Urbanization in the United Arab Emirates
In 1973 the UAE was found to possess massive and profitable sums of oil. Use of this resources lead to intense economic growth and far more inter-country relation 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 the newly founded 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 was not without consequences. The manpower behind this development rests on the backs of right-less migrant workers, and the lack of preexisting regulations create myriad environmental concerns. The growth of cities like Dubai is appears fantastical on the outside, but the dark costs of this appearance are lesser known.
The previously beautiful deserts of the UAE have been for the most part overrun with myriad housing and development projects. This is a product of a lack of regulations both on emissions and on construction sights, a theme that has very negative consequences today. The UAE is currently a massive polluter, having held the greatest ecological footprint at 9.5 global hectares per capita. Alongside this, they have one of the highest water consumption rates as a product of massive fountains and developments. Water is a massive issue in itself for the UAE, as the plethora of migrants and tourists, requires a massive expense of resources. People need fresh water to drink, and water is essential in industry and hydropower. Natural resources had previously 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 concerningly 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 the overall rise in construction within the country, a project that requires a massive workforce to succeed, something possibly 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 action on the rise, the future is optimistic.