Federal Protection
Research and Development
Emirate of Dubai

The federal government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has jurisdiction for environmental protection, at the same time each emirate has its own regulations.

Federal Protection

The principal sources of federal environmental protection are governed by four laws - Federal Laws 7/1993, 19/1993, 23/1999 and 24/1999.

Environment agency
Federal Law 7/1993 created a Federal Environment Agency (FEA). The functions of the FEA are to:

  • draft laws and regulations and propose policy;

  • carry out studies;

  • monitor air, water and sea pollution;

  • research the effects of pollution on health and the environment; and

  • protect against hazards that may harm human health, wildlife, crops or other natural resources.

The FEA is authorized to monitor all public and private development activities and has to approve any activity that may adversely affect the environment before it is licensed.

Delimitation of maritime zones
Federal Law 19/1993 concerns the respect of the delimitation of the UAE maritime zones. The law provides that:

  • the UAE shall in the zone contiguous (12 nautical miles from the outer limits of the UAE territorial sea) to its territorial sea, exercise supervision and control to prevent infringement of its sanitary laws within its land territory, internal waters or territorial sea. The UAE has an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) beyond and adjacent to its territorial sea and extending 200 nautical miles. The UAE has sovereign rights in the EEZ for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living of the waters and the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water currents and wind. The UAE may take such measures including boarding, inspection, arrest and judicial proceedings against vessels in the EEZ as may be necessary to ensure compliance with UAE laws and regulations. Arrested vessels and crews shall not be released until after the posting of bond or security. If foreign vessels are arrested, the flag state shall be notified;

  • similar rights exist over the continental shelf;

  • the UAE will have regard to marine scientific research and the protection and preservation of the marine environment;

  • in the EEZ and continental shelf the UAE has the conclusive right to construct, operate and use artificial islands, structures and installations for scientific research, preservation of the environment or other economic purposes or those which enable the UAE to exercise its rights, and may establish safety zones around them; and

  • fines and terms of imprisonment for violation of the provisions.

Aquatic wealth
Federal Law 23/1999 concerns the exploitation, protection and development of the aquatic wealth in the UAE. The law prohibits certain activities such as:

  • fishing during fertilization or propagation seasons;

  • fishing of sea turtles and sea cows and their eggs, whales and other mammals or extraction of oysters, sponges or coral reefs unless written permission is given for the purpose of scientific research;

  • catching prohibited fish for their eggs, skins or fins;

  • establishing artificial corals and reefs unless written permission is given for the purpose of scientific research;

  • fishing with explosives, crackers or substances harmful, toxic or anaesthetic to aquatics; and

  • dumping whale and fish bodies in marine waters.

Protection and development
Federal Law 24/1999 covers environmental protection and development. This law aims to:

  • protect the environment;

  • preserve its diversity and natural equilibrium;

  • combat pollution;

  • develop natural resources; and

  • avoid any immediate or long-term detrimental effects from economic, agricultural, industrial or constructional development.

The law also seeks to protect society and the health of human beings and other living creatures. It is designed to conserve flora and fauna in the UAE. The law provides for the FEA to identify:

  • categories of projects which may damage the environment;

  • areas or sites of environmental importance (eg, archaeological sites, wetlands); and

  • important natural resources and major environmental problems.

The FEA has to assess the environmental impact of any enterprise applying for a licence. The owners of licensed projects have to undertake a regular analysis of waste production and monitor discharge specifications and pollutants, including substances subject to decay. They are also obliged to keep records and send reports to the FEA.

The law provides for the FEA to establish a national environmental monitoring system. The agency is also responsible for national emergency plans to counter environmental disasters and all parties and individuals living in the UAE are required to offer their help in the event of a disaster.

Any party who intentionally or negligently violates the law is responsible for repairing the damage and is liable to a prison term and/or a fine. The fines for violating these provisions range from Dh500 to Dh1 million. In addition, the death penalty or life imprisonment plus a fine of Dh1 million to Dh10 million applies if any party or individual seeks to import, dump, store or dispose of nuclear substances in any form whatsoever in the UAE.

The law contains provisions to:

  • protect the UAE coastline against pollution (particularly in relation to oil spillages);

  • safeguard the marine environment and resources;

  • protect drinking and ground water and develop water resources;

  • counter air pollution; and

  • ban the use and spreading of hazardous substances and refuse.

Executive order
The law refers to an executive order which sets out the procedure to be followed in the event of an oil leakage. It is envisaged that the order will be passed by the end of 2000.


In June 2000 the FEA announced it had started procedures to appoint commissioners who would be given legal authority to inspect firms to ensure compliance with Federal Law 24/1999. The commissioners will be entitled to report on any violations and refer any offender to the relevant judicial authority. Commissioners will be responsible for ensuring that firms commissioned to work in the field of oil exploration have adopted safety methods that will not adversely affect the environment. The commissioners will also monitor maritime vessels to prevent oil spillages and to check that the vessels have taken appropriate measures to prevent pollution in case of any incident.

All commercial, industrial, tourist, agricultural and service firms will be monitored as they are banned by law from disposing of any substances, waste or untreated liquids which may cause marine pollution. They will also be monitored to ensure they provide an appropriate working environment including ventilation and prevention of leakage of air pollutants. The commissioners will take samples of drinking and underground water to ensure that they are fit for consumption. If they are not, and the owner does not comply with the inspectors advice on rectification, the commissioners may make all the necessary adaptations at the owner's expense. The commissioners will also check for violations in protected areas, such as: illegal hunting; transporting; killing or harming wildlife; cutting of trees; soil erosion; and destruction of geological or geographical components.

The commissioners will also monitor noise pollution, inspect excavation works, and construction and demolition sites in order to monitor the effects of waste and dust.

Research and Development

Abu Dhabi
In the Emirate of Abu Dhabi the Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency (ERWDA) was established under Law 4/1996 (as amended by Law 1/1997). The ERWDA has five major centres:

  • Environmental Services;

  • Marine Environmental Research Centre;

  • Terrestrial Environmental Research Centre;

  • National Avian Research Centre; and

  • Communications and Education.

Among its goals, the ERWDA is to establish and implement an environmental and natural resources regulatory system which is to be led by Environmental Services, who are responsible for enforcement. The ERWDA strategic environmental plan (2000-2004) states that the development of the regulatory system will take five years. The ERWDA's goals are to:

  • provide an environmental and natural resources monitoring system;

  • provide a management regime for fisheries, freshwater resources and rehabilitation of wildlife; and

  • raise environmental awareness and improve education.

The ERWDA also undertakes the licensing of fishing.

Emirate of Dubai

Local Order 61/1991 concerns environment protection regulations. The Dubai Municipality issued the order to protect the environment of the Emirate of Dubai. The general purpose of the regulations is to ensure environmental protection in Dubai by enforcing high environmental standards and safety. In Dubai, the Environment Protection Regulations include:

  • regulations on the reuse and land disposal of waste water and sewage sludge;

  • regulations concerning the disposal of waste water into the marine waters;

  • regulations for air pollution control from stationary sources;

  • noise control regulations; and

  • protected areas (wildlife sanctuaries).

The regulations apply to commercial or industrial establishments and companies whose licensed activities include any of the above fields. The regulations aim to encourage the reuse and protection of water and protect the natural resources, wildlife, marine and plant life in Dubai. The penalties for contravention include fines and warnings to rectify the contravention within a given period, as well as confiscation.

For further information on this topic please contact Peter Michelmore or Carla Busato at Al-Sayegh Richards Butler by telephone (+971 2 631 3010) or by fax (+971 2 631 2155) or by e-mail ([email protected]).

The materials contained on this web site are for general information purposes only and are subject to the disclaimer.