NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
New driving test rule comes into force in capital
ABU DHABI — 27 Aug: The new rule came into effect yesterday making it compulsory for driving licence applicants to undergo parking, reverse and hill tests at the Emirates Driving School (EDS) in Mussafah in Abu Dhabi.
Earlier, the three tests were held at the facilities of the Traffic Police Department, under the supervision of the traffic police.
New applicants for driving licence assembled at the Emirates School to undergo the tests.
The new rule has been implemented under a decision issued by the Abu Dhabi Police General Directorate, said Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mayoof Al Kitbi, Director of the Drivers Licensing and Motor Vehicles Department at the Abu Dhabi Police.
“The decision was taken in pursuance of the directives of Lieutenant General Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Interior, with the aim of upgrading the training standards of applicants,” Lt. Colonel Al Kitbi told Khaleej Times.
The decision, he said, also aimed at increasing the passing rate of applicants in the three tests.
He praised the Emirates driving school saying that the methods it pursues are the most effective and successful one. Thanks to the system the school is following, those who passed the driving licence tests in Abu Dhabi rose from 3 per cent to more than 80 per cent, he recalled.
The Licensing department is currently working on holding tests for those with pre-appointments in the premises of the department in the capital, but the new applicants have to appear for the three tests in Mussafah-based Emirates Driving School after passing the theoretical training.
He, however, said the applicants for driving licence will have the alternative to either complete the training courses in the school before appearing for road test or attend the training courses in another school before taking the test at facilities of the licensing department.
The charges for tests at the Emirates Driving School are fixed, he added.
All set to greet new weekend
UAE : 27 Aug: From September 1, all government and private sector establishments will start implementing the new FridaySaturday weekend decision, which was endorsed by the Cabinet in June. The decision was taken for business and practical reasons.
Almost all private and government organisations are now prepared for the new weekend.
Most of these organisations have decided to take only Friday off and work on Thursday and Saturday to serve their customers better.
Ahmad Abdulkareem Julphar, Chief Executive Officer at Etisalat, said that all Etisalat branches will be open on Thursday and Saturday from 8am to 1pm from next week.
“Our offices will be closed on Fridays only. This is to serve our customers in a better way.” He added that the company has all preparations for the new weekend.
“Our electronic bill payment machines will be working 24 hours a day as well as our website.” Khalid Al Shaikh, acting director general of Dubai Department of Health and Medical Services said that all the 18 primary health care centers under Dohms will be closed on Fridays only and they will work on Saturday from 8am to 1pm.
“The normal working hours from Sunday to Thursday will be from 7am to 10.30pm, and that is to ease the pressure on the primary health care centers and the patients and to provide them with the required medical services,” the official said.
Humaid Al Marri, Director of Personnel Department at Dubai Municipality, said: “I don’t think the new weekend system will affect the work much. We are just going to shift our days off from Thursday to Saturday. The working hours of the municipality will remain the same from 7.30am to 2.30pm. However, having Saturday off will be good for our international suppliers. Earlier we were losing four days [in a week] because of different days of holiday. Now we will lose only three days.” Eissa Al Ghaffari, head of Al Towar Centre of Dubai Municipality, said: “The new weekend system will not have any effect on our customers either. We haven’t really sent out a formal notice because everybody is aware of the new days off. It has been announced through all media.” Sources at Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) said that the new weekly days off will not have any effect on their customers as the days of making payments at Dewa offices will remain the same.
A customer care official from Dewa said: “All our customers can continue paying their bills at the counters from 8am to 8 pm from Saturday to Thursday, which is also the existing system.” Another official added: “All our other employees will be off on Saturday, instead of Sunday. A memo in this regard has already been circulated among the staff.” Consultant Hussain Al Jehazi, the director of Judicial Inspection Department at the Ministry of Justice, said that the parties at the courts have assigned a committee to refer the Saturday hearings to different dates.
He added that the people involved in these cases were told through their lawyers about postponing the hearings as per the new agenda, and of the new dates.
Crackdown on Dubai ragpickers
Dubai - 27 Aug: Dubai Municipality has warned ragpickers to keep away from dustbins and to refrain from unauthorised collection of solid waste from the municipality waste boxes. Warning notes in English, Arabic, Urdu, Tamil and Telugu have been posted on waste boxes around the city.
A source at Dubai Municipality said that a crackdown on ragpickers had started two months ago.
The company that is authorised to collect waste for recycling has complained about ragpickers employed by scrap dealers. Municipality staff and authorised waste collectors have now given enforcement authority to fine people who are found taking solid waste.
Ragpickers are alarmed by rumours that an Indian ragpicker was crushed inside a waste compressor truck. The posters are also meant to put an end to such incidents.
“These posters appeared after that rumour went round. Some people get in the waste bins to search for soft drink cans,” said a municipality cleaning staffer.
“Sometimes when you get inside the bin, its door may shut down and the truck driv er may not know that someone is in there,” he added.
When high-tech trucks with one operator are used, the risk of being crushed inside is high. The rumour was denied by civic officials. Many people make money by working for scrap dealers, collecting aluminium cans, cardboard and other items. There are many scrap dealers who buy aluminium cans and bottles.
“It is risky to search in the waste. To avoid being caught, some ragpickers may hide inside the large bins,” said the source.
Tadweer, the company that has a 20-year contract to purchase solid waste, has lodged many complaints with the municipality.
Lina Chaaban, EnviroCare manager of Tadweer, said: “As per our contract with Dubai Municipality, we receive 4,000 tonnes a day of waste. Dubai Municipality is in charge of collection and delivers it to our site. The municipality has issued a regulation warning all the companies that are sending their labourers to collect items from the garbage that it is not allowed to mess with waste bins as they are the property of Dubai Municipality.
“Anyone who messes with the garbage will be fined.”
Indian students’ bodies to be repatriated
DUBAI — 27 Aug: Shock and grief gripped the family, teachers and schoolmates of Deepak Devadas and Nijin Surendhran Pillai, who were killed in a freak road accident near Terminal II of Dubai International Airport on Friday morning.
The deceased were second year B.Com students at Universal Empire Institute of Technology (UEIT) in Dubai Knowledge Village.
According to N. Donald, centre head of UEIT, all the scheduled classes were suspended yesterday at the Institute as a mark of respect and in remembrance of Deepak and Nijin.
“Both the youngsters were good students and wrote their first year B.Com. examinations last May. The classes began on August 7 after the vacation. On Wednesday last they attended their classes. We still cannot believe that they are now gone,” he added.
Roshan, a student, said, “We studied in the same class and I was very close to their families. We are in touch with their grieving families.”
Meanwhile, Dubai Police have released Lejo Alex, who was commuting with the deceased. Contrary to the earlier reports suggesting that Nijin was driving the car when it hit a road divider and overturned, latest reports reveal that Deepak was driving the car and Nijin was in the front seat.
Deepak’s family hailing from Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, is living in Dubai but was away on vacation when the tragedy took place.
Devadas, Deepak’s father, returned to Dubai yesterday after he was informed about the tragedy.
The rest of his family is still in Kerala.
Deepak completed his schooling at the Indian High School, Dubai.
Nijin’s family is also based in Dubai where he did his schooling from the Emirates English Speaking School.
His family hails from Paravoor, in Kerala. Surendran Pillai, Nijin’s father, is an employee of the Bhatia Group in Dubai.
The bodies of the deceased have been kept in the police morgue. According to a family source, “The bodies will be repatriated as soon as possible after legal formalities are completed.”
Hundreds of 'bachelors' crammed in squalid and dilapidated buildings
Abu Dhabi: 27 Aug: The rotten stench fills the back of your throat. Open mouthed your head is thrust forward in an involuntary retch. As you turn from the open door you glimpse a man squatting on the floor. He's searching for his shoes from a pile next to a rubbish bin in which a cat rummages. You can't go inside, the smell is too much.
Next door, 10 men lie on their backs in bunks. Some cover their eyes with heavy bent arms to block out the light that filters through cracks in the wall around the air conditioner.
Outside, a corridor lined by dozens of sandals leads to a kitchen, the wet walls of which are encrusted with fat accumulated through years of cooking on the four filthy gas rings.
Forty men use this space to prepare their meals. Forty men, euphemistically known in the UAE as "bachelors".
This squalid, dilapidated tower housing about 1,000 men is one of the many often dangerously under-maintained living spaces known here as "bachelor buildings".
The name seems to imply that this type of accommodation is actually only suitable for men who are not married. Used so flippantly it almost implies that some bachelors [of certain nationalities] don't really deserve anything better.
But hang on, most of the men living here are married.
Most of them have families they struggle to support in the sub-continent. Not one of them Gulf News spoke to said their families knew they lived like this.
All of them said they would never live in such conditions in their own countries. All of them agreed. "We have no choice," they said.
"We are very poor men. We have very little money. Where else can we afford to live, said "bachelor" Ali Ahmad who is married with four children in Bangladesh.
Ali earns around Dh1,000 a month as a carpenter but he hasn't seen any wages now in more than eight weeks. He doesn't know why he hasn't been paid.
He climbs out of his bunk in a room he shares with seven other men and lights a cigarette. Another younger man rolls over on his bunk and stares blankly at us as we speak.
"You should see the size of the rats that come at night near the bins," says Ali. "You have to come at night."
On the above floor, if you turn right at the giant blue bin that stands in front of the broken lift door, you may find Mohammad Ahmad. He shares a tiny room with five other men who each pay Dh850 a month as rent. He says if his family knew the way he lived they would probably ask him to return to Bangladesh.
"We've heard rumours about the building being renovated over the past year. But we have given up waiting. We're too afraid to complain because we have nowhere else to go. There's always someone who would fill your bed if you left. We are at least lucky to have a cheap place to sleep," he says.
According to Abu Dhabi Municipality, "Under four per cent" of residential buildings in Abu Dhabi are overcrowded, which means that the owners are breaking the law by allowing more than five people to sleep in one room.
Without giving details on time intervals for health and safety checks, Abdullah Ali, who works for the Undersecretary of the Municipality, Juma Mubarak Al Junaibi, says they "regularly" visit buildings, but the owners repeatedly ignore the law.
Blocked fire exits and a lack of fire-extinguishers are common observations. "The municipality is aware of these buildings and visits them on a regular basis. The owners are usually issued a warning and can expect heavy fines and even jail if they refuse to adhere to the law," he says.
Ali acknowledges that one reason for the overcrowding is because building owners let rooms out to individuals who, in a bid to maximise their sub-letting profits, cram as many beds in them as possible.
Without giving details, he said the municipality has been studying a plan to build new cheap accommodation for low-income workers in Mussafah, just outside Abu Dhabi.
Earlier this summer, the Ministry of Labour announced the completion of one and the building of two other cheap accommodation complexes for workers in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain Free Zones.
According to Ali, the accommodation plans being studied by the municipality could make cheap accommodation available to all low-income workers, no matter the location of their company.
"The plan is ongoing. We know the conditions these men live in and we are in the process of trying to rectify it," he said.
Sitting on the floor, finishing his mid-day meal in a room he shares with 10 other men from Bangla-desh, Abdullah pushes the pots and pans under his bed.
He stares at the TV screen on which a Bollywood film flickers.
"I think the conditions here are OK," he says. "And anyway I'm an expatriate with a very low salary. What can I do to improve this place?"
Gulf News repeatedly tried to contact owners of so called "bachelor buildings" in Abu Dhabi, but got no answer.
No soft drinks, spicy food or ice cream in capital schools
ABU DHABI — 27 Aug: Spicy foods, soft drinks and ice cream will be banned at school canteens in Abu Dhabi during the academic year, according to an official.
“Spicy meals, saturated oils, carbonated water such as soft drinks, gums, ice creams and preservatives like E621, E252 and E249 have been banned,” Nadia Maddi, Deputy Manager for Private and Quality Teaching at the Abu Dhabi Education Zone (ADEZ), told Khaleej Times, elaborating on the new terms set for food suppliers approved by the Zone.
About 43 food suppliers --- 17 restaurants and bakeries, in addition to 16 firms dealing in water and dry foods --- have been approved by the ADEZ to start providing both public and private schools with meals during the academic year.
“The suppliers should comply with the instructions banning the use of preservatives, artificial colours, etc,” Maddi said. She asserted that the ADEZ is committed to protecting children’s health. “More than 75 per cent of the students have the meals at their school canteens. So we have to take care of our children’s health,” she added.
If the rules are flouted, there will be severe penalties. Habiba AL Mohanadi, head of the Canteens Department at the ADEZ, said that first, any supplier found guilty of violating the regulations will be served a warning notice. If the supplier does it for the second time, the offender will be fined Dh 3000, and for the third third time, the fine will go up to Dh 5000.
“The ADEZ this year stopped dealing with a supplier who breached the terms and conditions regarding the protection of children’s health. The supplier provided food stuffs past their expiry dates,” Al Mohanadi added.
She said that the health control committee also has the right to discontinue the contract and confiscate the deposit of Dh 20,000 if there’s violation.
Abu Dhabi plans to embrace clean vehicle fuel
Abu Dhabi: 27 Aug: After five to six years, 20 per cent of government-owned vehicles and taxis will run on natural gas in Abu Dhabi, according to an Environment Agency Abu Dhabi (EAD) report.
The report, which was published in the latest edition of the agency's quarterly magazine Al Dhabi, noted that significant improvements in Abu Dhabi's air quality can be expected, particularly in urban areas, if there is a move towards using clean fuel.
The report also identifies taxis, buses and government-owned vehicles, such as municipality and police cars, as the most polluting vehicles in the emirate. To address this problem and achieve sustainable transportation, EAD in coordination with government agencies and oil companies, has prepared a strategy with its implementation already under way.
As per the strategy, 20 per cent of government-owned vehicles and taxis in the emirate will be converted to run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), which EAD also calls Clean Natural Gas, by 2012. All government diesel vehicles will also be converted to run on Ultra Low Sulphur Fuel (ULSF) with at least Euro III emission limits or equivalent by 2012.
The measures under the strategy will include the introduction of CNG and the phased conversion of all vehicles to use ULSF.
The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) has installed a CNG filling station on Mina Street to initiate the introduction of the new vehicle fuel.
"In January 2003, the UAE switched to unleaded petrol. More than 500 service stations converted to this cleaner and greener fuel, bringing major advantages, including improved fuel economy, reduced engine maintenance and lower emissions since it is catalyst-friendly. Studies show that vehicles equipped with catalytic converters achieve over 90 per cent reduction in exhaust emission," the report said.
The report said Adnoc has already prepared a timetable for the introduction of ULSF, which will achieve a target concentration of 10ppm (particles per million) sulphur in fuel by 2012. "Local regulations will be introduced to prohibit the import of diesel that does not comply with the specifications for low sulphur content," the report said.
Dog fights going on undercover in many parts, claim residents
Dubai: 27 Aug: Dog fights have been increasingly witnessed across the country, according to residents who have come across dog remains or even see dogs being incited to fight, but police say no complaints have been made.
According to one reader in Dubai who e-mailed Gulf News, dog fights are nothing new. "Dog fights have been going on undercover in Jumeriah and Al Wasl areas. It's a cruel thing and it's a shame that the matter is not yet under the notice of the rightful authorities," he wrote.
Some residents said they had heard of dog fights in Sharjah.
Dr Hesham Ahmad Fahmi, director of veterinary services at Dubai Municipality, said he has never seen any dogs that he suspects of being involved in dog fights. He said the majority of dogs seen at the municipality clinic were brought in by responsible owners.
"If you have proof that dogs have been involved in dog fights you should alert police because there must be gambling involved. Nobody has ever brought in a dog here that looked like he had been fighting," said Fahmi.
However in private clinics, dogs have been brought in with chronic scars and cuts which could indicate that they have been in dog fights. Max Spicer from The Veterinary Hospital in Jumeirah said he sees at least two cases a year.
"Sometimes people who are involved in dog fights will not bring their dogs to the vets. I think I must see a couple of cases a year where a dog is accompanied by a shifty character and I've thought it could be linked to dog fighting," said Spicer.
R. L., an Abu Dhabi resident, stressed that she had seen dog fighting from her home. "I lived in front of a green area and for about five weeks, every midnight there were men out there allowing their big dogs to fight," she said.
"These people buy smaller dogs at the souq and toss them in for their dogs to rip to shreds. I find the carcasses in the morning," she said.
A spokesperson from Sharjah Police said no reports have been made regarding dog fighting in the emirate. "I have checked with all the police stations but we could not find anything of this happening in the past. We don't know anything. It must go on in places where there is no police."