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The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD), in partnership with its stakeholders, has launched an awareness campaign under the theme, "Seal a Well to Save a Life" to put an end to the digging of illegal domestic groundwater wells due to health and safety concerns. The campaign urges community members to cooperate and report any incidents of illegal groundwater wells in order for them to be sealed for the safety of residents.
Lead by EAD, a working group was formed consisting of representatives from key governmental entities including the General Directorate of Abu Dhabi Police (ADP), the Department of Municipal Affairs and Transport, the Judicial Department and Abu Dhabi Media Company to enhance public awareness on the risks of illegal practices on people's lives and safety.
Major General Mohammed Khalfan Al Romaithi, Commander-in-Chief of Abu Dhabi Police, said, "The digging of illegal domestic groundwater wells represents a danger to individuals and society at large as it poses risks to the environment and natural resources.
"Besides being illegal, the sale of groundwater has negative environmental and social impacts on the Emirate of Abu Dhabi," Major Romaithi added. He also called upon farm, landowners and contractors to cease the drilling of wells without a permit and reaffirmed that all necessary legal measures will be taken against violators.
Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, EAD’s Secretary-General said, "This campaign aims to put an end to the illegal drilling of groundwater wells and to seal them for the safety of residents and their families. According to Law No. 05 of 2016 pertaining to the regulation of groundwater in Abu Dhabi, drilling groundwater wells is prohibited without a permit."
Razan Al Mubarak added, "Under this law, EAD cooperates with the concerned stakeholders to conserve groundwater and maintains the safety of the community through organising and licensing well drilling and groundwater extraction to ensure the sustainability of our scarce water resources. As per Law No. 05, groundwater in the emirate is a natural asset wholly owned by Abu Dhabi, and its extraction is subject to rules and regulations issued by EAD."
Al Mubarak stressed the risks of illegal domestic well drilling as it usually lacks health and safety requirements. She added that all members of society should cooperate to limit these illegal practices, which may have health and safety risks.
Sheikha Al Hosani, EAD’s Acting Executive Director, Environment Quality Sector, said, "In order to deliver the campaign’s message to the public, it will also feature different events and programmes which will be organised in coordination with Abu Dhabi Systems and Information Centre (ADSIC). Social media will be used to highlight the risks of illegal well drilling and #SealAWelltoSaveALife has been launched to enhance public engagement."
EAD also urges owners of unlicensed groundwater wells to contact the Abu Dhabi Government Contact Centre at 800-555 to take necessary action on this issue. There will be no legal action against the owners of these domestic wells who contact the agency within a grace period of six months, starting from March 2017.
Under the new groundwater law, the penalties include fines varying between AED100,000 - 300,000 and imprisonment or both.
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