Special Reports
Masdar Model City is Environmental Extravagances

By Dr. Geoff Pound
February 20, 2008

Masdar Designed to Lead the World

Much media hype surrounds the news of the UAE’s Masdar, projected to become by
2016 the ‘greenest city’ in the world. This new district, thirty kilometres from
the city of Abu Dhabi will eventually be home to 50,000 people and 1,500
businesses. It will be waste and carbon free, due to the no car policy and the
solar powering of its necessities.

A spokesperson for the Masdar development said that the new inhabitants of the
city will have “the highest quality of life with the lowest environmental
footprint. Masdar City will become the world’s hub for future energy. By taking
sustainable development and living to a new level, it will lead the world in
understanding how all future cities should be built.”

Environmentally Extravagant

Models can be helpful for enabling people to see and believe that a new way is
possible. But is the building of this new city with its massive $20 billion
price tag warranted to give a constructive lead to the world in environmental

According to the most recent figures the UAE has the unenviable reputation for
having the largest ecological footprint in the world. While there are measures
being implemented to address this high wastage of resources one must ask whether
this fledgling nation is qualified to be a world leader in this sphere.

Centuries ago on the Arabian Peninsula the statement was uttered, “If someone
forces you to go one mile [requirement], go with them two miles [choice].” What
is being attempted in the Masdar experiment is to walk the second or
fifty-second mile without walking the first mile in basic environmental

While the announcement of Masdar has left many people in an afterglow, high
energy consuming desalination plants are being proposed across the Emirates,
mountains are being wrecked by the quarrying of rocks for city skyscrapers,
polluted skies exacerbated by dust storms are choking the atmosphere at
dangerously high levels and in many regions there are no adequate recycling
services for paper, plastics and glass.

The Choice

If the residents of the United Arab Emirates were given a choice—spend $22
billion on creating an environmental model for 50,000 future residents who will
live on six square kilometers or use $22 billion to provide basic recycling
services, affordable solar panels for every household and effective measures to
cut exhaust emissions that would benefit the almost 5 million current residents
living on 83,000 square kilometers—what option would they choose?

When cost is no object to the UAE, the easy option is to construct a new city
using expensive materials. How much better leadership might be given to the
world if the UAE transformed an oil-guzzling and wasteful nation into an
ecologically responsible country which recycled its precious resources and
adopted environmentally clean sources of energy even while its oil wells were
far from empty.

More information about the Masdar City can be found at The Masdar Initiative.

A promotional video entitled ‘Masdar Initiative—World’s First 100% Carbon Free
Community’ can be viewed courtesy of YouTube.


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