By Farhana Chowdhury and Nissar Hoath

Around 204,000 kw/h of electricity and 122,000kg of carbon emissions were saved as Dubai residents paraded down Burj Plaza towards the Burj Khalifa and back for Earth Hour.

Earth Hour being observed at Burj Plaza near Downtown in Dubai
Earth Hour being observed at Burj Plaza near Downtown in Dubai

Windy and hazy conditions failed to dampen the spirits of enthusiastic walkers as they marched together.

However, in the Capital, the hour passed without much difference with only government establishments and a few private firms turning off lights, hardly with any public participation. The heart of the city and its ever-glowing Corniche Street continued glowing after 8.30pm with most of the skyscrapers shining. Only government buildings, particularly those of oil and gas companies went dark and black as the clock hit 8.30pm.

Earlier, it was expected at least 30 per cent of the lights would be dimmed or put off in the Capital. But it didn’t become real as there was no participation from the general public with the exception of a few residents who are aware about environmental issues.

Archi Goyal, a 20-year-old student from BITS Pilani Dubai decided to spend her day off university to support the worldwide stand against climate change along with her friends.

“Climate change is an important concern for the world so I joined the walk to be a part of it. It’s for a good cause. It’s important for people to be aware of the effects of climate change,” she said.

As soon as the clock struck 8.30pm, people donning lanterns, banners and bright, battery-operated badges marched their way toward the path led by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) officials and authorities.

“For residents to participate in the Earth Hour initiative shows the elite awareness in the community about the importance of conservation in the emirate,” said Saeed Al Tayer, Managing Director and CEO of DEWA.

Also part of the Earth Hour, residents were treated to a bustling scene of traditional dances, delicious treats, a display of UAE’s history through artwork and games for children. People took to in lighting candles before the march began.

“I’m happy I got to be a part of this event with my family,” said Ram Shankar, a Dubai resident.

“Dubai has done a great job to observe Earth Hour on a large scale. It feels great to be together with the rest of the world,” he added.

“The reason for the lack of public participation in the Capital was the lack of awareness. I have been reading about the Earth Hour in the media for more than a week, but whole was from government organisations and some corporate and multi-national companies,” said Mustafa Reza, an Iranian expatriate who had come to the Corniche Street to see the glowing sea-side plunging into dark.

Another resident said he was disappointed. Mohsin Rasheed, a Pakistani expatriate, said: “I’m really disappointed. I thought there would be at least 50 per cent of the lights we could see switched off. I just watched on TV some of the most famous landmarks of the world going dark during the Earth Hour.”

Abu Dhabi Municipality Departments, General Headquarters of Police, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain Airports, Etihad Airways and oil companies led the way in the emirate taking part in the event.

The strongest and most effective call to observe the Earth Hour came in Friday prayer sermons across the country calling people to turn their home and business facilities’ lights off for an hour on Saturday, which resulted in a small fraction of the society heeding to the call. Various departments at the Abu Dhabi Municipality also made a similar call through the media.

The main event to mark the day in the Capital began at 6.45pm on the Corniche where a candle-lit march was carried out followed by the switching off of lights along the street sharp at 8.30pm.

The municipality buildings and the landmarks of the city such as Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Shaikh Zayed Bridge and other buildings and bridges managed by the department also went dark for an hour.

The candle-lit march was accompanied by military and police band parades as well as drum teams as part of a host of community events.

As part of the involvement with the community, the municipality prepared custom-made shirts for distribution among the participants to mark the event and encourage them to take part and make effective contribution to this initiative through switching off lights and electrical appliances.

Meanwhile, the Abu Dhabi Airports Company’s (ADAC) five airports also took part in the Earth Hour by dimming and turning off lights to raise awareness of the need to save energy across the globe.

According to ADAC, this green initiative came as part of the joint collaboration between the leading airports company and its major stakeholders in the emirate, including Masdar and Etihad Airways.

However, the international aviation standards were maintained throughout the hour while the airports operated within the highest safety and security measures.

CEO James Bennett said: “ADAC is committed to long-term sustainability and every day our teams are challenging themselves to find ways to save energy and work more sustainably.

“Earth Hour plays an important role in raising the profile of energy saving for the UAE and the world, and we are delighted that our home carrier, Etihad Airways, joined ADAC to play our collective part, as key partners in the aviation community, in this worldwide pledge to making a positive difference to the environment.”

Etihad CEO James Hogan said: “We are making full use of Earth Hour 2011 to encourage our staff to reduce energy use in the workplace and at home and to make a long term commitment to the responsible consumption of our natural resources. We are pleased to partner with the Abu Dhabi Airports Company on a number of awareness raising events including our children’s art competition and a joint Earth Hour forum.”

Celebrations also included replacing the old bulbs by new power-efficient ones, making a presentation about saving power consumption, holding photography and drawing contests, and running a movie about the Earth Hour.

“The municipality’s participation in this global annual event, organised by the Emirates Wildlife Society in cooperation with the Global Fund for the Protection of Nature, is intended to express its commitment to safeguard the environment, cope with the climatic change phenomenon, save power consumption at the local level, and reduce the gas emission resulting from the global warming; the biggest genuine challenge facing the planet and the endeavours to provide better means of living on earth,” said a statement.,