NEWS FROM THE UAE
SOURCE : THE NATIONAL
Drivers at fault in accidents to pay Dh500
ABU DHABI - OCT 07: The private company contracted to handle minor road accidents has been given the power to charge every motorist it finds at fault Dh500.
From Oct 12, drivers will be expected to pay the money to Saaed, the firm employed by Abu Dhabi traffic police to clear up the tens of thousands of minor accidents in the emirate every year that do not result in injuries.
The announcement was made by Major Hussein al Harthi, the head of the traffic engineering and road safety department at Abu Dhabi Police. He is also chairman of the board of Saaed. “This service fee is considered a penalty for a number of violations that led to the accident or [as] a result of the accident including causing congestion, hindering the flow of traffic, not paying attention, not maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles and for not obeying the rules of the road, for example,” said Major Harthi.
“The fine will not result in additional charges to insurance companies but has to be paid by the individual found at fault in the collision.”
There were about 95,000 minor accidents in the emirate last year.
If the system had been in place, the charges would have totalled an estimated Dh47.5 million (US$13m). Major Harthi said Dh500 was less than fees levied in other countries that have similar private contracts. He said that Saaed would have better response times and resolve minor accidents more efficiently than the police.
“On average, Saaed arrives on the scene in less than 11 minutes from the time police dispatchers are notified of the accident,” he said, “And they chart out the accident in an equally quick time.” He added that Saaed officers were skilled in recognising and recreating how an accident occurred, “without a need for the vehicles involved to remain exactly in the place where the collision occurred”.
“Motorists who are involved in minor accidents should move their vehicles to the side of the road so as not to impede the flow of traffic.”
He said Saaed officers were professionals familiar with all aspects of traffic collisions, including investigating, reporting, repair cost estimates, insurance claims, recommending repair shops and arranging for a tow. He added that motorists could access a copy of the collision report on the company’s website, as can their insurance companies.
Saaed is 50 per cent owned by the Ministry of Interior, with a further 40 per cent owned by Khaskhasa for Security Services. The remaining portion is controlled by HeiTech Padu of Malaysia. Saaed currently responds to accidents on the roads outside Abu Dhabi island, in Al Rahba, Shahama, Bani Yas and Musaffah.
Starting on Oct 12, its officers will begin responding to accidents in Al Ain. By the end of the year, they will be responding to accidents in Abu Dhabi island and parts of Al Gharbia. Saaed plans to increase its current fleet of 25 cars to 48 by 2009.
With the introduction of Saaed, traffic police officers will have more time to concentrate on patrol duties and will only respond to major accidents where injuries are involved. Until Saaed’s service began, motorists involved in minor accidents sometimes had to wait for more than an hour for police to arrive as priority was given to accidents in which people were hurt.
Cleanliness drive takes aim at spitting
DUBAI - OCT 07: Tobacco and betel leaf chewers who spit on to the street are spoiling the beauty of the city and will be among the targets of an upcoming cleanliness drive, the municipality has announced.
Those caught repeatedly soiling the ground with the betel or tobacco juice could be fined, according to the city, which will also take aim at other unwanted practises, such as hanging clothes out to dry on balconies and littering, under the campaign that is to be launched tomorrow and continue through Nov 13.
“Spitting in public areas is something llamas do. You are different, don’t spit in public areas,” says one of the full-page advertisements that will be published in newspapers.
The city, which says the campaign is intended to improve the appearance of the city and raise awareness of the need for a healthy environment and not about issuing fines, suggests that residents who wish to continue to chew betel leaves or tobacco spit into dustbins.
“We will inform people that diseases are spread by spitting in public places,” said a spokesman for the municipality.
Betel leaves, known locally among Indians by their Hindi name, paan, are usually chewed after eating. The juice from the leaves, which is red in colour, is spat out. The sale of betel leaves and nuts is banned in Dubai but they are chewed by Indians and people from other Asian countries. Many people also chew tobacco, which is also spat out.
In several parts of the city, including Naif, Karama and Deira, it is common to see betel and tobacco stains on the streets.
“Such spitting is resulting in stains on walls and it is spoiling the beauty of the city. We will urge people to stop this activity,” said the spokesman.
A fine of Dh500 (US$135) is already in place for spitting in public, and this could be increased if people persist in the practice, said the spokesman, who nonetheless emphasised that the drive was not focused on penalising people.
People will also be asked to refrain from airing their laundry in public.
“Families tend to hang their clothes for drying on balconies. This is not a great sight to look at,” said the spokesman. “This campaign is to highlight the need for a clean environment and healthy living. The idea is to make a better city for generations to come.”
However, some residents said one of the reasons people continued to spit on the street was a lack of bins.
“I have been chewing tobacco and it is a habit that I am trying to give up. However, I have noticed that in many parts of the city there are not enough bins to use and so many spit on streets and building corners,” said one Karama resident.
The initiative, which will also be reinforced by radio campaigns in various languages, will be launched in the Naif district, then spread to other parts of the city.
“It will be a big launch to the campaign so that everybody in the area joins us and gets involved in keeping the area clean,” the spokesman said.
Mass transit is good for business, former London mayor says
DUBAI - OCT 07: Ken Livingstone, London’s occasionally controversial but always colourful former mayor, has some advice for Dubai and Abu Dhabi: get rid of the cars.
“Huge financial centres” such as Dubai cannot rely on private cars for transport, said the architect of London’s congestion charge, speaking yesterday in Dubai as chairman of the World Architecture Congress, a programme running alongside Cityscape. “They need to have public transportation,” he said. “Dubai must recognise a modern financial district requires a majority of workers to use public transport.”
Cities around the world, he said, were scrambling to get residents out of their cars and, if Dubai and Abu Dhabi were serious about becoming important global cities, they must do the same.
Financial centres thrive on deal-making, which in turn depends on people sitting face-to-face, not speaking on the telephone from halfway across the planet. That way, he said, “you can tell if they’re lying”.
Because of the serious need for personal interaction, financial cities must be designed in such a way that individual mobility was made easy, transit was accessible – and the car could not be the dominant form of transport.
Wildly unpopular at the outset, London’s congestion charge reduced traffic in the heart of London by about 30 per cent within months of being implemented. When he introduced the charge, Mr Livingstone was warned by colleagues and commentators that he was committing political suicide, but shortly after the charge was put into effect he was easily re-elected.
Mr Livingstone said a congestion charge for the UAE would be premature and could be applied only after an extensive public transit system had been established. And the best place for this, he said – perhaps not having noticed the advanced metro network taking shape across the city – was underground.
“First you put in the underground railways,” he said. “Then you put in a congestion charge.”
Transport was not the only thing Mr Livingstone felt would do well underground in the UAE. The urban landscapes of Dubai and, to a lesser extent, Abu Dhabi, are dominated by tall buildings and, although high density was generally considered a smart growth tactic in cities, Mr Livingstone said such development could come at the expense of public spaces.
He suggested that, because of the extreme heat in the region, the city should go underground.
“It’s not too late for cities like Dubai to look to an underground system,” he said. “Because if you have a city that is unpleasant to live in, people won’t want to live there.”
City planners and administrators in the UAE, he said, have the advantage of working within a political system far freer-flowing than the one with which he had had to deal with in London. “I’d rather do it quicker with a little less participation,” he said, laughing.
Mr Livingstone was recently appointed adviser to the urban planning department in Caracas, Venezuela. Asked if he would enjoy filling the same role for Dubai, he replied: “I’d be delighted!”
Doctor warns of winter asthma risk
ABU DHABI - OCT 07: Children taking advantage of the cooler weather to play outside should be aware of the increased risk of an asthma attack, a doctor has warned.
“Outdoor factors such as pollution and dust can increase asthma,” said Dr Pierre Majdalani, head of the paediatric respiratory and asthma clinic at Dr Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Clinic. “Pollution irritates the lungs and the airways of a child predisposed to asthma.”
One in five children in the UAE has asthma, among the highest rates in the Middle East, he said.
Children are at risk because they are not often able to communicate their symptoms to their parents, so the attacks can come without warning.
“We have more children dying from asthma than there should be,” said Dr Majdalani. “It can be very sudden. Often the parents are not aware of the signs.”
Asthma attacks come on more easily in children because their airways are smaller. While severe attacks are common in young children, teenagers can be at greater risk.
“Adolescents are the ones who are most likely to die from asthma because they don’t take their treatment,” he said. “Sometimes they smoke or ignore medical advice.”
Although there is a genetic predisposition to the condition, it is triggered by environmental factors.
“The genes show their presence in a certain environment,” said Dr Majdalani. “In France it could be that nothing happens, but if you come to the UAE, and are exposed to dust, these genes may express themselves and the child may begin to wheeze.”
Parents should pay particular attention to the weather, as pollution and dust levels can change from day to day.
“In the last few days we have seen dust in Dubai. I tell my patients that when you see this weather coming around the first thing to do is ask their doctor whether they need to increase treatment. We have to pay attention to the weather conditions and the amount of pollution around.”
He said that warnings should be given regarding pollution levels so that asthma sufferers can take appropriate action.
Although parents need to be diligent about watching for symptoms in their children, such as coughing a wheezingDr Majdalani said that they do not need to restrict their child’s activities.
“The objective of treatment is to give children a normal life,” he said. “They can do anything they want – sports, going out, swimming, football.”
Asthma is one of the leading causes of school absences in the UAE. The Asthma Friendly School Programme was introduced two years ago as a joint initiative of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, to provide a comprehensive asthma management programme for all schools.
Expat team sports are booming
ABU DHABI - OCT 07: Team building and social networking used to be terms reserved for the corporate guru, but in Abu Dhabi they have been commandeered by woman netball players.
It is one of the sports that has led to an unprecedented rise in the popularity of amateur leagues – and we are not just talking football and rugby here.
Male and female expatriates are increasingly expending their energies in sports they used to enjoy in their home countries – such as water polo, hockey, softball and, of course, netball.
Abu Dhabi’s netball league was established more than 20 years ago by British expatriates, but it is now more popular than it has ever been, with Romanians, Australians and Canadians joining in the fun.
Companies including Oasis Water, Crowne Plaza and Audi have sponsored some of the teams who play each week at the Royal Marina Health Club.
Their participation has gone beyond sport to “social networking”, says Erene Spies, the league’s organiser.
“Many of these women who play are here on their own and they want to meet people, to make friends. They’re all professionals and they want an outlet for team sport with people from similar backgrounds. Many of the women are actually teachers.”
Miss Spies believes the rising numbers of women joining reflects the increasing population and diversity of the capital. Last season, one team even made the four-hour round trip from Al Ain each week to play.
“People are surprised when they find Abu Dhabi has a netball league, but it’s been a part of Abu Dhabi for longer than most of us here,” says Miss Spies.
Dubai’s softball league is another well-established expatriate sport that has been attracting players.
It was first set up in the 1970s by US oil companies on a sand field near the airport, to entertain workers during their free time.
The league has become one of the biggest in Dubai, with 13 male and four female teams with 10 players each from a variety of professions.
Although grass was laid several years ago and teams no longer play on sand, the surface still suggests the intimacy of old Dubai, similar to “a ball park in Boston”, said the league’s chairman, John Larson.
While softball leagues in countries such as Saudi Arabia have been waning, Dubai’s continues to expand. This, said Mr Larson, is a sign of the growing expatriate community.
“There just aren’t enough people in Saudi any more to form teams,” said Mr Larson. “It used to be a huge league but people have been leaving in their thousands.
“Dubai is much more expatriate-friendly nowadays and you can see that reflected socially in these sports leagues.”
Outdoor team sports have become so popular there is a shortage of space for them to play on. The softball league shares its facilities with teams desperate for places to play Ultimate Frisbee, rugby and Japanese baseball.
“The Government really needs to provide more open space to encourage sport here,” said Mr Larson. “There are so many people who want to play team sports and such a lack of places to do this. We need to keep our grass in good condition so it shouldn’t really be used so much, but there are teams who just don’t have anywhere else to play.”
Another sport to take off in Dubai is water polo. The Dubai Water Polo Club started last year with only four players. It now has almost 150.
Widely played in other countries such as the Netherlands, Egypt and even Saudi Arabia, water polo is new to the UAE.
Its teams draw members from all over the world, including former national players from Lebanon, Canada and Iran. The fast-paced game, a mixture of handball and basketball, is played in a two-metre deep pool. During four eight-minute quarters, players try to score goals in small nets.
It is a game of strength and stamina that has attracted both men and women for twice-weekly training sessions at Kings’ Dubai. Players range from 25 to 55 and some come from as far as Al Ain and Abu Dhabi.
Wilbert Kragten, who started playing water polo at five, has organised a core team of 35 high-level players.
At the end of each month they play a team from outside the UAE and have so far met up with Italian national players, a team from Saudi and another from Germany. They will soon be travelling to Iran and have also been approached by the US and Netherlands.
“I was so disappointed when I came here to find there was no water polo,” said Mr Kragten. “But the league has been such a huge success and is constantly evolving.
People who play are passionate about the game but it’s also a chance to meet like-minded people.”
The league has grown so quickly that the club is now looking for new, bigger premises.
Some days there can be 50 people in the pool at one time, playing a game that is meant for two teams of seven.
“The club’s so international and is very reflective of life in Dubai,” added Mr Kragten.