Sharjah’s environment sector set to grow by 15 percent
Sector expected to grow to AED1 billion by 2016, up from current AED780 million Marwan Al Sarkal: Sharjah government keen to expand sector by attracting FDI into solar energy generation plants and water desalination projects Sharjah's environment sector is expected to grow by 15 percent to almost AED1 billion by 2016, up from this year’s AED780 million, powered by a portfolio of groundbreaking eco-tourism projects currently under way. According to a study by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), the environment sector is one of the Emirate’s four key sectors identified as major areas of potential growth. The three other sectors include travel and tourism, healthcare, and transport and logistics. Highlighting the sector’s promising future, HE Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), said, “Although the environment sector is now worth AED780 million, the Sharjah government is keen to expand further in this field, through attracting foreign direct investment into solar energy generation plants and water desalination projects.“ Al Sarkal indicated that the environment sector is set to grow by 15 percent, up to almost AED1bn by 2016, as he outlined the immense potential that the emirate of Sharjah has in the eco-tourism industry; especially with the diverse range of eco-friendly projects currently undertaken by Shurooq to leverage this potential. “The environment sector is composed of three sub-sectors, namely renewable energy, waste management, and energy efficiency. The UAE has one of the highest per capita waste levels per person in the world, with environmental challenges very much on the federal government’s agenda, and Sharjah has carved out its niche as the UAE’s pioneer for renewable energy alternatives,” the Shurooq CEO clarified. “With the UAE leading the renewable energy charge in the Gulf region, the UAE market potential is predicated to reach AED183 billion by 2020, with an annual growth of 15 percent during the period from 2012-2020,” Al Sarkal said. He added that the waste management sector is led by Bee'ah- the Middle East's leading and award-winning fully integrated environment and waste management company in Sharjah, which strives to reach a recycling rate of 100 per cent by 2015, making Sharjah the first zero-waste city in the Middle East. The Shurooq CEO also emphasised that among the key focus areas in Bee’ah’s portfolio is finding new methods to convert waste to energy, which opens a diverse range of investment opportunities. With regards to energy efficiency, the UAE is adopting an ambitious renewable energy plan as it aims to boost investment in clean energy technology over the next few years and expects to attract AED367 billion of investments in alternative and sustainable energy projects by 2020, including renewable energies, biofuel, urban development projects and wastewater recycling, the Shurooq CEO outlined. He said that solar power technologies have the highest potential for the UAE and Sharjah, which is a good renewable energy components manufacturing platform for the MENA region, due to its strategic location, logistics infrastructure, cheap labour costs, and developed manufacturing base with ready availability of various components. “We abide by eco-friendly standards in our tourist and leisure projects, and we have also initiated a host of eco-tourism projects and green initiatives in line with the Emirate’s eco-friendly approach aiming at preserving the environment and ensuring a better life for generations to come,” Al Sarkal said. Among these projects are the Kalba Eco-tourism project, the Sir Bu Nuair Island project, Al Jabal Resort, The Chedi Khorfakkan, Al Majaz Waterfront, and the newly opened Al Montazah Amusement and Water Park. “Shurooq aims through the development of the Kalba-eco-tourism initiative, which is being implemented in collaboration with the Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA) in Sharjah, to curb the environmental degradation that accompanies the destruction of killing animal and plant life, preserve biodiversity, and re-habitat some endangered species, apart from the development of the eco-tourism sector,” Al Sarkal added. Speaking on this unique project, HE Hana Saif Al Suwaidi, Director General of the Sharjah Environment and Protected Areas Authority (EPAA), said, “The project is the largest of its kind in the development of eco-tourism facilities in the UAE and the region. It boasts of natural reserves rich in their bio-diversity, natural resources and topographic characteristics that will help rehabilitate and re-introduce rare and endangered animals.” Commenting on the potential of the renewable energy sector, Dr Rashid Al Leem, Chairman of Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) said, “Sharjah is increasingly moving towards utilising renewable energy sources to supply the ever growing energy demands of its rapidly expanding economy. What this means in terms of investment and development is that renewable energy as a sector will continue to grow, making for a variety of highly promising investment opportunities.” On his part, Khalid Al Huraimel, CEO of Bee'ah said, “Being at the forefront of positive environmental change, we launched a number of programmes to educate the public about sustainable waste management. This approach stems from our responsibility to work with the community and educate our society in the simple ways they can adapt and thereby contribute to turning waste into recycled resources, which can later be re-used by both the community and economy. Our aim is to lead the development of sustainable and economically viable solutions for waste management. We are working to tackle waste in the region and invest heavily in advanced waste management infrastructure and state-of-the-art technologies, to reach our ultimate goal of leading the emirate of Sharjah to become the first city in the Middle East to achieve Zero-Waste-To-Landfill by 2015.” Al Huraimel went on to say: “We are now looking forward to expanding our operations and actively seeking partners, technology providers, and investors for a number of projects in the Middle East, which means that there is both a range of diverse investment opportunities available for foreign direct investors, as well as business opportunities for waste management solution providers.” He noted that the UAE has one of the highest per capita waste levels per person in the world, meaning that environmental challenges are very much on the federal government’s agenda and its ambitious plan to find solutions. “In the Gulf, we are the highest producers of waste per person. Two-and-a-half kilograms per day of waste are generated by each person,” he added. “By 2015 everything in Sharjah is going to be recycled, and that will make it the first Arab nation that recycles everything. This is a huge area that is going to be developed through a range of single-minded initiatives, so as to attract more companies that would like to work with us, Al Huraimel emphasised. Established in 2009, Shurooq strives to encourage investment in the emirate of Sharjah by adopting the best international standards in providing quality services that help attract investors from the region and the world. Shurooq's key mission is to provide facilities and incentives to help overcome obstacles facing investment activities in the Emirate, evaluate tourism and investment related infrastructure projects, and lay down the necessary plans to complete such projects. In recognition of its overall accomplishments, Shurooq was named The Banking Awards 2013 - FDI Agency of the Year in the MENA region, in The European’s Global Banking and Finance Awards.