NEWS FROM THE UAE
source : THE NATIONAL/SEVEN DAYS
Villa sharers face Friday deadline
DUBAI - OCT 20:People who have been illegally sharing villas in some of Dubai’s most affluent areas could have their electricity and water cut off if they have not moved out by Friday, Dubai Municipality warned yesterday.
Inspectors are looking for occupants violating the “One Villa, One Family” law, and the municipality said the deadline would not be extended. Landlords flouting the laws by letting villas to more than one family could be fined as much as Dh50,000 (US$14,000).
Real estate companies that have been housing families in such villas could also be penalised.
The municipality claims that sharing villas among families is unsafe and presents environmental and health risks. The “One Villa, One Family” campaign was launched by the municipality earlier this year, when families sharing villas in Al Rashidiya area were asked to move out. The campaign spread to other parts of the city last month as residents sharing luxurious villas in Jumeirah, Umm Suquiem and Al Wasl were also told to move out. Notices were sent to landlords warning of fines and penalties for housing multiple families. While some residents have moved out, others have stayed, hoping they would not be affected.
“We have not received any notice yet from the municipality and we hope that there would be no trouble,” a Jumeirah resident said.
The municipality says families sharing villas have to move out whether they receive a notice or not.
Families looking for accommodation claim it is impossible to find affordable housing, particularly under such a tight deadline.
“We have seen a lot of flats but it is all out of our budget,” said one resident. “We are hoping for some more time.”
Suburb still lacks basic services
ABU DHABI - OCT 20: Thousands of residents who lack basic amenities in Khalifa City must wait longer than they expected for a Dh5.7 billion (US$1.5bn) upgrade of their neighbourhood.
Modifications requested by the Urban Planning Council (UPC) to improve the district mean work on new housing and shopping developments, parkland and leisure facilities will not begin until next year.
Uwe Nienstedt, the project leader for KEO consultants, said the initial plan called for building work to begin this year, “but that’s not really realistic any more”.
He said the council must approve a new building proposal “in about two to three months” so that Khalifa City could blend into the emirate’s overall expansion, rather than exist as an independent development.
Mr Nienstedt said he hoped the revised plan would make the city more urban and walkable for residents. Falah al Ahbabi, the council’s general manager, said the proposed changes were necessary to bring the proposal in line with the capital’s “sustainable” regulation guidelines.
“Khalifa City is an integral part of Abu Dhabi’s 2030 urban development plan,” he said.
“In that respect, the requested modifications were essential to ensure quality of life by developing complete communities served by the expected array of services and amenities for its residents.”
Mr Ahbabi confirmed the council was now “in the final stages of revising the master plan”.
In the meantime, many residents believe there is much to be done to make the district habitable.
Lama Tahboub, a mother of three, moved to Khalifa City A last year, after her husband could not find a suitable villa within his company’s budget in downtown Abu Dhabi.
Khalifa City A, however, does not live up to her expectations.
“We do not even have walking areas or parks,” she said. “In Abu Dhabi, there are gardens everywhere, but over here, this is nothing.
“There is so much that can be done here. Landscaping is key to make this place liveable.”
She criticised the lack of buses and amenities for children. “There is nothing for the youth here. They don’t have football fields or basketball courts, not even a community centre or restaurants to hang out in.
“I don’t mind staying at home, but what about the children?”
Among the proposed changes are additional shaded walkways and 20 more plots for schools.
Medium-density, low-rise housing will be built instead of residential towers.
Helen Monaghan Greene, who lives in a four-bedroom villa with her husband in Khalifa City A, said there were problems that needed to be overcome.
“You get more space for your money here, and with the housing situation in the city, I know more people who are deciding to move here.”
But the area lacked greenery, she said. “Grass is something I miss here. You come off 30th Street and the roundabout is so green, and then all of a sudden you reach Khalifa City and it’s sand.”
And while the town now has four ladies’ salons, there are few supermarkets and no banks or post offices.
Mrs Monaghan Greene said the situation made her look elsewhere for basic services.
“I only go to Khalifa Supermarket for top-ups or for things that I’ve forgotten from town, like milk or juices,” she said. “I try to run all my errands before I drive back to Khalifa City, especially bank and post office runs and our weekly grocery shopping trips.
“It would be really nice if they plan it wisely. Because this is a new area and there is so much you could do with it.”
University principal warns of degrees of difference
UAE - OCT 20:International education could be brought into disrepute by institutions whose overseas branches fail to maintain the standards of the home campus, a university head has warned.
Branch campuses run separately from the main campus may not offer high-quality education, according to Prof Anton Muscatelli, principal and vice chancellor of Heriot-Watt University.
Heriot-Watt, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, has a branch in Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) where 900 students are enrolled. The aim is to increase this figure to 2,000 over the next few years. This is Heriot-Watt’s only full branch campus, although it has smaller overseas operations in many countries, including Russia.
“All our academic staff are employed by Heriot-Watt University. We don’t view this campus as separate from our campus in Edinburgh,” Prof Muscatelli said.
This contrasted with some other branch campuses that were financially separate and in some cases “franchised operations”, he said.
“They have the name but they are a separate legal entity and run independently. There are real issues about quality control. It raises the issue of whether the degree from the branch campus is the same quality as the degree from the home campus,” he said
“As soon as these doubts emerge, employers can no longer be confident, students can no longer be confident. It risks bringing transnational education into disrepute.”
Prof Muscatelli said Heriot-Watt did not franchise anywhere in the world, adding that courses in Dubai were the same as those in Scotland and marking was co-ordinated in Edinburgh.
“We can say that student X or student Y from Dubai was top of the class. It’s the same exam. It’s important for students,” he said.
“Employers care about whether the degree offers the same quality as in the UK or US. We can offer that guarantee. Other branch campuses may not be able to do that.”
Prof Brian Smart, dean of the Dubai campus, said Heriot-Watt was “not insinuating anybody operating in Dubai is sub-standard”.
Branch campuses of foreign universities have opened across the UAE, with Dubai and Ras al Khaimah both setting up free zones designed to attract such institutions.
DIAC and Dubai Knowledge Village between them have more than 25 branches of overseas higher education institutions, while Ras al Khaimah has attracted universities from countries including India, the US and Britain.
Many universities are expanding overseas, although Heriot-Watt claims to have expanded abroad more than any other Scottish university. It has 7,000 students in Edinburgh and 12,000 elsewhere in the world, taking its courses, either at its branch campus here or through distance-learning or tie-ups with other universities. The institution says 75 per cent of transnational degrees awarded by Scottish degrees are its own.
Prof Muscatelli said: “We have succeeded where many other quality universities have not. We’ve got a substantial community.”
He insisted setting up a branch university was “not a money-making venture” and was in line with the university’s academic strategy, which includes a focus on research.
“We do regard ourselves as a research-intensive university,” he said.
Families call for an end to rubbish piles
DUBAI - OCT 20: Partygoers are leaving the streets of Dubai strewn with litter but it is local residents who wake up next morning with the headache of having to face the mess.
Families in Deira, an area flooded with cafeterias, hotels, restaurants and clubs, complain their litter bins are overflowing and rubbish is piling up on pavements as street cleaners fail to cope.
Beverage cans, bottles, tissue papers and other waste litter the streets each morning, they say. The blame is placed on people who visit the area for a night out.
“Every Friday morning we see roads that are littered with all kinds of waste after the night’s party,” said Samir Basheer, a Deira resident.
“Many also throw everything on street corners and outside garbage bins that are already spilling over.”
Rubbish is also seen on weekdays outside the area’s cafeterias and restaurants, and families are now anxious it could pose a health hazard. Areas such as Al Muteena, Naif, Hor Al Anz and Al Rigga are the worst affected. These areas have a high density of food outlets close to homes and apartments.
“The dirtiness and stench from these places are now a serious problem for all families living here,” said Sabu Cherian, a resident of Al Muteena.
“I think cafeterias and restaurant owners just dump the waste outside garbage bins without thinking of disposing of it properly for the sake of nearby residents.”
Restaurant and cafeteria owners claim there are simply not enough rubbish bins.
“It is a struggle each night to find an empty bin to dump the garbage,” said a restaurant worker. “The number of people living here is increasing and everyone is dumping in these garbage bins. So, often we have no choice but to throw the garbage outside.”
Dubai Municipality statistics show it has more than 20,000 rubbish bins across the city. Officials from the waste management section said they were aware of the problem but added that restaurants and hotels had already been provided separate rubbish containers.
“We conduct regular inspections and establishments that do not dispose of their waste appropriately face the risk of cancellation of their trade licence,” said an official. He added that the municipality was also offering cafeterias a service to collect their waste. “Our garbage collection trucks collect rubbish from such cafeterias so that waste disposal is done properly,” he said.
Naif has recently been the focus of a campaign by the municipality to curb the growing problem of litter, especially in crowded areas of the city. The month-long campaign, called Say Yes to a Clean Naif, is intended to alert the public to the health risks caused by rotting rubbish. It is also targeting spitting in the street.
The municipality is to extend the initiative to all parts of Deira.
“We will address the issue of littering, especially in hotels, cafes and restaurants,” said the official. The awareness campaign, which includes street shows and other activities, will continue until Nov 13.
“We hope the campaign will succeed in reducing the littering. Afterwards we will think of what other steps could be taken to stop this phenomena,” said the official.
Firemen rescue residents from blaze
ABU DHABI - OCT 20: Seventy firemen spent about an hour fighting a serious blaze in an apartment building in Khalidiya last night, rescuing several people including children.
Fire crews used an extendable ladder to reach seven people trapped on the fifth floor of the apartment block, near the Etisalat Building. People on lower floors managed to get out by using the stairs.
Nine people suffered smoke inhalation, including a woman who was taken to Sheikh Khalifa Medical Centre with breathing difficulties, said Major Mohammed al Amsari, the head of the ambulance section for Abu Dhabi.
Emergency services were called about 7.15pm, Maj Amsari said. About 70 members of the fire brigade, including the quick prevention unit of Civil Defence, responded as well as 15 ambulance workers, he said.
Firemen pulled people onto the ladder from the windows of the building as dozens of people watched from behind yellow police tape.
The fire started on the fourth floor of the building, Major Amsari said. The cause had not been confirmed last night.
A watchman for the building, who gave his name only as Yahiya, said he had to unlock the door of the apartment where the fire had started and run through thick smoke, past the blaze in the living room, to rescue a 12-year-old child in one of the bedrooms. No one else was home, he said.
Sulaiman Mohammed, 25, from India, a resident of the building, said he had come home to find police officers outside of his building and residents rushing out. The fire alarm had been ringing inside the building.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to stay here tonight,” he said.
The fire and smoke damaged the upper floors of the building.
Numbers Fatalities Decline in Dubai
DUBAI - OCT 20: The number of fatalities on Dubai’s roads has gone down for the first time in four years, the head of Dubai Traffic Police has said.
Brigadier Mohammad Al-Zafeen said that the number of accidents resulting in death so far this year fell by nine per cent compared to the same period last year. “This is a major leap forward for us, and this has been achieved as a result for our strategies,” he said.
According to official statistics, 220 people were killed in traffic accidents in Dubai from the start of this year, compared to 255 during the same period last year. After the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi recently reported that the UAE currently has the highest rate of road deaths in the world, the reduction of casualties on the roads represents a significant step forward for road safety in the country.
And Al-Zafeen said that there are many reasons behind this success. “Recently we focused on the reasons behind the massive amount of accidents here, and we tried to remedy this through traffic campaigns especially aimed at erratic motorists and pedestrians who cross the roads in non-authorised places,” he said.
The number of people run over went down from 89 last year to 77 this year. Al-Zafeen said that they are looking to reduce the num-ber of deaths even more. “We will continue our strategy to reduce the number of death on our roads,” he said. “We want to be just like Sweden where only six people die in traffic accidents per 100,000 residents. Last year the number in Dubai was 21 dead per 100,000 residents.