Development in the Western Region


There's plenty more to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi than the city itself, with the large Western Region also ripe for development.

Al Gharbia contributes 60% of the total oil production of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, according to the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Vision 2030 paper produced by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC) in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development (ADCED), while over 90% of the region’s GDP is derived from the oil and gas sector, according to the Western Region Development Council (WRDC).

The region is on a steep growth curve, however, with the population expected to expand to 450,000 by 2030, the final year of Plan Al Gharbia 2030. It is this reality that necessitated a structured plan, which in turn was developed by the UPC, the Western Region Municipality (WRM), and the WRDC, the latter being established in 2006 under the direction of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The Council aims to develop the infrastructure necessary to support higher standards of living and the growth of business, support a diversified economy, retain talent, and promote the region and its sustainable environment.

Aside from oil and gas, the region has a lot going for it. It is dotted with several cities, including Madinat Zayed, Mirfaa, Ghayathi, Liwa, Ruwais, Sila, and Dalma Island. The region also boasts some of the most fertile farming land in the Emirate, while its tourism sector is soon expected to play a larger part in the overall economy as it continues developing under the auspices of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (ADTCA). By 2020, the sector is expected to bring in AED1.2 billion ($330 million) a year, according to the UPC and ADCED


Regional non-oil GDP stood at AED15.5 billion in 2010, according to the UPC and ADCED, a figure that is expected to rise to AED17.6 billion by 2015 and AED23.1 billion by 2020. While oil and gas represents the largest share of GDP, other large sectors include tourism, real estate and construction, agriculture, and manufacturing. In line with projected GDP growth, the population is also expected to expand. While the population was estimated at 107,000 in 2005, that figure is expected to reach 450,000 by 2030, according to UPC and ADCED. Liwa is currently the largest city, but by 2030 Ruwais is expected to overtake it, boasting a population of an anticipated 130,000, up from 15,500 in 2005. This is mainly due to the industrial nature of the city, expected to continue growing in the areas of chemicals, petrochemicals, plastic, cement, oil and gas, construction materials, and logistics. Going forward, diversification will be a set menu for the regional authorities, as they aim to create a better economic balance.


Al Gharbia’s oil and gas reserves are expected to last another 90 years at least according to the UPC and ADCED, with only 18 of 67 known fields, both onshore and offshore, currently in active production. A rising trend in oil prices has also set the region in good stead for the future. The oil and gas services sector contributed AED2.4 billion to regional non-oil GDP in 2010, a figure expected to rise to AED4.3 billion by 2020. The sector also drives the dynamic manufacturing and construction industry, which is anticipated to be contributing AED6.9 billion to non-oil GDP by 2020, up from AED5.4 billion in 2010.

Al Gharbia is also the Emirate’s best suited region for agricultural pursuits, producing livestock, meat, milk, fish, dates, and vegetables. The region is a hub for R&D in arid farming, while some of the delights on offer include syrup, camel milk, and a variety of fish. In 2010, the agricultural sector contributed AED1.9 billion to regional non-oil GDP, a figure expected to rise to AED2.5 billion by 2020 as part of Plan Al Gharbia 2030. As for the plan, the focus is on the promotion of regional cuisine and sustainable farming.

The region’s manufacturing industry has also given rise to two new cities, namely Ruwais industrial city and Madinat Zayed industrial city. The new development in Ruwais will total 14 square kilometers, while that in Madinat Zayed will be a more modest 5.2 square kilometers, dedicated to oil and gas services, food and beverages, and logistics.

Tourism is the final port of call on the rundown of growth sectors, contributing as it does over AED200 million to regional non-oil GDP, a figure set to rise to AED1.2 billion by 2020. While the majority of arrivals originate from the GCC and wider Middle East and arrive on business, Plan Al Gharbia 2030 envisages a wholly new type of mass tourism; leisure. The Plan calls for the development of resort areas near Sila, as well as tourism and leisure zones in all major coastal towns and on Dalma Island. The area around Liwa, known as the Empty Quarter, is also ripe for development in ecological and cultural tourism, with real Emirati heritage on show.