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Air quality in a particular region is one of the most important environmental indicators because it is acknowledged today that poor air quality is a threat to human health and biodiversity. Generally, this indicator is measured based on the presence and concentration of particular pollutants in the air.
In Abu Dhabi, two types of factors exist that can contribute to the deterioration of the quality of air: natural, such as desert climate and dust storms, and anthropogenic, such as pollution caused by the activities of oil companies, airports, and other businesses that are capable of largely affecting the environment. The importance of air quality analysis is explained by the necessity to design and implement appropriate policies and measures in case it is found that air quality in particular areas is unacceptably low.
The proposed research is significant because it will present well-grounded data on air quality and air pollution in Abu Dhabi and will provide recommendations as per mitigation measures. The study is relevant because many risks associated with poor air quality are recognized today (Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi 2015). The community served by the study consists of the residents of Abu Dhabi, as they are the ultimate beneficiaries of air quality improvement. In this proposal, the study’s objectives, literature review, and research methods are presented.
Air quality analysis should be based on clear assessment criteria that will allow ultimately determining if the quality is high or low (according to particularly determined standards) and identifying what contributes to it. Therefore, the proposed research will focus on various aspects of air quality assessment and measures that can be taken to improve it. The research question can be formulated as follows: what is the level of air quality in Abu Dhabi? Expected outcomes will be described through five research objectives.
First, it should be recognized that air quality is connected to climate and climate change (Vallero 2008). The first objective will be to assess climate conditions in Abu Dhabi; particularly, attention will be paid to solar radiation, air temperature, humidity, wind system, and evaporation. These factors in air quality can be regarded as natural ones; however, it should not be overlooked that anthropogenic changes in climate, such as those indirectly caused by carbon dioxide emissions, can be managed by regulating human activities, i.e. they should not be regarded as purely natural influences.
Second, the issue of air pollution should be addressed as a major factor in the quality of air. From this perspective, the objective will be to analyze air pollution distribution in different parts of Abu Dhabi with particular attention to sensitive areas, such as airports, oil field terminals (Jebel Dhanna), and oil refinery areas (Ruwais).
Third, it is proposed to combine the efforts and achievements of the first two objectives and link the role of particular pollutants and pollution in general to other air quality factors. The objective will be to determine any connections among sulfur dioxide (and other gases that are regarded as air pollutants), weather conditions, temperature, and humidity.
Fourth, since it has already been established that air quality is connected to climate change, efforts made as part of mitigation measures should be overviewed. In other words, the proposed research will examine—from the perspective of air quality—policies and practices made and performed by the UAE to address various negative effects of climate change. Under this objective, not only the efforts of the UAE government will be reviewed, but also the compliance of national programs with the international vision of climate change and its mitigation expressed in such international documents as the Kyoto Protocol and the agreements from the United Nations Climate Change Conferences.
Finally, the fifth objective is to identify the effects of air quality on human health, vegetation, and other important human- and environment-related issues in Abu Dhabi and to provide recommendations on what should be improved in this regard.
Reviewing relevant literature and analyzing reports from national and international agencies involved in climate change and air quality assessment will constitute an important part of the proposed research. First of all, the theoretical understanding of air quality should be explored. In this regard, the concept proposed by Vallero (2008, p. 3) that ‘air must be of a certain quality to support human and other life’ is adopted by the proposed research as a fundamental premise.
Therefore, air pollution is seen as certain emissions or indirect impacts on the air in an area that endanger the health of people who live in the area or endanger biodiversity there. Further, relevant scientific sources will be consulted for identifying particular aspects of air quality; for example, several pollutants will be identified the presence and concentration of which can be used as indicators of the level of air quality in certain regions or Abu Dhabi in general.
Based on the general understanding, the particular case of Abu Dhabi will be approached through analyzing available data from national agencies, such as the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and the National Center of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. A report published by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (2015) suggests that the main threats to the quality of air in Abu Dhabi include the concentration of particular matter with particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller (PM10), and the main contributors to the high level of this concentration are the desert conditions and frequent dust storms.
Although these influences are natural, efforts still can be made to prevent negative effects on the population. Further, the EAD admits that the increase in harmful concentrations is also caused by traffic, industrial activities, and construction. The threats to human health include minor, such as irritation of eyes, and major, such as serious impacts on the respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. Among positive conclusions, the EAD stresses that the levels of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide are below the federal limit.
In terms of the effects of different aspects of air quality on human health, relevant sources will be explored that describe in detail how particular pollutants behave in the environment, what the exposure to them causes, and how people can minimize risk. For example, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (2014) publishes answers to frequently asked questions concerning toxic substances, such as sulfur dioxide.
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In reviewing relevant academic literature, particular attention will be paid to exploring international standards of air quality (including indoor air quality standards) presented by such organizations as the World Health Organization (2010), and the standards will be applied to the local context of Abu Dhabi. Finally, reports from air quality monitoring stations administered by the EAD (Air Quality Monitoring System 2017) will be used as part of the literature review because, apart from monitoring data, the agency also provides a wide range of data on how air quality can be analyzed.
The method of the proposed research will be the analysis and interpretation of data from relevant agencies, such as the EAD and the NCMS, as well as from oil companies and airports as from organizations whose activities are capable of largely affecting the air in Abu Dhabi; these organizations are aware of environment-related issues and normally include air pollution information in their reports. A major component of the study will be the analysis of primary data obtained from 20 air quality monitoring stations located in different parts of the emirate of Abu Dhabi (Air Quality Monitoring System 2017).
The EAD, which administers those stations, performs its analysis according to the Air Quality Index (AQI) standards based on the presence and concentration of five pollutants in the air: particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and ground-level ozone; for each, there are established limits. Upon processing data on the combination of pollutants, the agency identifies the level of health concern for each region on a scale from low (good) to high (hazardous).
The proposed research will further process this information and compare it to international standards and studies. This methodology will allow presenting a well-grounded understanding of what air quality is, how to measure it, and how high levels of it can be achieved; also, reliable results will be provided on the current state of air quality in the emirate, and this state will be analyzed from the perspective of national and international standards.
Apart from sources indicated above, air quality statistics provided by the Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority (2017) will be used, too, to support the findings of the proposed study with data verified by the UAE government.
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry 2014, Toxic substances portal: sulfate oxide. Web.
Air Quality Monitoring System 2017, Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Web.
Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi 2015, Air quality quarterly report. Web.
Federal Competitiveness and Statistics Authority 2017, Statistics by subject. Web.
Vallero, DA 2008, Fundamentals of air pollution, 4th edn, Elsevier, London, UK.
World Health Organization 2010, WHO guidelines for indoor air quality: selected pollutants. Web.