U.A.E.: Labour Camps in Dubai to Face Overhaul


Labour camps to face overhaul

ABU DHABI - OCT 21: Squalid labour camps are to be cleaned up with the introduction of national standards, spot checks and possibly fines, the Minister of Labour announced yesterday, in a new effort to force employers into improving their labour record.

Saqr Ghobash Saeed Ghobash promised the Government would no longer tolerate the excuses of developers who ignore the poor living conditions of their workers.

“We will be patient and give time for different companies to move the situation forward and to make sure they are at the upper level. After this time, we will start implementing measures we believe are fair.

“There are no more excuses for the private sector to not meet these standards.”

Once new regulations are announced, developers failing to meet the standards would face sanctions by the Ministry of Labour that could include fines or closure, although Mr Ghobash said it was too soon to announce what each level of punishment would be.

He warned offenders that ministry officials would be paying unannounced visits to check on conditions.

However, he did not give a specific date for when the new national standards would be implemented.

On a visit to Yas Island yesterday, Mr Ghobash said labour camps today were in a far better condition than they were in the past, thanks in part to Government action.

However, “there are a few things that are still not how the ministry would like, but that is under discussion with the developers.

“Hopefully, this picture will go away and a standard can be imposed so we can move forward with a positive picture of what the UAE is all about.”

Mr Ghobash made the comments while visiting a labour camp for the employees of Aldar, which he praised as a perfect example for other developers. The camp includes sporting facilities, lavatories and free food at meal times.

Mr Ghobash stressed yesterday that new standards would be put into practice for all labour camps.

The Human Rights Practices Report, released by the US State Department last year, criticised the UAE in relation to circumstances in which “low-skilled employees were… provided with substandard living conditions, including overcrowded apartments or lodging in unsafe and unhygienic ‘labour camps’ often lacking electricity, potable water, and adequate cooking and bathing facilities”.

Since then, several new camps have opened with proper cooking facilities, sanitation, air-conditioning and leisure facilities, and the number of inspectors with the Ministry of Labour has increased. The minister said that more would be done, as he visited the workers building the Yas Marina Formula One circuit, the Ferrari World theme park, a golf course and a water park.

“Standards are under development and certain measures have already been taken against those who have not complied,” he said.

“Hopefully we will catch those who do not implement what is required, otherwise, when the ministry implements its rules, measures will be taken against those who do not comply with our standards.”

Still, he said, the goal is to encourage businesses to meet the standards on their own accord.

“Hopefully the ministry will never have to use them, and we expect the private sector to comply and avoid this happening.”

His comments coincided with a protest by workers in Musaffah last night.

More than 500 workers from the construction and engineering company ETA gathered outside their housing quarters claiming they were unhappy with their salaries and their lack of kitchens.

“We have to rely on the canteens and other places for food since we are not allowed to cook in our buildings,” said one worker. “As a result, we spend more than Dh300 a month on paying for food.”

Supervisors and managers of the company said they had been trying to negotiate with the workers all day.

“They want to prepare their own food in order to save money, but it goes against the health and safety regulations of the buildings,” said AK Singh, head of human resources for ETA.

“We cannot break the rules but we are trying to find solutions to their grievances.”

* With additional reporting by Suryatapa Bhattacharya


Abu Dhabi bridges gaps

Abu Dhabi - OCT 21: Strong connection: the new Sheikh Zayed bridge will open near the current link to Abu Dhabi, the 1970s-era Maqta bridge. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
If Abu Dhabi is to be a city of islands, it will also be a city of bridges.

While the average driver coming into Abu Dhabi is likely to cross the water in only two places – the Maqta and Mussafah bridges – the municipal authorities are planning another 32 bridges in a strategy to connect the main island with nearly 6,000 hectares of land on islands that will be home to racetracks, skyscrapers, malls and homes for hundreds of thousands of new residents.

A smooth transition between these islands is paramount to the city’s transportation strategy, said Falah Mohamed al Ahbabi, the general manager of the Urban Planning Council (UPC).

“The purpose of the bridges is simply to connect,” he said. “We must have the feeling that when you are in Abu Dhabi, you can roam. When you go to Reem Island, it should feel smooth, without noticing that you are even travelling over water.”

Not only will these bridges allow cars easier access to the likes of Reem, Sowwah, Yas and Saadiyat islands, but they will provide platforms for metro trains and pedestrian walkways.

Of the new bridges, Saadiyat will be the longest in the country. The 1.45-kilometre structure will connect the Shahama district of Abu Dhabi to the 2,700ha Saadiyat Island. The bridge is a key component of a 25km Shahama-Saadiyat motorway that will radically alter the way people travel to and from down town. The nearly 30 to 40-minute drive from Al Raha Beach to downtown Abu Dhabi will be nearly halved, with a five-lane motorway straight to the destination.

The Dh671 million (US$182.7m) bridge is more than 70 per cent complete and will be ready for cars to travel over it on Aug 31 next year, said Andrew Seymour, the director of infrastructure on Saadiyat Island.

“What this will do is add access to the whole top third of the island,” he said. “It’s the beginning of an era of combining the islands and Abu Dhabi into an integrated area.”

Next year’s autumn will be a major test for the transportation infrastructure of the emirate. Thousands of visitors from around the world will descend on Abu Dhabi for its first Formula 1 race on Yas Island on Nov 15, giving the motorway its first taste of the traffic that will have to be sustained in years to come.

The bridge is also notable for its complicated construction process, with engineers using three methods. On the Saadiyat side, where there is more room to operate, workers are casting it in place as a single structure. In the middle, they are using a “balanced cantilever approach”, where they build up a platform from the middle and then outward on each side so that it does not tip over. And from Abu Dhabi Island, where the construction area is small, the workers are building up incremental pieces and pushing them out over the water.

“But the most difficult part is co-ordinating with the navy, the oil refineries, pleasure crafts and the coastguard,” Mr Seymour said, adding that the bridge would have a 26-metre clearance to let marine traffic continue unabated.

Saadiyat will also have a main connection to Yas Island that uses several smaller bridges between islands. City planners are also considering an underground tunnel that will connect directly to Reem Island.

The other major bridge project is the Sheikh Zayed Bridge, which until recently had been stalled because of a dispute with the contractors. The 800m bridge was designed by Zaha Hadid and will serve as the new “gateway” to Abu Dhabi near the 1970s-era Maqta Bridge. Signs of life at the site have begun again recently, with new pieces of the concrete structure added and construction workers present.

Ms Hadid writes in a briefing on her design that the bridge resembles “a collection, or strands of structures, gathered on one shore... lifted and ‘propelled’ over the length of the channel”. The result is a “sinusoidal waveform” shape that “has the prospect of becoming a destination in itself and potential catalyst in the future urban growth of Abu Dhabi”.

That bridge will link up directly with Al Salaam Street, allowing an alternate route through Abu Dhabi.

But if quantity of bridges are an indicator of priority, Sowwah Island reigns supreme. There are at least 11 bridges, or more than a third of all the bridges in Abu Dhabi, planned for the 57ha Manhattan-esque island.

Sowwah will be Abu Dhabi’s new Central Business District, containing the new headquarters of the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, a hospital – the Cleveland Clinic – and scores of office buildings.

Half of the bridges, each designed by a different architect, will connect to Reem Island, which will be a dense new commercial and residential location with skyscrapers, a giant park, marinas and Abu Dhabi’s largest mall. To the West, Sowwah will connect to the main thoroughfares of Abu Dhabi island.

“Providing rapid and convenient connectivity between Sowwah Island and its surrounding areas is of paramount importance,” said John Thomas, the executive director of Mubadala Real Estate and Hospitality – the group overseeing the island’s development. “It will be a hub for dynamic 24-hour business and leisure activity.”

The designs for the bridges are still in the works, but Mr Thomas said in a previous interview that each one would be designed to have its own iconic characteristics.

Mr Ahbabi said these bridges would epitomise the transportation philosophy of Abu Dhabi.

“Sowwah bridges will be the most pedestrian friendly of all,” he said. “Our philosophy is to get people out of their cars. We want them walking, biking.”

He said the council was going for the same effect as the 35 bridges that cross the The Seine in Paris. They would be low-rise bridges with no arc.

“In Paris, you don’t even feel you are on a bridge,” he said. “It’s the simplicity of it. We want the roads to remain flat, to be a continuation of the grid system of the city.”

Bridges, however, could be the wrong choice when you wanted to preserve a view, he said. For that reason, the UPC is planning to connect Abu Dhabi to the 570ha Lulu Island by two tunnels beneath the water, one from the Mina section and one from Marina Mall.

“For the urban form, the look of the city, sometimes a tunnel is much better,” he said. “Bridges on Lulu Island would ruin the view of the Gulf.”

Lulu Island will be almost exclusively low-rise housing and hotel resorts.

Several of Abu Dhabi’s new bridges are planned for islands on which development has not even started, such as Umm Lafina, located between Saadiyat and Reem islands.

The island, which is owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Minister of Presidential Affairs, has already been expanded through land reclamation. Mr Ahbabi said a masterplan for the mostly residential island would be released in the coming months. Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 describes the island and several others that lead to Al Raha Beach as the “Inner Islands” and specifies that they will contain low-rise buildings with a total population of about 20,000 people. It will also house some of the infrastructure for Reem Island, including a sewage treatment plant and desalination facility.

The other island that is set to begin development is Huydariat, a stretch of sand that extends the length of Abu Dhabi Island just to the west. Only the bottom half of the island will be developed and it, too, will be primarily residential, Mr Ahbabi said. The 2030 plan shows Huydariat cut up into smaller islands by a series of wide seawater canals.

“These bridges will keep going with the growth of the city,” Mr Ahbabi said. “We need more and more connections.”

* with reporting by Ivan Gale


New secret squad tackles litter problem

DUBAI - OCT 21: An undercover squad is to patrol the streets of Dubai to issue on-the-spot fines to people who drop litter and spit, it was announced yesterday.

Dubai Municipality said it had deployed plain-clothes environment officers with the mandate to issue “a bigger number of fines” with newly created powers.

The secret squad’s creation comes amid a municipality pledge to get tough on people who dirty the city streets, including those who chew and spit “paan” betel leaves, which stain pavements and walls.

One official last week raised the prospect of deporting those who sell or prepare paan and other chewing products.

Municipality rules impose a Dh500 (US$136) penalty on litter louts and fines are also in place for other violations that spoil the environment. However, a more severe system is being planned for the undercover squads to use, officials said. Last year officers issued 4,280 fines for violations in public cleanliness and hygiene.

A system would also ensure officers could register a violation and issue a fine within seconds of it taking place.

Hussain Lootah, the acting director general of Dubai Municipality, said undercover officers had been trained with a “guidance manual… qualifying them to carry out the task of issuing a bigger number of fines”.

In line with their secret nature, no details were issued by about patrol routes, times, or the numbers of inspectors used.

The civic body did, however, say that the squad would be drawn from a pool of 548 officials. Uniformed municipality officers would also issue fines.

Family areas such as Deira have recently complained of a surge in rubbish on the streets caused by illegal dumping by shops and restaurants.

It is not the first time authorities have used undercover tactics to tackle specific problems. Dubai Police say they regularly deploy a number of plain-patrol cars to catch bad drivers, although no information is available on how effective these are.

The municipality said officers would be equipped with new technology to ensure fines were issued quickly.

Instead of wrestling with municipality bureaucracy, officers would be able to phone in to an automated telephone line which would recognise their voice, record the details of the violation and then confirm the fine.

“There will be no need to use the telephone’s key pad to report offences,” Mr Lootah said. “Officers are required to simply speak. The rest is handled automatically by the system.

“The new service is designed to automate and optimise the procedure for reporting environment-related offences in Dubai. It enables enforcement officers to quickly pass on an offender’s details, reducing the time between the offence being committed and a fine being issued.”

He said reporting offences with the new system would take less than a minute. Offenders would immediately receive a text message confirming the amount of their fine.

The system could be extended to other areas, such as traffic penalties, if successful, Mr Lootah added.“We will use this system for all services available with the municipality through the new voice portal solution.”

The National reported yesterday that families in areas such as Deira have health worries because of the amount of rubbish left outside hotels and restaurants.

The municipality has launched a campaign in the Naif area, urging residents to stop spitting and littering in public.

The municipality said they started working on the voice portal project a year ago and were the first government department to implement it.



Links to fire centre for Dubai buildings

UAE - oct 21: More than 60,000 buildings across Dubai are to be linked to a Civil Defence command centre within four years.

The agency has set up the office known as the “Chamber”, which connects the city’s fire alarms. Officials said the station will be able to pinpoint the location of any connected alarm that goes off.

The control centre will have space for up to 30 operators and operate 24 hours a day.

The announcement follows a law passed earlier this year requiring every new building to submit its plans to the Civil Defence so in the event of a fire, firemen can plan their entry to the building off the blueprint. These plans will be stored on a database and can be sent to mobile command control vehicles.

All hotels, apartment blocks, financial institutions and airports will be linked to the network within four years.

The command centre is currently based in the Jebel Ali free zone south, in the offices of Pacific Controls, the company that provided the system software.

Major Gen Rashid al Matrooshi, director of administration of Civil Defence, said: “The application of this system will lead strategic and fire protection services, both preventive.”

The system, which operates via phone lines, will be mandatory in all buildings except where homes have an optional service. Installation of the hardware and software will be provided for a fee that was not stated by the Civil Defence.


A Tide Of Filth  print this article  

Dubai - Oct. 21: Thousands of workers in Dubai are being forced to live alongside rivers of raw sewage swamping the streets around their accommodation.  The festering conditions have led doctors to issue health warnings to people in the area claiming they could contract deadly diseases such as hepatitis and typhoid.
The latest health warnings follow the closure of stretches of Dubai’s beaches and the sailing club in Jumeirah due to untreated sewage being washed directly into the sea by tanker drivers illegally jettisoning their loads into storm drains.

Labourers living in the Industrial area No 3 of Al Quoz claim the stinking sewage has flooded the roads and pavements for the past three weeks with little effort being made to clean the area up.  Kumar, an Indian expat living in the area, said:  “The stench is unbearable and people are struggling to live here. The entire street has become a big swimming pool with toilet water floating everywhere. Life has become so miserable for us. It’s unbearable. 

“We have complained to the municipality but so far in vain. The sewage water is continuously flowing out of the camps and flooding the streets. People have stopped walking around for fear of catching a disease.”
 The sewage is pouring into the roads from overcrowded labour camps after their septic tanks become full and are not emptied quickly enough.

A doctor who works in a clinic in Al Quoz urged people to keep away from the putrid waters.
“People might contract deadly diseases like typhoid and hepatitis because of the waters. They should avoid walking barefooted and should always cover their food. Flies in the area can transmit diseases,” said Dr Humayum Kabeer, a general physician working at Dr Moopen’s clinic.

He said that his clinic is currently treating five to six sick workers each day and many of their illnesses could be related to the sewage.

A municipality official said that it’s the responsibility of the labour camp owners to press into service more tankers to remove the sewage and end the problem. “We have warned a number of companies in this regard. They should be responsible enough to solve the problem. We are monitoring the situation,” said Abdul Majeed Sifaee, Director of the Drainage and Irrigation Department. 

He said that the problem is due to companies cramming too many workers into the camps. 

Trip Ends In Tragedy  print this article    email this article    post your comments  
Dubai - Oct 21:
A man who showed off to his friends by taking them on an illicit trip in the boat he was employed to clean, has been charged with causing wrongful death after one fell overboard and was cut to pieces by the propeller.
Dubai Public Prosecution is still investigating the case in order to set final charges for the suspect.
According to records, the 34-year-old Indian was on the boat last Friday in the Jumeriah area in Dubai when his three compatriots arrived and asked him for a trip out to sea.
The suspect agreed alth-ough he knew nothing about controlling the boat, which was owned by an Emirati.
“The boat was moving very fast and then it started to spin and one of his friends lost his balance and fell into the sea. The propeller ripped into his body,” a source in public prosecution said.
Dubai police arrested the suspect immediately and the rescue department managed to extract the remains of the body from the water.
The man was charged with causing wrongful death but the prosecution will set the final charges soon in order to refer him to court.

Free breast cancer examination at SLC

Sharjah - Oct 21: SHARJAH Ladies Club (SLC) Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign Continues for the second week in co-operation with the Friends of the cancer patients and sponsored by the Al Rwabi and Mr Baker.

The second series of events have already started in SLC which part of the long serious events including speeches, lectures, free self examination, mammogram and workshops.

The early detection of this disease is very important for women, It's can save your life. Breast Cancer is about 28 per cent of the total cancer cases detected in the world and at least one woman out of every 8 women may have it.

Dr Sawsan Al Madi, head of Friends of Cancer Patients, the guest speaker said: "First I would like to thank SLC for their supporting our campaign; I notice that a lot of women are wearing a pink ribbon! The pink ribbon is the international symbol of hope for women with breast cancer.

All women can self-examination at home and I'll show you the way and to be more accurate you have Mammogram test at any centres of childhood and motherhood."



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