation and efficiency, both by domestic usage reduction and alternative water sources. However, to be complacent with such a small per capita consumption rate and the fact that two-thirds of domestic water production are used indoors.
Sustainable development is not just about green buildings and creating a green city: It must also include international collaboration and becoming an example for best sustainable methods.