Visualizing a sustainable environment for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi

The Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi partners with SAS to better predict the environmental challenges of the future and drive policy change through advanced data visualization

Abu Dhabi, ranked as one of the top two cities in the Middle East for quality of life, is a vibrant global capital bustling with an incredibly fast growing urban landscape. The leadership of the capital city of UAE is cognizant of the need to protect and preserve the natural ecosystem of the emirate, while going through the transformation into one of the World’s leading metropolis, according to the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030.

With the roll out of SAS across EAD, we hope that this advanced analytics and data visualization technology will help us discover new insights leading towards better understanding of the environment and achieving the targets of Abu Dhabi’s Environment Vision 2030

Ahmed Baharoon
Executive Director, Environment Information, Science & Outreach Management (EISOM)

Abu Dhabi’s Environment Consciousness

As early as in 1996, Abu Dhabi established the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) with a vision to protect, conserve and manage the environment and natural heritage of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. EAD partners with other government entities, the private sector, NGOs and global environmental agencies to embrace international best practices and innovation to drive effective environmental policy measures. 

“We cherish our environment because it is an integral part of our country, our history and our heritage. On land and in the sea, our forefathers lived and survived in this environment. They were able to do so only because they recognized the need to conserve it, to take from it only what they needed to live, and to preserve it for succeeding generations”
- His Highness Late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Over the years, the EAD’s Environment Information Management Division had been coordinating the collection and management of data sets on air quality, water quality, marine biodiversity and other environmental indicators to closely track and assess the environmental health of this fast growing Emirate. However, they faced a critical challenge while analyzing and visualizing these large and diverse datasets, for the leadership of the organization and Emirate. EAD was also aware that, with a deeper understanding of the inter-linkages between environmental components, it could drive better and faster policy changes.

The importance of visualizing air quality indicators

Monitoring air quality across the Emirate is of paramount importance for Abu Dhabi’s leadership, which is in line with its vision of driving towards the highest quality of life for citizens and residents alike. The data from over 20 air quality monitoring stations are being collected by EAD on an hourly basis on multiple parameters, such as SOx (Sulfur Oxides), NOx (Nitrogen Oxides), PM10 (Particulate Matter 10 micrometers or less in diameter). However, as the speed with which data comes in and its volumes started increasing, it became an overwhelming challenge for EAD to meaningfully present to the leadership and its stakeholders.

“The goal that drives us is to preserve and enhance Abu Dhabi’s natural heritage for current and future generations. Our data analysts at the Environment Information Management Division try to answer various data driven questions through advanced analytics, such as to find out how a certain urban infrastructure plan will impact the marine ecosystem, or what happens if a certain air quality parameter trend were to continue to increase for the next few years on another correlated parameter, etc.” said Ahmed Baharoon, Executive Director, Environment Information, Science & Outreach Management (EISOM).

Seeing data in a new light

The solution came from SAS Visual Analytics, which was selected by EAD in late December 2013 to assist in gaining valuable analytical insight on the data. With its powerful in-memory data exploration, analytics and visualization capability, SAS assisted EAD in not only quickly dissecting the data, but also presenting it in high pixel quality interactive reports through web and mobile devices. SAS Visual Analytics’ out-of–the-box integration with ESRI® mapping technology also meant that the data analytics and insight was now easy to plot and drill down on rich and accurate maps to give the geographical dimension for EAD.

SAS solutions allowed EAD to analyze data collected in the three main focus areas: marine ecosystem, air quality monitoring and ground water quality. For example, by analyzing the data collected from the 8 ports in Abu Dhabi on the daily fish catch, experts were able to observe how different weather patterns affect the fishing industry. On the other hand, by using visual analytics to corroborate data from the 20 air quality stations positioned in Abu Dhabi to collect different air parameters, daily and hourly reading were easier to interpret and utilize.

Enabling faster and better informed decisions

Through the implementation of SAS Visual Analytics, EAD intents not just to centralize advanced routine reporting function, but also to provide capability for subject matter experts to create necessary reports as needed. SAS Visual Analytics gives EAD the capability to provide very easy-to-use, yet sophisticated, analytics to users who could employ ad hoc exploration and visualizations to quickly view future outcomes, thus freeing them from arduous task of data preparation and manipulation.

At EAD, data is streaming in at unprecedented pace and had to be dealt with in a timely manner. Reacting quickly to deal with data velocity is a challenge which EAD has overcome with its partnership with SAS and, as we look into the future, EAD would be leveraging more of SAS Analytics to gain insight into its vision of creating a sustainable Abu Dhabi.

Environment Agency


EAD needed to be able to cope with the volume of datasets captured from the various sources for better visualization and analysis to make better and faster policy changes.


SAS Visual Analytics


Using SAS Visual Analytics, EAD has been able to:

  • Gain new insights from the data deluge generated by a range of different sources and locations in a much quicker timeframe
  • Make better informed regulatory decisions in the drive for a sustainable environment

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