Gulf will need to focus on sustainable infrastructure

Energy may not be an issue now, but with rapid expansion of cities, it will become one

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By  Eudore Chand Published  October 30, 2004

A leading British expert has warned that the Gulf needs to start working towards a long-term development goal otherwise it may face severe bottlenecks in civic infrastructure and amenities. “I feel that in the Gulf there is totally unsustainable building infrastructure. There was not much just five years ago, and now five years later, there is twice as much,” Andrew Eastwell, director and chief executive of construction industry association, BSRIA pointed out to Construction Week. “It may not be an issue now, but the question is how can you sustain this growth in 20 or 50 years from now?” Eastwell asked. He said that the Gulf will face the same problems that the UK is facing now. For example, in Britain, building regulations relating to energy use and conservation are being changed and will come into effect from 2006. These are really draconian in relative terms, said Eastwell while pointing out that the regulations were amended only two years ago. “The new regulations in the UK will demand a 27% improvement in what the 2002 regulations allowed for. The changes has been necessitated by energy costs, which have been rising rapidly, as elsewhere in the world,” said the BSRIA director and chief executive. He said energy cost have risen by 30% in two years in some sectors. On the domestic front, it is up by 12% in Britain. “The use of electricity in the Gulf is much higher than in the UK. There is no conservation of water either,” said Eastwell adding that “in the Gulf, energy is just not an issue. Bu tin time, it will become an issue.” The Gulf is admittedly rich in oil and gas, the fuel used to produce electricity. But the cost is high and so is the usage. And, with the way cities in the Gulf have been growing, soon utilities may have to go in for expensive upgrades and expansion to cope with the demand. The scenario on the waterfront is even more serious. The Gulf has a paucity of a natural supply of drinking water and has to desalinate all its requirements. However, consumption and wastage rates are also among the highest in the world. Eastwell said city planners would need to take such scenarios into account when planning or giving permission for the expansion or of the cities. Growth should be well planned. He offered the assistance of the non-profit BSRIA, which has evolved as a leading industry research and development institution. “After the World War II, the UK government brought together groups of companies from various sectors for reconstruction. BSRIA is one such institution that has developed five main sectors of competence: technological specialisation, principally in the energy area; improving the process and productivity; publishing of technical journals; market research and development and export of specialist products like power meters etc. It has 720 members, the largest group of whom comprises MEP contractors. “Our industry in the Middle East is accelerating at such a rapid growth that we need specialised companies with specialist skills. The lost of revenue by loss of infrastructure systems can be mitigated by introducing effective non-destructive testing. The research that BSRIA have and continued to conduct is so important to us. We must communicate the findings and learn from the experience and develop a continuous improvement process,” said David Cannon of Mace Macro. Canon has used BSRIA to provide a number of services in the UK.

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