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What is the UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999 for protection and development of environment ?

04.03.2024 13 min read

As we continue to witness the escalating effects of climate change and environmental degradation worldwide, the role of environmental laws in promoting sustainable practices and preserving our ecosystems cannot be overstated. Serve as the cornerstone of environmental protection, providing the legal framework that regulates the interaction between humans and the natural world.

In the context of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a nation known for its rapid urban development and bustling oil industry, the importance of robust environmental laws is even more pronounced. Amid the country's swift economic growth, efforts to balance this expansion with environmental sustainability have become crucial.

One of the most significant milestones in the UAE's environmental legislation is the UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999 for the Protection and Development of the Environment. Enacted more than two decades ago, this law marked a significant step in the UAE's commitment to environmental sustainability.

Federal Law 24 of 1999 is an exhaustive legislation that addresses multiple aspects of environmental protection and conservation. It sets forth rules and regulations concerning environmental pollution, waste management, air and water quality, wildlife protection, and the handling of hazardous substances, among other things.

Beyond simply providing rules, the law signifies the UAE's recognition of the inherent value of the environment and the necessity to protect and preserve it for future generations. It is a testament to the UAE's commitment to global sustainability efforts and sets the groundwork for the country's ongoing and future environmental initiatives.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into understanding the UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999, its key provisions, how it is enforced, and its overall impact on the UAE's environmental landscape.

Understanding UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999 

Background and Enactment

Before the 1990s, environmental regulation in the UAE was fragmented and less formalized. This changed with the introduction of Federal Law 24 of 1999, a comprehensive environmental law aimed at promoting sustainable development while preserving the environment. The need for such legislation was prompted by the rapid urbanization and industrialization the UAE experienced in the late 20th century.

The drafting of the law was an extensive process, involving consultations with various stakeholders and borrowing principles from international environmental laws. It was signed into law by the then President of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, known for his deep-rooted commitment to environmental conservation.

Objective and Scope of the Law 

The primary objective of the UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999 is to ensure the protection and development of the environment through comprehensive and integrated legislation. It aims to strike a balance between the UAE's development goals and the necessity to safeguard the environment for future generations.

The scope of the law is broad and covers various aspects of environmental protection. This includes the prevention and control of environmental pollution, waste management, protection of air and water quality, conservation of wildlife and biodiversity, regulation of hazardous substances, and mitigation of environmental emergencies.

The law also includes provisions relating to environmental impact assessments, requiring these assessments to be conducted before initiating any projects that might potentially harm the environment. Furthermore, it mandates the cooperation of all public and private entities in implementing and adhering to environmental protection standards.

The law does not just lay down rules but also provides for punitive measures in case of non-compliance, thereby emphasizing the seriousness of environmental protection. The penalties include fines, imprisonment, and obligations to rectify the environmental damage caused.

By establishing clear regulatory standards and enforcement mechanisms, Federal Law 24 of 1999 sets a strong foundation for environmental governance in the UAE. As we delve into the key provisions of the law in the next section, we will get a clearer understanding of how this law serves to protect and develop the UAE's environment.

Key Provisions of the UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999 

Prohibition of Environmental Pollution : The law embodies a strict stance against any forms of environmental pollution. It prohibits the discharge or disposal of pollutants into the air, soil, or water without proper authorization. Entities involved in activities that could potentially cause pollution are mandated to take necessary precautions to prevent environmental harm and are required to have contingency plans in place for mitigating any accidental pollution.

Regulations on Waste Management : The law provides extensive regulations concerning waste management. It obligates industries to adopt safe methods for waste disposal, giving preference to environmentally-friendly technologies. The law categorically prohibits the dumping or disposal of waste in a manner that might adversely affect public health or the environment. Furthermore, it advocates for waste reduction, reuse, and recycling, echoing the global call towards a circular economy.

Protection of Air Quality: Under this law, the emission of pollutants into the atmosphere is strictly regulated. Industries are required to adhere to specific emission standards to maintain air quality. Special emphasis is placed on reducing emissions from automobiles and industrial exhausts, which are the significant contributors to air pollution in the UAE. The law also mandates regular monitoring of air quality to ensure compliance with the established standards.

Regulations on Water Resources: Recognizing the scarcity of water resources in the UAE, the law provides strict regulations to prevent water pollution and promote efficient water usage. It prohibits the disposal of pollutants into marine and freshwater bodies and requires industries to adopt water-saving measures. It also governs the drilling and extraction of groundwater to prevent over-exploitation.

Protection and Conservation of Wildlife: The law underscores the importance of biodiversity conservation. It provides for the protection of wildlife and their habitats, prohibiting activities that could harm flora and fauna or lead to biodiversity loss. It also regulates hunting and fishing activities, and the import and export of endangered species are strictly controlled.

Regulation of Hazardous Substances: Federal Law 24 of 1999 governs the handling, storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous substances. It requires industries to follow stringent safety measures when dealing with such substances to prevent accidental leaks or spills that could harm the environment and public health.

Penalties for Non-Compliance: To ensure the effectiveness of the law, it provides for strict penalties in case of non-compliance. These penalties range from monetary fines to imprisonment, depending on the severity and frequency of the violation. In some cases, industries might also be ordered to cease operations or rectify the environmental damage caused due to their non-compliant activities.

These provisions collectively serve to protect and conserve the UAE's environment, demonstrating a comprehensive approach to environmental governance. They symbolize a significant stride towards sustainable development, ensuring that the UAE's progress does not come at the expense of its environment.

Implementation of the Law

Role of the Federal Environmental Agency 

The Federal Environmental Agency (FEA) plays a pivotal role in the implementation and enforcement of the UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999. The agency is tasked with formulating environmental policies and standards in line with the provisions of the law. It conducts regular inspections and audits to ensure compliance with these standards by all concerned entities.

The FEA also plays a crucial role in raising environmental awareness among the public and private sectors, promoting best practices for environmental conservation. Additionally, it is responsible for representing the UAE at regional and international environmental conferences, sharing its experiences and learning from global best practices.

Role of Local Authorities

Local authorities also play a crucial role in implementing Federal Law 24 of 1999. While the FEA sets the overall environmental standards and policies, it is the local authorities who often oversee their implementation at the ground level. They are responsible for issuing necessary licenses and permits for various activities that might impact the environment and conducting inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

In addition to regulatory functions, local authorities play an essential role in managing waste, maintaining air and water quality, and conserving natural resources within their respective jurisdictions. They work closely with the FEA and other stakeholders to enforce the law and promote sustainable practices in their regions.

The concerted efforts of the FEA and local authorities help ensure that the UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999 is effectively implemented, leading to tangible improvements in environmental protection and conservation in the UAE. The success of this law, however, also depends on the active participation of all sectors of society, a topic we will delve into in the next section.

Case Studies on Enforcement

Implementing environmental law, especially as comprehensive as Federal Law 24 of 1999, is not without challenges. Here are some examples of how the law has been successfully enforced and some of the hurdles faced during its implementation.

One successful enforcement of the law relates to the handling and disposal of hazardous waste. A leading chemical company was found to be improperly disposing of hazardous waste, potentially endangering the local ecosystem and public health. Upon inspection by the FEA, the company was ordered to cease its operations until it complied with the law's regulations for hazardous waste management. Subsequently, the company invested in state-of-the-art waste management technology and revised its practices to align with the law. This case study serves as a warning to industries about the stringent enforcement of the law and underscores the UAE's commitment to protect its environment and public health.

Another example is related to air quality regulation. An industrial zone was identified as a significant source of air pollution, with several factories exceeding the emission standards set by the law. The local authority, in coordination with the FEA, undertook a comprehensive air quality management plan. It included installing continuous air quality monitoring stations, enforcing emission reduction measures, and regularly auditing the factories. As a result, the air quality in the area improved significantly, demonstrating the effectiveness of the law in tackling air pollution.

One of the challenges in implementing the law has been the lack of awareness among some sectors about the law's requirements. To address this, the FEA and local authorities have launched awareness campaigns to educate industries and the public about the law and their responsibilities towards environmental conservation. They have also conducted workshops and training sessions to help industries comply with the environmental standards.

Another challenge has been dealing with small-scale violations that collectively can have significant environmental impacts, such as littering or illegal waste dumping. To combat this, local authorities have strengthened their surveillance systems and imposed stringent penalties for such offenses. They have also encouraged public participation in reporting environmental violations, enhancing the overall enforcement of the law.

These case studies highlight the UAE's efforts in enforcing Federal Law 24 of 1999, contributing to the conservation and protection of its unique environment. Yet, it also brings to light the need for continuous efforts and collaboration among various stakeholders to fully realize the law's objectives.


Comparison with International Environmental LawsIn assessing the UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999, it's instructive to compare it with key international environmental laws and understand how it fits within the broader global context.

Similarities with International Environmental Laws
The UAE Federal Law shares many commonalities with international environmental laws. It broadly aligns with principles enshrined in global agreements such as the Stockholm Declaration (1972) and the Rio Declaration (1992), which emphasize the right to a healthy environment, the duty to avoid harming others' environments, and the principle of sustainable development.

Furthermore, like many international laws, it covers a wide range of environmental aspects including air and water quality, waste management, biodiversity conservation, and the regulation of hazardous substances. This comprehensive approach is consistent with the holistic nature of environmental protection advocated at the international level.

Differences with International Environmental Laws
Despite these similarities, the UAE law also has unique features that distinguish it from other international laws. For instance, it explicitly acknowledges the challenges posed by the UAE's arid environment, highlighting the need for specific measures to combat desertification and protect scarce water resources. This context-specific focus is not typically found in broader international laws.

Additionally, it prescribes stringent penalties for non-compliance, demonstrating a strong commitment towards enforcement. In contrast, enforcement mechanisms in international laws are often weak, mainly relying on voluntary compliance and peer pressure.

The UAE Law within the Global Context
The UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999 represents the UAE's commitment to address environmental challenges in line with international standards while also recognizing its unique context. It reinforces the principles of sustainable development and environmental protection, contributing to the global efforts to combat environmental degradation.

The law also exemplifies how nations can adapt global environmental principles to their local context, addressing their unique environmental challenges while also contributing to broader global environmental goals. Thus, the UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999 serves as a valuable model for other nations, particularly those facing similar environmental challenges.

Updates and Amendments to the Law
Over the years since its inception, the UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999 has seen significant updates and amendments to keep pace with the emerging environmental challenges and evolving best practices.

One major update was the introduction of regulations concerning electronic waste. Recognizing the growing e-waste problem in the digital age, the UAE government added provisions to the law in 2018 to manage and recycle electronic waste, becoming one of the first countries in the region to do so.

Another significant amendment came in 2019, when new regulations were introduced to control single-use plastics. This update echoed a global movement to reduce plastic waste and its devastating impact on marine life.

These amendments have had considerable impacts on both environmental protection and sustainable development in the UAE. The e-waste regulation has led to a more structured and systematic collection and recycling of electronic waste, contributing to resource conservation and reducing hazardous waste in landfills. The plastic regulation, on the other hand, has helped reduce plastic litter, thereby protecting marine ecosystems and encouraging a culture of reusability among UAE residents.

These updates highlight the dynamic nature of the UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999 and its adaptability to address emerging environmental issues effectively.

Future of Environmental Law in the UAE
Looking at the current trends in environmental policy in the UAE, it is clear that there is a strong commitment to building a sustainable future. The UAE Vision 2021 national agenda emphasizes sustainable development and environmental preservation as key pillars.

With the UAE's commitment to the Paris Agreement and its ambitious renewable energy targets, it is highly probable that future changes to the law will continue to align with these commitments. Future amendments may focus on more stringent regulations for greenhouse gas emissions, further development of renewable energy, and increased regulation of industries contributing to environmental degradation.

Moreover, with the COP28 and the increasing global concern around biodiversity loss may lead to the strengthening of provisions related to wildlife protection and habitat conservation. Also, as the issue of plastic pollution continues to gain international attention, further regulations on plastic use and disposal might be expected.


The UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999 is a significant piece of legislation that has fundamentally shaped the UAE's approach to environmental protection. From combating pollution to preserving biodiversity, managing waste, and safeguarding air and water quality, this comprehensive law covers a vast spectrum of environmental issues.

Amendments and updates to the law over the years reflect the UAE's commitment to keeping pace with emerging environmental challenges and evolving international standards. The law's strong enforcement mechanisms demonstrate a seriousness in ensuring environmental protection, a practice that is critical for the sustainable future of the country.

However, the journey of environmental protection is a continuous one, and the law will need to keep evolving to meet new challenges and opportunities. With its commitment to environmental sustainability and proactive approach to policy making, the UAE stands as a strong example for other nations navigating the path to a sustainable future. The UAE Federal Law 24 of 1999 not only contributes to environmental preservation within its borders but also plays a significant role in the global fight against environmental degradation.

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