Urbanization in the United Arab Emirates
In 1973 the UAE was found to possess a massively profitable sum of oil. Use of this resource lead to intense economic growth that far out past the global relations and industrial capabilities than the UAE previously possessed. Between 1973 and 2018, the countries urbanization grew from a meager 50% to an absurd 85%, with mass groups of people migrating into newly founded and developing cities. This intense period of progress is responsible for transforming the UAE into the powerhouse that it is today, but the rapid pace of the transformation came with consequences. The manpower behind this development rested on the backs of right-less migrant workers, and a lack of preexisting environmental regulations create myriad environmental concerns. The growth of cities like Dubai appears fantastical from the outside, with the true costs of this appearance hiding in the shadows.
The previously beautiful deserts of the UAE have been largely overrun with myriad housing and development projects. This is a the result of a lack of regulations both on emissions and work sights, a theme that has very negative consequences today. The UAE is currently a massive world polluter, having held the greatest ecological footprint at 9.5 global hectares per capita. Alongside this, the UAE has one of the highest water consumption rates, a product of hundreds of fountains and developments. Water is a massive issue in itself for the UAE, as the plethora of migrants and tourists requires large yearly expenses of resources. People need fresh water to drink, and water is essential in industry and hydropower. Natural resources in the UAE had never been taxed like they are today, thus government action is being taken to better direct the country towards a sustainable future. Even then, the water within the UAE is becoming heavily polluted, with salinity levels rising from a healthy 23,000 ppm to an environmentally dangerous 47,000 ppm within the last 30 years, creating environmental fears for fish and other marine life.
Of course all these concern have only come about due to an overall rise in construction a project that requires a massive workforce to succeed,a workforce possible only through migration. With migration comes the UAE’s biggest issue, as a lack of both Government regulation and overall control of companies has created an environment rife with safety concerns and workers rights violations. Companies recruit employees through government funded, but privately operated “Tadbeer Centers” which help funnel migrants into jobs. These are the places where employers of ill repute can obtain undocumented and unprotected labor for cheap, only increasing the workers rights issues within the greater country. Stories of seized passports, inhumane living conditions, disease and even sexual assault are common from Tadbeer-associated companies, permanently staining the massive towers they build.
The UAE’s government acknowledges these issues; however, and as of recently has set its priorities on setting stricter laws. A major success would be putting all Tadbeer-Centers under government control with a blacklist on abusive companies, but even then the laws are filled with loopholes and missing parts. To remedy this, a law is being adapted that provides workers with the basic rights to leave and rest, things that almost seem give-in but were not yet in place. It further opens the door for the unionization and fair employment regulations that the country has been missing. The UAE is a bright country with a dark past, but it has the resources and wealth to change that. With government stability and reformative action on the rise, the future looks optimistic.