Urbanization is a process that leads to a permanent accumulation of people in relatively small areas that have developed from villages into cities and that continue to attract more people from the countryside (United Nations, 2014). The trend has its challenges, as it strains the urban areas due to the influx of rural migrants, what translates into economic, social problems that can adversely affect the society. Urbanization in the United Arab Emirates is a product of the 1973 oil boom, large-scale international migration, and globalization (Fazli & Faridi, 2008). This essay seeks to examine the problems of urbanization in the United Arab Emirates and the ways it appears as a strategic threat.
Dubai hosts millions of people and continues to grow, increasing the demand for land despite the exisitng constraints. As a way of catering for the deficit, the authorities decided to create more room by extending the shoreline towards the sea, bringing another 92 kilometer square of land in 1985 (Fazli & Faridi, 2008). There are also some artificial islands, which create room for real estate and resorts. Such development does not only take place in Dubai but also in other cities such as Abu Dhabi. Regarding the above-mentioned information, urbanization is a threat to the future of the United Arab Emirates because it promotes land conversion as well as large-scale reclamation of land from the sea. The result is the destruction of natural ecosystem, what is an opposite of the vision of having a sustainable environment and infrastructure by 2021 "within a safe and abundant natural and social environment" (United Arab Emirates, 2010). The destruction of the ecosystem leads to the loss of biodiversity, as it ruins the natural coastal habitat for some plants and animals. The development of the coastal areas also leads to environmental pollution that destroys the ecosystem, diminishing the tourist sites, which attract visitors with their natural environment. The problem translates to the loss of revenues collected from visitors, negatively affecting the economy.
In the City of Dubai, numerous mega projects involving construction work attract a vast number of laborers from not only the Emirates but also from other countries. The workers, however, earn poor salaries and end up living in labor camps away from the city. The group lives in deplorable conditions, and thus some them end up committing suicide when they imagine the shame of going back home empty-handed. The poverty of the construction workers population also harms the public security, as there is a high rate of crime associated with the group. For instance, in 2005, there were 84 suicides in Dubai construction sector, while the whole Emirates experienced 65,000 urban crimes (Fazli & Faridi, 2008). Regarding the above data, urbanization poses a strategic threat in the United Arab Emirates because contrary to the Vision 2021 that aims at creating a cohesive society (United Arab Emirates, 2010), it promotes economic disparities between the residents, widening the rift between the wealthy and the have-nots. Such situation in the country is a headache to the government, as it can be forced to spend money on social welfare of the underpaid population as well as handle the eventualities that can befall the poor and hence divert money meant for other developmental purposes. In addition, problems affecting the working class deplete the workforce and lower the productivity of the economy, translating into monetary losses.
The United Arab Emirates continue to face rapid urbanization that leads to a fast speed development of rural areas into urban cities. Even though development of cities is desirable, there is a need to control the growth due to the environmental and land issues associated with the problem as well as the infrastructural requirements of the population. Within a few decades, Abu Dhabi transformed from a cluster of coastal villages into a metropolis recognized all over the world due to the increasing numbers of foreign immigrants (Alvarez, Gelfond, & Wessel, 2014). The rapid growth of the metropolis brought challenges in the meeting the needs of infrastructure, while maintaining the status of the ecosystem, destroying the dream of infrastructural and environmental sustainability by the year 2021 (United Arab Emirates, 2010). Most of the industries have to develop near the sea due to the ease of acquiring water for their operations, while hotels also need access to the shores of recreational beaches that attract tourists, creating a strain on the coastal ecosystem. The government has to build roads, rails, supply electricity, and water among other needs and, therefore, face high monetary costs. In light of the above argument, urbanization is a threat to the United Arab Emirates as it inflates the infrastructural needs of the growing population.
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Urbanization appears as a strategic threat to the United Arab Emirates as it increases the demand for water, energy and other essential supplies, hence straining the environment. The issue kills the vision of having a sustainable environment and infrastructure by 2021 through the “implementation of innovative solutions to protect and sustain the environment” (United Arab Emirates, 2010). Therefore, the government may have to spend a lot of money on generating energy, purifying water, and managing the waste. In addition, the government will need to invest in sustainable urban designs as well as clean and renewable energy and water sources. Furthermore, the disposal of waste and the emissions from power generation sources can pose a threat on the environment, and thus the government will have to spend more money on rehabilitating the affected environment. Reports state that the United Arab Emirates is the largest source of air pollutants, greenhouse gasses, and trash in the world and it is the biggest consumer of water and energy.
The development of urban centers is a threat to the United Arab Emirates, as it amplifies the possibility of natural and human-made disasters, contravening the achievement of a safe public by 2021 through “protecting the citizens from all threats to their safety” (United Arab Emirates, 2010). The event forces the government to adopt measures, such as disaster preparedness and prevention programs to alleviate monetary, human and environmental losses. Such programs do not directly benefit the residents and, therefore, the money spent on these initiatives ought to finance direct developmental projects. According to El-Batran (2008), the United Arab Emirates had 88.8% rate of urbanization in 2015, while the planned figure for 2030 was 90.8%. The population growth rate is 5.9%, and more people tend to flock to cities (El-Batran, 2008). The above data depicts that the urban areas face natural disasters or terrorist attacks, the number of casualties and economic loss will be unbearable, and hence the government must invest in mitigation measures.
Urbanization is a threat to the United Arab Emirates because cities encourage rural-urban migration. Technocrats and intellectuals move from the rural to urban areas in search of greener pastures and investment opportunities, thus promoting inequalities in the regional development, as the villages lag behind, and this situation in the country frustrates the idea of having a united prosperity by 2021 marked by “balance development throughout its territory” (United Arab Emirates, 2010). According to Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation (2016), international employees flock the Gulf region especially the urban centers, increasing the government expenditure on social services and security.
Regarding the reclamation of land and the destruction of the ecosystem, the government has to adopt an economic strategy of investing more funds towards the protection of the biodiversity or even the restoration of the already destroyed features. The effort will drain substantial amounts of money from the public coffers, when this money are ought to fund other developmental projects. Regarding the increase in urban crime, the government may have to incur increase in costs to provide security through police officers and equipment aimed at law enforcement. In addition, the government may invest more in diplomatic ties to reduce the possibility of foreign aggression. Concerning the increasing demand for infrastructure, the government may have to embrace an economic strategy of increasing the financial allocation in infrastructural development. All this actions of the government are expected to strain the budget. To address the growing demand for water, energy and other resources, the government may have to incur significant expenditures on the development of green community as well as green building projects to tame the environmental impacts. According to Alvarez, Gelfond, and Wessel (2014), the Masdar City is an example of a sustainable/eco-city, as it aims at achieving 100% carbon neutrality. The city also plans to use renewable energy and reuse all its wastewater. The city will also use 70% less energy than Abu Dhabi (Alvarez, Gelfond, & Wessel, 2014). Masdar, therefore, shows how the government invests in reversing the environmental impact. As a way of promoting balanced development, the government will have to set aside money to develop the abandoned rural areas to uplift the lives of the remaining population. The money, therefore, extremely strains state budget compared to the situation in which development takes place in a balanced manner.
In conclusion, urbanization appears as a threat to the United Arab Emirates in various ways. The expansion of the coastline leads to the destruction of the ecosystem and thus it can cost the government lots of money to restore the natural appearance of the affected areas. The presence of mega constructions attracts laborers to the cities, and the low wages widen the gap of income inequality, hence increasing urban crime that adds security costs to the government. The growth of cities increase the demand for land and infrastructural hence deepening the expenses of the government on infrastructure, what affects land usage. Urbanization increases the demand for water and energy among other essential supplies, leading to increased government costs of providing the services as well as investing in sustainable water and energy sources. Urbanization leads to the amplification of disasters due to the concentration of wealth and people in small areas and thus the government has to invest more money in disaster prevention or mitigation projects. Urbanization fuels rural-urban migration, making people leave villages. Consequently, the government may have to set money aside for rural development hence increasing the budget. Concerning the above issues, the federal government of the United Arab Emirates needs to control urbanization as a way of reducing the associated problems.