How is the air quality in Dubai?

The below article talks about Dubai, the quality conditions in Dubai, the factors that contribute to the air quality in the area, along with some frequently asked questions about air pollution and air quality in Dubai. 

How is the air quality in Dubai?

The air quality in Dubai is usually moderate to good. It tends to get worse with fluctuating concentrations of PM2.5 that are currently 4.3 times higher than the WHO recommended guidelines for air quality. Therefore, while projections show moderately decent or average air quality in the city, the air quality rankings show us that it is usually in the moderate range during the year, although the national monitoring stations show that the air quality is extremely good in the city. 

About Dubai 

Dubai is one of the cities in the country of United Arab Emirates and is the most populous city in the State. It was established as a fishing village in the 18th century, and it grew rapidly into a cosmopolitan city with millions of tourists visiting every year by the 21st century. The city’s rapid growth into the tourism and hospitality sector has made it one of the most popular destinations to travel to and has the record of having the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. 

Dubai is located towards the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula, and it aims to be the greatest business and trade hub in the area. Oil revenues helped to accelerate the growth of the country and the city, and Dubai’s economy has relied on this growth for revenues. Revenues into the state are through the global scale trade agreements, tourism, aviation, real estate holdings, etc. amongst many other services provided in the city. As of 2021, the population in the city is estimated to be around 3.4 million, the unemployment rate is at 0.5%, the inflation rate is at -3.02, and the GDP forecasts a depreciation of 3.66% from the previous financial year (DSC, 2021).

Dubai and Air Pollution 

By 2019, Dubai’s state actors observed that on a yearly average, the city reported PM2.5 concentrations of 40.9 μg/m³. This reading was a cause of concern for state authorities as it was unhealthy for vulnerable groups of the population such as pregnant individuals, kids, senior citizens, immunocompromised, etc. The reading placed Dubai as the most polluted city in the state, and it gave the city a ranking of being the 222nd most polluted city in the world (IQAir, 2021). 

There are several factors that contribute to the air pollution observed in the city, and these situations are exacerbated by the general weather conditions in the city such as its extreme heat and humidity, especially during the summer months when the temperatures support the retention of these pollutants within the city atmosphere. Anthropological sources of air pollution in the city are quite high, especially from vehicular emissions. With over 3.4 million people in the city, transportation needs are met through private vehicles, motorbikes, etc. The trade and industrial operations in the city also put into focus a large number of heavy-duty industrial vehicles in the city such as trucks, lorries, etc. As such, within the city, rates of vehicle ownership is quite high, and the usage of public transport is lower, causing increased rates of air pollution. 

Cars and motorbikes in the city have been found to emit toxic pollutants, along with the emissions from heavy-duty vehicles. All of these vehicles run on fossil fuels and thus has a larger potential for pollution. Other causes of pollution include industrial activities conducted in specific areas in the city, desalination plants all over the state that provide water for its citizens, as well as the country’s large dependence on fossil fuels for energy production. While these practices are largely changing with time and new global commitments being made every day, there is much to improve in the city in terms of addressing air quality and air pollution concerns. 

The population explosion in the city has increased the demands the city needs to meet for its citizens, including water and energy requirements. These demands have often been met with the least concerns about the impacts on the surrounding environment, and have thus eventually contributed towards larger pollution outputs in the state, causing increases in their yearly readings for air quality. The main sources of pollution in Dubai can therefore be attributed to 3 main sources: vehicular emissions, factories, and other industrial activities. 

UAE Air Quality Index Interpretation 

Source: UAE NCSDG, n.d.

0 – 50Concentrations of the five pollutants are within permissible levels as specified in the Cabinet’s Decree No. 12 of 2006 (Protection of Air Pollution). Air quality does not pose a health hazard and is the best time to exercise and enjoy outdoor activities. 
51 – 100Acceptable air quality for the majority of the population. May be sensitive to vulnerable groups of citizens, who may feel discomfort to their health from any form of exertion outdoors. 
101 – 150Air quality could affect vulnerable categories of citizens. Some may experience problems with little effects as a result of increased exertion outdoors, yet minimal impacts on lower-impact activities such as walking or sitting. Healthy groups of populations are not usually affected. 
151 – 200Air quality can cause health hazards to all citizens with prolonged exposure. Increased risk for vulnerable citizens and any observed symptoms must be treated immediately and they must avoid prolonged outdoor activities. 
201 – 300Air quality is extremely hazardous for sensitive groups of people, and they must stay indoors and avoid any form of outdoor activities. Healthy citizens may face health effects with prolonged or acute exposure and it is preferred to stay indoors at this time. 
301 – 500Air quality is hazardous to all and could create health impacts on all people depending on the time period of exposure. It is recommended to stay indoors and avoid exercising outdoors. Short amounts of exposure may not cause severe issues, although it does pose a risk. 

The main pollutants found in Dubai

Chemical pollutants that are the most pertinent to the city are nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide is the most prominent pollutant and can be attributed to the high release of emissions from vehicular sources, the high levels of nitrogen released into the atmosphere correlate to the volume of traffic observed in the city. Other pollutants can be attributed to fossil fuels, which are mainly black carbon, and volatile organic compounds such as benzene, toluene, xylene, formaldehyde, etc. All of the above-mentioned pollutants have devastating impacts on human health and these pollutants impacts are exacerbated due to the state’s general meteorological conditions. Other pollutants of significant amounts would include ozone, particulate matter such as silica from construction activities, and carcinogenic black carbon. 

Dubai Air Quality Strategy 

The Dubai air quality strategy for 2017 – 2021 was released by the Dubai Municipality with the General Secretariat of the Executive Council of Dubai and aims to achieve national air quality targets as provided through the National Agenda and the Dubai Plan 2021. The theme of the National Agenda is “Sustainable Environment and Infrastructure” and has targets set at reaching approximately 90% of clean air days per year by 2021. 

The air quality strategy has been worked on by the public and private stakeholders and aims to reduce air emissions and measure the progress made through varying kinds of indicators. These indicators were formed on the basis of current activities within each sector and keeping in mind the future projections. The activities undertaken through the strategy will undergo periodical reviews and ensure that they remain culturally relevant and nationally relevant in terms of globally set goals. The air quality strategy has been named the cornerstone in the city’s development plans and frameworks and aims to ensure an innovation-based implementation of processes.  

The strategy was developed, keeping in mind the need for a smart, innovative, and sustainable approach toward the economic and holistic development of the city. It received substantial support from the public and private stakeholders and encourages their collaboration to achieve effective and efficient results. The strategy is aimed towards supporting sustainable development and clean energy production with the state and aims to promote competitiveness by strengthening the nation’s economic and global markets. The strategy has also aimed to increase awareness amongst citizens on air quality and has taken several methods to do so through varying activities. The strategy has been founded on cultivating a happy society with citizens who can live in a clean and healthy environment. 

Source: GOD, n.d. 

UAE Air Monitoring Stations

As of 2020, the state has 69 monitoring stations sprinkled across. The highest number of stations is in Abu Dhabi, which has 20 air monitoring stations; and the lowest number of air monitoring stations is in Um Al Quwain with just 2 monitoring stations. Below is a map of the geographical representation of the monitoring stations. This link would take you directly to the official website for the state’s air quality monitoring dashboard. 

Source: MOCCAE, n.d.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): How bad is the air quality in Dubai?

What areas in Dubai have the most air pollution?

Source: IQAir. (2021, December 21)

RankingAreaUS AQI
1US Consulate in Dubai110
3Al Barsha86
4Dubai Jumeirah86
5Shk. Mohd. Bin Zayed Road84
6The Greens – Mosela Tower76
7Dubai, JBR75
9Deira Union Square65
10Jebel Ali Village65

What cities in the United Arab Emirates have the highest air pollution?

Source: IQAir. (2021, December 21)

RankingAreaUS AQI
1Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi134
2Mussafah, Abu Dhabi119
3Al Mafraq, Abu Dhabi112
4Habshan, Abu Dhabi107
5Ruwais, Abu Dhabi93
6Gayathi, Abu Dhabi86
7Al Ain, Abu Dhabi82
8Al Danah, Abu Dhabi80
9Bani Yas, Abu Dhabi80
10Abu Dhabi (Main City)78

Other FAQs about Air Quality that you may be interested in.

Checking AQI before exercising outdoors

Solutions for Air Pollution

Air Pollution caused by Factories


Government of Dubai (GOD). (n.d.). Air Quality Strategy. Viewed on 12-21-2021. 

IQAir. (2021, December 21). Real-time United Arab Emirates city ranking. Live AQI City Ranking. Viewed on 12-21-2021. 

IQAir. (2021, December 21). Real-time Dubai Air Quality Ranking. Live Dubai AQI Ranking. Viewed on 12-21-2021. 

IQAir. (2021). Air Quality in Dubai. Air Quality Index (AQI) and PM2.5 air pollution in Dubai. Viewed on 12-21-2021. 

Dubai Statistics Center (DSC). (2021). Statistical Dashboards. Viewed on 12-21-2021.  

Ministry of Climate Change & Environment (MOCCAE). (n.d.). UAE Air Quality Index. Viewed on 12-21-2021. 

United Arab Emirates National Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (UAE NCSDG). (n.d.). UAE Air Quality Index. Viewed on 12-21-2021.  

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