Abu Dhabi - UAE

Sheikha Fatima Park ... work in progress.

Sheikha Fatima Park ... work in progress.

Enhancing lives

In line with its ambition of becoming one of the world’s most liveable cities, Abu Dhabi is spearheading the development of numerous projects in terms of infrastructure, real estate and sustainable power and water supplies that are aimed at enhancing the quality of life of its residents.

September 2020

Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, is ‘the most liveable city’ in the Arab world, but its ambition goes beyond that – to become the world’s best. The emirate is spending a great amount of money and efforts in this direction, launching various projects aimed at enhancing the lives of residents.

Green energy is a major component of this mission and Abu Dhabi made history last month with the interconnection of Unit One of its nuclear power plant to the UAE’s grid, making it the first country in the Arab world to begin using nuclear energy to generate safe, clean and reliable electricity.

In its drive towards clean and sustainable energy, the emirate is also spearheading efforts in the solar energy sector with plans to build the world’s largest solar plant, which will only steal the crown from the one the country currently holds. 

An artist’s impression of the park.

An artist’s impression of the park.

In addition, Abu Dhabi is encouraging real estate projects that promote an active lifestyle with a focus on the outdoors and this theme pervades many of the various island developments that are sprouting across its horizon.

Abu Dhabi is making concerted efforts to drive its ambitions to position the capital  among the most liveable cities in the world – and spearheading this goal is its Dh50-billion ($13.6-billion) Ghadan 21 stimulus package launched early last year to accelerate economic growth and development.

This accelerator programme has, in fact, proved to be its beacon amidst the storm created by the coronavirus and the low oil prices, which has been battering the world this year.

Responding swiftly to the economic challenges posed by the global health crisis, the Abu Dhabi Executive Council launched an economic stimulus package, fast-tracking the implementation of key Ghadan 21 initiatives. Under the package, 16 initiatives were announced to improve the ease of doing business and reduce the cost of living in the emirate.

The three-year accelerator programme,  envisioned and launched by HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, focuses on the economy, knowledge and community through investment in business, innovation and people. In its first year, the programme launched more than 50 of the total of 300 initiatives aimed at making the capital one of the most liveable cities in the world by 2021.

A key aspect of this programme will be encouraging private sector participation. According to the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED), the emirate intends to procure approximately Dh10 billion worth of infrastructure projects under its public-private partnership (PPP) model as part of an initiative under Ghadan 21. These projects will span sectors such as social, municipal and transportation. 

Various government departments have been driving development plans under the accelerator programme. The Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT), for example, late last year launched the ‘For Abu Dhabi’ initiative as part of the programme to enhance urban spaces and nature sites. This initiative will see an investment of Dh8 billion across the three main regions of Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafra.

This apart, the emirate is well aware that its drive to spur economic development and boost private sector investment will require a good transportation link with the world – which will be addressed by its international airport with a state-of-the-art new terminal (Midfield Terminal Building,  the opening of which is reportedly pushed back to next year), and excellent port facilities.  On land, it also needs a reliable and cost-efficient transport network connecting the country’s key centres of trade. Hence, over the past year the emirate has flagged off work on the packages involved in Stage Two of the Etihad Rail network, which is expected to serve as a catalyst for economic growth.


Etihad Rail ... work on Stage 2 has commenced.

Etihad Rail ... work on Stage 2 has commenced.


The UAE’s national railway network has made commendable progress over the past year with contracts worth Dh18 billion having been awarded for Phase Two of the ambitious development.

Etihad Rail, the developer and operator of the national railway, has launched work on all four packages – A, B, C and D –of Stage Two, which will extend 605 km from Ghuweifat on the border with Saudi Arabia to Fujairah on the east coast, to be followed by future route additions. The network will connect the emirates, linking with the existing 264-km line at Ruwais (Stage One) which has been operational since 2016, and thus effectively uniting the major industrial ports and trading centres of the country.

Stage One is utilised to transport granulated sulphur from sources at Shah and Habshan to the export point at Ruwais.

The entire Etihad Rail network will span approximately 1,200 km, connecting the UAE to Saudi Arabia and will form an integral part of the proposed GCC Railway (see Gulf Construction, June 2020).


Power & Water

Abu Dhabi has ambitious targets set for the production of clean energy and is now seeing the fruits of its labour with the first unit of its Barakah Nuclear Plant having been connected to the UAE’s national grid.

It is also spearheading efforts in the solar energy sector with plans to build the world’s largest solar plant.  In line with these efforts, Emirates Water and Electricity Company (Ewec) recently received bids for a 2-GW solar photovoltaic independent power producer (IPP) project which will be located in the Al Dhafra region.

Expected to cover an area of 20 sq km, the plant will provide power for up to 110,000 households across the UAE. It will be almost double the size of Ewec’s 1.2 GW ‘Noor Abu Dhabi’ solar plant – currently the largest operational single-project solar PV plant in the world, which commenced commercial operations in April 2019.

Once operational, the plant will lift Abu Dhabi’s solar power capacity to around 3.2 GW, further reducing the emirate’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than 1.6 million tonnes per year.

Ewec is also behind the development of the world’s largest reverse osmosis (RO) desalination plant. The new plant, which will be located at the Taweelah power and water desalination complex, is likely to be completed in 2022. Supplying 909,200 cu m per day, it is said to be 44 per cent larger than the world’s current largest reverse osmosis plant of 624,000 cu m per day.

Acwa Power owns a 40 per cent stake in the project company formed to be responsible for the RO plant, while the remaining 60 per cent is owned by Mubadala Investments Company and Abu Dhabi Power Corporation.  Ewec will be the off-taker for the water output produced over a 30-year period once the project begins commercial operations in Q4 2022.

Ewec is also playing a role in the development of two waste-to-energy (WtE) plants with a total capacity of 1.5 million tonnes per year.

The WtE plants, which will come up in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, would have the potential to convert 1.5 million tonnes of municipal waste into energy every year and collectively reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2.5 million tonnes annually.

The proposed WtE plants would be developed through the independent power producers (IPP) model, applied to Abu Dhabi power projects since 1998.  


Oil & gas

Although oil prices are low, Abu Dhabi is hugely dependent on revenues from its hydrocarbons and hence continues to make heavy investments in this sector. The state-owned oil company Adnoc intends to invest $44.92 billion in its downstream sector, which will see it triple production of petrochemicals to 14.4 million tons per annum by 2025. Adnoc has plans to create the world’s largest integrated refining and petrochemicals complex in Ruwais, which will enable it to further stretch the value of every barrel it produces.



Abu Dhabi has recently been prioritising its housing programmes, with mega projects having been launched over the past year.  Among them is the Jabal Al Dhanna housing development, which will come up over a 1.29-million-sq-m area in the Al Dhafra region. The Dh2.7-billion project will boast more than 700 villas and townhouses, 1,449 apartments, and various amenities in the first phase.

Another massive development is Riyadh City, located 30 km from the UAE capital, which is expected to enjoy easy access to major urban and industrial venues across the emirate. Modon Properties, a development company mandated by the Abu Dhabi government to build vibrant and sustainable communities and develop strategic mixed-use projects, last September awarded a Dh1.53-billion infrastructure contract for Phase One of Riyadh City South project. The infrastructure works, which were awarded to three contractors, will cover 8.4 million sq m and will serve over 3,310 residential plots and a host of amenities.


Yas Island ... several landmark developments under way.

Yas Island ... several landmark developments under way.

Real Estate

Another area of focus is the development of the emirate’s various island projects.  One of the latest mega developments to be launched is the Dh5-billion Jubail Island, a designated freehold investment zone comprising serviced plots, high-end and mid-range properties as well as an office park and retail and food and beverage outlets.

A series of contracts worth some Dh400 million have recently been awarded by its developer Jubail Island Investment Company (JIIC) for the infrastructure works involved in developing the six village communities of the 400-hectare low-density development, which is set amidst a wildlife conservation area.

In line with the emirate’s drive to promote the outdoors, Al Qana, Abu Dhabi’s newest waterfront destination, is being developed to incorporate one-of-their-kind entertainment facilities and waterfront dining, all in a landscaped open-air environment. This iconic project by Al Barakah International Investment  will boast 2.5 km of panoramic waterfront,  the first-of-its-kind lifestyle and wellness hub, the largest standalone cinema in Abu Dhabi, the region’s largest aquarium and the first-to-the-UAE high-tech multiple-level virtual reality (VR) zone, among a host of other facilities. The project is on track for completion of construction by the year-end.

Another unusual outdoor facility is the Jubail Mangrove Park, which was completed by Modon earlier this year.  Spread over one million sq m, the first-of-its-kind ecotourism project features an abundance of coastal mangroves trees and a number of leisure and recreation facilities including a kayaking zone and a boardwalk.

A major player in Abu Dhabi’s plan to develop its islands is Aldar Properties, which has various projects under development on Yas and Reem islands.  The developer last month reported that considerable progress is being made across its entire development portfolio on Yas Island with its flagship waterfront and golf course villa and townhouse development, Yas Acres, nearing full completion. Its other major development, Water’s Edge comprising 13 mid-rise residential blocks has reached more than 60 per cent completion.

On Reem Island, the two-tower Reflection, a 374-apartment development, has surpassed the quarter-complete milestone, while at The Bridges, Aldar is handing over 636 apartments within the first three towers, as construction progresses on the remaining three towers of the development.

Significant progress is also being made on Aldar’s other projects including Alreeman community in Al Shamkha, which is nearing the halfway mark, and Alghadeer development, which has reached the final quarter of the project, it says.

Among other developers, Miral, Abu Dhabi’s creator of destinations, has a number of projects under construction at Yas Island.  The developer has joined hands with Warner Bros to develop the world’s first Warner Bros branded hotel – The WB Abu Dhabi – on Yas Island, which is targeted to open next year. The 250-room WB Abu Dhabi will be located adjacent to the award-winning Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi theme park.

Miral has also developed Abu Dhabi’s first-of-its-kind multi-purpose indoor venue, Etihad Arena. Completed earlier this year, the venue is located at the $3.3-billion Yas Bay, a 14-million-sq-ft mixed-use development on the southern end of Yas Island. 

Another award-winning project completed by Miral is CLYMB Abu Dhabi, the new sports and leisure attraction on Yas Island, which features the world’s largest indoor skydiving flight chamber and tallest indoor climbing wall.

Meanwhile, in line with its ambitions of creating spaces that enrich people’s lives, property developer Imkan is creating a number of one-of-their-kind communities in various parts of Abu Dhabi such as the Makers District on Reem Island, AlJurf along Sahel Al Emarat and Nudra on Saadiyat Island.  It is also developing an open-air urban green space, Sheikha Fatima Park, in Khalidiya District.

Among other landmark project being developed is Marsa Mina, by Abu Dhabi Ports, which is aimed at creating the city’s new waterfront space, bringing new life to the city’s historic port area at Mina Zayed.

Located next to the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal, Marsa Mina will offer tourists arriving by ship an exciting entry into the city and creates a unique leisure destination for residents. 

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