ZU professor highlights the importance of preserving the capital's sabkhas


March 19, 2015

In an aim to highlight the importance of sabkha and its potential economic possibilities in the future, a professor at Zayed University presented several studies and filmed a documentary to tell a story about Abu Dhabi’s history and its marine environment and better understand the past and current earth process.

Sabkha is a phonetic translation of the Arabic word for a salt flat. Sabkhas are low-lying coastal salt flats of unique geological significance that have an average thickness of a meter or less and under threat because of rapid development.

Dr. Fares M. Howari, Professor at the College of Sustainability and Humanities, filmed a documentary on the geology of UAE with an emphasis on Jebel Hafeet and the sabkhas of Abu Dhabi emirate.

He emphasized the importance of sabkhas and how they can be an ideal source for hydrocarbon energy, solar energy, and ideal sites for algaeculture.

His documentary will be featured on a program entitled “Megastructures,” World’s Biggest Sewer for NGC Network International and will be translated into Arabic and aired on the National Geographic channel of Abu Dhabi in April.  

“The film demonstrated how the shallow groundwater presents a challenge for mega structures. The shallow groundwater in some areas could cause mineral dissolution. The film shooting revealed gypsum deposits in Abu Dhabi and visited some caves. Basically, gypsum occurs at relatively shallow depth in the rocks.

It is susceptible to dissolution by circulating ground waters leading to localized development of underground cavities. The cavities can become unstable and collapse, leading to their upward migration and ultimately to the subsidence of the ground surface,” Dr. Howari- who has over 16 years of technical and administrative experience, and extensive knowledge in a wide range of project development and implementation in the area of environmental, soil and agriculture issues- said.

Dr. Howari accompanied the film crew to the sabkhas of Abu Dhabi where they shot amazing pictures that show the shallow groundwater, gypsum, halite formation among other earth processes.

Additionally, the crew visited gypsum deposits in Jebel Hafeet where they investigated gypsum deposits that extended from about 23.03 to 5.332 million years ago (Ma).  

“Sabkhas can be an unconventional provenance of hydrocarbon energy, ideal sites for algaeculture for biofuel production, and sites for efficient salinity gradient ponds for solar energy production,” Dr. Howari concluded.