Evaluation of the response capability of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the impact of natural hazards
Al Ghasyah Dhanhani, Hamdan
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
MetadataShow full item record
The UAE is an Islamic state which has undergone dramatic urbanization in the last 30 years. It is situated near the eastern margin of the Arabian tectonic plate, close to the seismically active collision zone between the Arabian and Eurasian Plates, marked by the Zagros Mountain belt of Iran. In the UAE the population of Dibba in Fujairah has felt tremors as recently as November 26 2009 and an earthquake with a magnitude (M) of 5 occurred in Masafi, Fujairah, in March 2002. The most recent earthquake was M 4.3, and awareness of seismic hazard is increasing. In addition to earthquakes, rapid heavy rainfall in the arid environment of the UAE typically results in high level of discharge and flooding. Tropical storms have also struck the Indian Ocean coast of the UAE and have caused damage in coastal areas. The impact of natural hazard events in Fujairah since 1995 and the responses of the authorities and affected communities illustrates the issues faced by the country and is discussed in the thesis. The Federal Plan to face disasters in the UAE prepared by the Civil Defence sets out the role of the government structures in the UAE to manage disasters with particular reference to the Ministry of Interior, which is the responsible body. A survey of UAE ministries and the Civil Defence shows that in practice there is lack of clarity between the roles of government bodies and there are many areas of confusion regarding jurisdiction and responsibility between the federal and individual emirate institutions. It was a concern that some supporting ministries were unaware of their role as set out in the overall plan. There is lack of evidence of an integrated approach and no testing of effectiveness of emergency procedures through simulation exercises. It is recognized that, not only are school children particularly vulnerable to natural disasters but also that education is an important mitigation tool through raising awareness of hazard exposure amongst the population. A survey of schools in Fujairah showed that there was little preparation for natural disasters and no framework to address this issue or to ensure the structural integrity of school buildings. The survey revealed that there is a willingness to learn among the school children and this was followed up by a pilot scheme to raise awareness. This is important as the survey also revealed that traditional views about losses are still common amongst parents, particularly in rural areas. The vulnerability of the communities to natural hazards is strongly influenced by cultural and social factors. A survey was undertaken of the population in the UAE to investigate their awareness of natural hazards, their perception of risk and how this might be mitigated. The survey revealed a low level awareness and what the role of government agencies would be in the event of a disaster. A majority considered that disasters were Acts of God, a punishment, and the most effective way to mitigate risk was through religious observance. It is clear that even in a developed Islamic country an effective response to mitigate risk needs to recognize and address the cultural and religious contexts. Finally the thesis evaluates the response capability of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the impact of natural hazards. This analysis shows that though there is a Federal Plan for Disasters there is little specific focus on natural hazards. Ministries not directly involved with the Civil Defence were sometimes unclear regarding their roles. At an operational level there is lack of clarity regarding responsibilities and lines of authority between different bodies and between Federal and emirate structures. The Civil Defence was very much focused on response with little effort devoted to reducing vulnerability through awareness-raising, hazard assessment and monitoring. These need to be addressed to minimize the risk from natural disasters.