The inclusion of environmental sustainability in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals highlighted the importance of taking measures to protect and restore the environment. After all, a cleaner environment makes the earth more habitable for the current and succeeding generations. Responsible companies – such as Dubai Aluminium (DUBAL) – the entirely state-owned corporation that owns and operates the world’s largest primary aluminium smelter using pre-bake anode technology – have taken this in their stride and joined the cause of environmental sustainability as a key component of triple bottom-line performance.
“Since our company’s inception in 1979, DUBAL has planted trees at our Jebel Ali site, the number of trees having grown as our business has developed. Planting trees forms part of DUBAL’s commitment to sustainability, whereby we aim to meet human needs while preserving the environment – the overall goal being for these needs to be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come,” says Abdulla Kalban (President & CEO: DUBAL). “We do our best to preserve the environment without depleting or degrading its natural resources; and act responsibly so as to protect nature and strive for environmental sustainability.”
Evidencing this environmental commitment, a DUBAL-commissioned Plant Health Survey was conducted by external vegetation experts at the company’s premises at the end of March this year. With similar studies having been conducted every three years since 2001, this was the fifth of its kind. The purpose of the surveys is to study the effect of fluoride injuries on plants (vegetation) by emissions from the industry, and to assess the effectiveness of DUBAL’s green initiatives in reducing the impact of fluoride emissions on different kinds of plants.
The 2012 Plant Health Survey was conducted by Professor Alan W Davison, an emeritus professor at Newcastle University and one of the top international experts on the effect of fluoride emitted from aluminium smelting plants Industry on vegetation. Professor Davison, who also conducted the surveys in 2006 and 2009, examined plants at different locations on the DUBAL site to determine whether or not damage from air pollution had occurred. He also evaluated DUBAL’s progress against the recommendations made in 2009, which included:
Increasing the number of vegetation test sites, which has helped determine the impact of fluorides on the environment in many ways. More accurate data and improved interpretation has been achieved; the dispersion level of fluoride in the ambient air on a larger scale can be estimated; and the monitoring, inspection, and sample collection procedures have been improved.
Increasing the plantation of different species within the DUBAL Green Belt initiative, across existing and new areas within the smelter site. This has helped reduced the level of pollutants in the atmosphere, and enhanced the visual aesthetics of the plant site.
Guiding the DUBAL Technical Laboratory in the development of a sampling protocol for vegetation and chemical analysis procedures to measure fluoride concentration in leaves. A new sampling method has been introduced to identify exactly where there might or might not be significant effects, which can be used to map the “footprint” of emissions from a source. This has led to the DUBAL facility becoming one of the best laboratories in vegetation analysis for Fluoride.
In his report following the 2012 Plant Health Survey, Professor Davison concluded that “Overall, the generally excellent health of the plants is a credit to DUBAL. It is the result of very low emission rates, low rates of fugitive emissions and investment in first-class landscaping and pro-active management of the plants. It is quite a remarkable achievement in such an extreme environment and much better than I have seen at other smelters. The smelter was magnificent … the trees, lawns and flowers all contribute to a good first impression. The results of the survey were very similar to those reported in 2009. HF injury was restricted to sites that were very close to the Potrooms, and decreased very rapidly away from these areas.”
Commenting specifically on DUBAL’s air quality monitoring programme, Professor Davison said that the Technical Laboratory personnel have shown consistent commitment to maintaining quality and to the vegetation monitoring programme. “They have implemented all of the recommendations I have made during past visits,” he said. “Also, in 2010 I was involved in a risk assessment of the emissions from the Icelandic volcanic eruption on the UK and I needed a laboratory that could do blind checks on some of the samples that were being analysed by my old laboratory at Newcastle University. We asked the DUBAL laboratory to do it and they gave a prompt and efficient service. There was very good agreement between the analysis.”
“Environmental sustainability is much more than practicing green: it requires organizations to become smart green companies by adopting forward-thinking strategies that provide sustainable green solutions, build on the small successes to ultimately achieve environmental conservation, and still give the highest possible returns to all stakeholders,” comments Kalban. “DUBAL is fully committed to environment sustainability, by developing a safe working atmosphere while always acting and implementing green practices.”