NEWS FROM THE UAE
SOURCE : THE NATIONAL/ARABIAN BUSINESS
Burj Dubai set to open September inline with metro
DUBAI - JAN 18: The Burj Dubai is due to be opened on the same day as the Dubai Metro. (Getty Images)Burj Dubai, the world's tallest man-made structure, will see a "soft opening" on Sep. 9 this year in tandem with the launch of Dubai Metro, it was reported Sunday.
"The target is to have the event coincide with the opening of the Metro on 09/09/09," a person close to the matter told UAE busines daily, Emirates Business.
"There is still work to be done in terms of finishing the building," the person said. "This includes the access and exit planning as well as connecting the sewerage lines to the main network."
These issues are being addressed to ensure optimum working of the building before final occupancy, the person said.
Developer Emaar Properties has not commented on the issue.
The comments come days after Abdul Majid Al Khaja, CEO of the Rail Agency at the Roads and Transport Authority revealed that they were going to start trialing trains along the Red Line of Dubai's Metro from Jebel Ali Industrial Area to Rashidiya in May.
The Red Line service would be open to the public on Sep 9 this year, while it would operations on the Green Line were scheduled to start in March 2010, Al Khaha confirmed.
The groundbreaking for Burj Dubai took place in Sep. 2004 and completion was projected by late 2008. In June 2008, Emaar chairman Mohamed Ali Alabbar said in a statement: "We believe that a completion date of September 2009 is possible and reasonable for a project of this global magnitude and significance."
Burj Dubai has risen to its final height of 818 metres, a project contractor told this newspaper in a recent interview. The spire was erected in the third week of December. Since then, a beacon has been installed at the top, usually the final topping-out of a tower.
When completed, Burj Dubai will meet all four criteria listed by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), which classifies the world's tallest structures. CTBUH measures the height of buildings to the structural top, the highest occupied floor, the top of the roof and the tip of the spire, pinnacle, antenna, mast or flagpole.
Contractor Besix said it is working to complete the work on schedule. "We signed a new agreement with Emaar Properties last year and they gave us an extension of time to complete the project in 2009," said Didier Bosredon, Deputy Project Director at Besix.
"The 154th floor will house the office of the Emaar chairman. The façade is still not finished and work is in progress," he said.
Besix is working jointly with Samsung and Arabtec as the main contractors on Burj Dubai.
The tower will have an observation deck on Level 124, which will offer visitors a bird's-eye view of the city and beyond.
Burj Dubai is part of the $20 billion (Dh73.47bn) Burj Dubai development, which includes a shopping mall, hotels and a variety of residential buildings.
Surgeons perform new heart surgery
ABU DHABI - JAN 18: Doctors at an Abu Dhabi medical centre had to stop a Pakistani woman’s heart to remove a tumour the size of a golf ball last week.
The surgeon Binesh Sadasivan removed the tumour, which had a diameter of 4cm, from the 53-year-old woman’s left atrium. It was the first time the operation had been carried out at the capital’s New Medical Centre.
“Once such a tumour is discovered it must come out as soon as possible,” Dr Sadasivan, 43, said. He said he had performed many such operations in his native India and Australia.
The woman had gone to the hospital for a gynaecological check-up, but when she complained of laboured breathing, staff took an ultrasound, revealing the tumour that had been impeding blood flow through her heart.
Known as myxomas and made up of a jelly-like substance, such tumours can move inside the heart and block its valves, leading to immediate cardiac arrest and death.
They can also pass through the valves into the main artery, the aorta, and travel to the brain where they can cause strokes.
Myxomas in women occur mainly in those aged 30 to 60, and mostly form inside the heart’s left atrium. Dr Sadasivan said the patient is now recovering after the operation last Monday, but she may need to return later to ensure that no new tumours have formed.
“The operation is not a 100 per cent cure,” he said, adding that a propensity to develop myxomas could be hereditary.
Schools fall short of world standards
DUBAI - JAN 18: Dubai’s schools need immediate changes if they are to compete internationally, an independent report that will be sent to the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders says.
The Dubai School of Government report paints an especially grim picture of state schools, based on the results of Dubai’s recent participation in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMSS) exams.
Dubai state schools performed significantly worse than the emirate’s private schools, which also fell short of top international standards.
The report makes several recommendations, including extending the school year, licensing teachers and modernising teaching methods.
It will be presented to ministry officials in the coming weeks and has been seen by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), which oversees Dubai’s schools.
Improving the schools will require immediate and comprehensive action by the ministry, said the report’s author, Mike Helal, a visiting researcher at the Dubai School of Government.
“A piecemeal approach to each of these areas is not going to succeed in any efficient education reform,” Mr Helal said, adding that lengthening the school day and year in state schools should be the ministry’s priority.
The TIMSS exam, which assesses the maths and science skills of 10- and 14-year-old pupils, was conducted in more than 50 countries. The tests were scored on a scale from zero to 1,000, with 500 representing the average.
TIMSS classifies pupils in four achievement levels: advanced, high, intermediate and low. At the Grade 4 level in maths, only two per cent of Dubai pupils performed at the advanced level. In contrast, 41 per cent of pupils in Singapore and 40 per cent in Hong Kong reached that level.
“There is a substantial gap” between Dubai and comparable cities, Mr Helal said.
“After all, Dubai has a very similar economy to the likes of Hong Kong and Singapore.”
Grade 4 pupils in Dubai scored 444 in maths, and 416 in science. Pupils in Grade 8 fared slightly better with scores of 461 in maths and 489 in science – in the vicinity of countries such as Georgia, Romania and Armenia.
Fatma al Marri, the CEO of the KHDA’s Dubai Schools Agency, said the paper represented an “exciting first step” in gauging the significance of the TIMSS results for Dubai.
Ms al Marri said she hoped the report would lead to more co-operation between public and private schools in Dubai.
Education reform is a top priority for the Government at every level. Recent policy documents published by Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the UAE governments stress the importance of education.
It is estimated that 250,000 people will enter the UAE workforce by 2020, and the Government’s education agenda is intended to prepare them for the rising demands of the business world.
Dubai pupils posted higher scores than those in other MENA and GCC countries, including Yemen, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. But most pupils participating in those countries came from state schools, Mr Helal said. In Dubai, 85 per cent of schools are private, and almost 70 per cent of the pupils who sat the exam were at private schools.
“If a detailed breakdown were to be released it would be revealed that [Dubai] public schools are not in fact leading the region,” Mr Helal said. “The public schools currently have a level of achievement much lower than the private sector.”
The poor performance of the state school system has led many Emirati parents to place their children in private schools. In Dubai, 44 per cent of Emirati pupils are not in the state school system.
Dubai participated in the TIMSS scheme for the first time this year. “As a starting point, this is a very mature step that Dubai has taken,” Mr Helal said. But overall, he said, “the target needs to be much higher” than the performance of other GCC nations.
Mr Helal referred to the fact that 28 per cent of Grade 4 pupils did not meet the “low benchmark” set by the testing body as cause for serious concern.
Among all participating countries, only seven per cent of pupils failed to do so.
As well as extending classroom hours, Mr Helal has recommended that teacher certification be introduced and teacher training be expanded, and that teachers adopt methods of instruction to replace the “antiquated” emphasis on learning by rote.
The ministry already is shifting methods of instruction away from rote and has adopted the Abu Dhabi Education Council’s standards-driven curriculum.
A source at the ministry said recommendations to extend the school year and certify teachers have been presented in the past few months but no action has been taken.
The Minister of Education, Dr Hanif Hassan, and the ministry’s director general, Rashid al Nuaimi, did not respond to requests for comment.
Abu Dhabi Marina may make way for bridge
ABU DHABI - JAN 18:The marina in the city’s Tourist Club area, described by its owner as one of the city’s most important tourist attractions, is on borrowed time.
The marina is in the way of a planned bridge to Suwwah Island, which is envisioned as the city’s future centre of commerce.
Wagih Mansour, a leader of the capital’s Egyptian community, has owned the business since 1993, when he signed a 10-year lease on Abu Dhabi Marina, next to Le Méridien Hotel.
Then only 50 boats were berthed there. Now it has more than 250, and every day at least 1,000 people go to the club to enjoy its many restaurants, the beach, a pool, tennis courts and other attractions.
Mr Mansour was told in 2000 of the plan to close the marina. Since then, he said, “I sign each lease for varying lengths of time. Sometimes it can be for three months, others six and at other times less. This closure could happen tomorrow, it could happen next year. I just have to live with it.”
It is the only private marina in the city; the other three are government-owned. It has a security service, a petrol station, firefighting equipment and a rescue boat.
It is also the base for Mr Mansour’s Abu Dhabi Marina Charter company, which rents boats to tourists, residents and companies. Suwwah Island construction work has lowered the water level around the marina from eight metres to about three.
“We’re never told what is going on,” said Mr Mansour. “We are the last to know anything but my main concern is safety. If the water levels become any lower, it will become a big problem. Some of the boats moored in the marina are worth in the region of $1 million. Some days when the owners take the boat out in the morning and come back, the water levels have sunk so much because of the construction’s dredging and they don’t know which channel to take. There is no communication, no buoys to direct them and no liaison with the coastguard.”
Mr Mansour said he would like to make improvements to the marina, but felt that his hands were tied.
“I love Abu Dhabi. It’s been my home since 1973,” he said. “I feel that this place is really a part of the city. We need tourist attractions here and this really is one of the main attractions. To take this away will leave a real void.”
The owner of the property on which the marina sits, Abu Dhabi National Hotels, has been fair, Mr Mansour acknowledged.
“This is a very difficult situation for National Hotels, who have been very good to me through the development of this issue. They have to liaise with the relevant authorities, including the Urban Planning Council, and it’s not easy for them to make such a major decision like this.
“I’m not against development but I’m against ruining a part of the city which is so important. It’s like taking people out of a building with nowhere to transfer them to. Where will all these boats go to now?”
Mr Mansour said he has support from many people who want to save the marina but, he said, it is vital that the “people in charge” realise how important a part of city life it is. Some people, he said, think of the marina as a marine car park. Part of his battle is to correct the misconception.
Over the years, Mr Mansour has brought major international entertainers to the marina, including the British singer Cliff Richard, the American group The Drifters, and such popular Arab singers as Wadih El Safi, Najwa Karam and George Wassuf.
Losing the marina would cost the city of one of its premier social spots, he said.
“It’s like anywhere,” Mr Mansour said. “You take Saint-Tropez, Monaco; people congregate around these areas. It’s wrong to think that hotels are the be-all and end-all of the things tourists here need. Hotels are just a place to sleep. The marina is a place to relax, have fun, socialise, for tourists and residents.
“Abu Dhabi is a beautiful island. If anything, we need more marinas here. It’s not just about building high-rise buildings.”
Richard Riley, the chief executive of Abu Dhabi National Hotels, said: “There is no final plan on the development of the marina area as of this time.
“We... are in constant discussion with the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council and have had several meetings with them regarding this issue.
“The UPC and ADNH are currently studying various options, taking into consideration the popularity and attraction of the marina, as well as the welfare of those who are working there.
“We hope to come up with a decision that is beneficial for the society, as well as to the Abu Dhabi emirate.”
Abu Dhabi to add new public buses to Musaffah
ABU DHABI - JAN 18: Bus passengers between Musaffah and Abu Dhabi can expect shorter waits from next month, a transport official said.
Saaed al Hameli, the general manager of buses for the Department of Transport, said more buses would run to Musaffah in February as the department aimed to gradually improve the service from one every 40 minutes to one every 20 minutes.
Although the department added nine bus routes for Abu Dhabi island in June and kept the service free until March, routes to the suburbs of Musaffah, Baniyas and Shahama were little improved.
Musaffah is a busy route used by residents on low incomes who live in the suburbs and work in the city, and whose companies do not provide transport.
A single ride to Musaffah costs Dh2, while sharing a taxi with other passengers, an alternative for commuters who do not have the time to wait for buses, costs Dh5 a ride.
Buses are scheduled to depart to and from Musaffah every 40 minutes, but passengers said they sometimes wait more than an hour.
“In February it will improve because we have put in a plan to improve the services,” Mr al Hameli said. “I recently signed on the new proposed routes. They are in implementation now.”
Some of the older white and blue buses that service the suburbs have been refurbished and will be added to the Musaffah route, he said.
“They are getting better frequency and better service. For frequency we are aiming to reach below 20 minutes. We are trying to reach 20 minutes at every stop.”
Commuters from Baniyas and Shahama, where bus departures are also unpredictable, can also expect improvements, although Mr al Hameli did not say whether they would happen in February.
One hundred buses from the German manufacturer MAN are expected on the island’s roads by March 1, the same time the department intends to start charging passengers for rides on the island. As those buses are introduced, some buses that took to the road in June will be moved to new routes including the suburbs.
Commuters to Musaffah waiting for the bus yesterday were pleased to hear improvements were coming.
“It’s good because now they come every one hour,” said Hanadee Essam, a 22-year-old Sudanese woman who was born in Abu Dhabi.
Ms Essam took the bus from Abu Dhabi to Musaffah a few times a week, she said, but never from Musaffah in the morning when she went to work at a real estate company because she could not depend on the bus to be on time.
“Of course, I would not take a taxi if they came every 20 minutes,” she said.
Surya Maden, 33, travels on the bus once a week from his home in Musaffah to shop in the city and said he sometimes waited an hour to catch a city bus.
“If there is another bus every 20 minutes it would be very good for us,” Mr Maden said. “It will be a gift for us. It will save our time.”
By the end of this year there will be about 750 air-conditioned buses operating around the emirate, and 1,360 by the end of next year.
There will also be more than 700 shelters, many of them air-conditioned, for bus passengers. The first 170 shelters are expected to open this summer.
Routes connecting the city to Sheikh Khalifa City and the towns of Al Mafraq and Al Falah are also planned.