Over the past few years, various municipalities in the UAE have developed a relatively large body of environmental regulations based on local orders, many of which contain strong enforcement provisions. Among the Emirates, Dubai has the most developed system of environmental regulations, requiring permits from the local municipality for activities relating to water usage (sewage/drainage, liquid waste) and to air pollution. The environmental standards imposed are closely monitored by the local municipality, which has the power to clean up at the polluter's expense, to enforce discontinuance of drainage or to cancel existing permits. Furthermore, the operator of a facility is required to perform monthly tests and to send the results to the municipality.
On a federal level, the UAE created in 1993 the Federal Environmental Authority (FEA), which has since prepared a draft of environmental protection legislation for a comprehensive federal law that is supposed to bring new cohesiveness to the current fragmented system of environmental protection. In addition to provisions regarding the general protection of the environment, the proposed law contains specific chapters on water, soil and air pollution, noise pollution, the protection and preservation of wildlife, protected areas, environmental disasters and the handling of hazardous materials and waste. It also calls for eliminating pollution from sources outside the UAE and for full compliance with UAE treaty obligations. Companies will be required to comply with its provisions within two years from the date of publication. The executive regulations are to be published six month after enactment of the draft law. Entities formed after the enactment will have to comply with its provisions in order to obtain a license; the licensing authorities will require environmental impact studies from applicants. Furthermore, environmental protection will generally have to be considered in all government decisions.
General enforcement of the law will be undertaken by the Ministry of Justice. Violators of the proposed provisions will have to compensate individual victims of environmental damage. It is not clear, however, whether the law allows a private cause of action for the victims or whether the Ministry will administer such claims. On the other hand, the law does state expressly that environment protection societies may institute civil litigation against an offender.
The UAE recently joined the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Control and is a party to various international treaties regarding environmental protection, including the 1969 Brussels Convention Relating to Intervention on the High Seas in Case of Oil Pollution Casualties and its 1973 Protocol; as well as the same convention relating to Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage; the 1971 Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation in Oil Pollution Damage; the 1972 London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping from Ships and Aircraft (as amended); the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora; Annex 16 on Environmental Protection of the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, the Kuwait Regional Convention for Cooperation on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Pollution; the 1985 Vienna Convention for Protection of the Ozone Layer with its 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer; the 1986 IAEA Conventions on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency.
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