Monday, May 12, 2008

Have fewmet the planners?

I heard a hilarious comedy excuse for the inadequacies of Dubai’s infrastructure on the radio last week. Essentially, we are expected to believe that Dubai government could not possibly have predicted the sudden enormous growth in population, and the roads, power, water, sewerage and telecoms networks are playing catch-up. You see, it was inconceivable to anticipate that when a developer was granted permission to build a 30-storey block of flats with four apartments on each floor, that around 120 new families would appear about two years later. And these families would selfishly be wanting power, water, sewerage and transportation. Completely unpredictable. Only it’s not one apartment block. It’s hundreds.

Inspired in part by Seabee’s recent blogs here and also here on the subject, I am for once not going to rant about inadequate highways infrastructure. Instead, I have some thoughts about waste water.

It takes several years to get from an agreement to put the new sewage treatment works ‘here’ to the plant actually starting to process its first batch. And as far as I know, Dubai has one treatment works. Situated in Al Aweer, it currently processes around 480,000 cubic metres of raw sewage a day. It was designed with a capacity of 260,000 cu.m/day, which may imply that there might possibly be the occasional tanker of inadequately treated effluent. Indeed, in this article Dubai Municipality’s Aisha Al Abdooli not only ’fesses up to the treatment works being overwhelmed, but admits that semi-treated waste regularly leaves the plant and is either used for irrigation or dumped in Dubai Creek. The same article goes on to say that the amount of raw sewage needing treatment is increasing by 25% a year.

Who else has seen the vast, soul-destroying queue of sewage tankers that stretches from the treatment works, back along Academic City Road, along Hatta Road (or is it Al Aweer Road there?) as far as Dragon Mart? That’s where Hagrid might go to trade in his Hungarian Horntail for a Norwegian Ridgeback, perhaps. It’s nearly eight kilometres from Dragon Mart to the sewage works as the tanker queues. The treatment works actually deals with some 3000 trucks daily. What a brilliant job, eh? Get up at 4am, drive to an apartment block or labour camp that’s not connected to mains drainage, slurp up the contents of the holding tank, drive to the back of the queue on Al Aweer Road and then spend the rest of the day standing around chatting with your mates.

The good news is that the government has decided to do something about the lack of sewage treatment capacity. According to this website with information gleaned from the Gulf News a year ago, a brand spanking gleaming shiny new sewage works is being built in Jebel Ali at enormous cost. The article says the first phase will be ready after three years; probably 2010. If the 25% growth estimate is correct, this means that on the day the new works comes on line, Dubai will have a total capacity of 560,000 cu.m/day to deal with a daily supply of three quarters of a million. And with an ultimate projected capacity of 1.1 million cu.m/day, Dubai's facilities will be inadequate by 2013. See what I mean about lack of planning? Claims that the new works are geared towards coping with the next quarter-century of growth don't seem to match the figures given.

And another thing. One consequence of sewage treatment is the, er, miasma. The real estate industry has studiously omitted to mention in its glossy literature that International City is right next door to the Al Aweer works. I trust that the residents of new Jumeirah and Jebel Ali are prepared for the inevitable stench when the new treatment works opens for business. This is in addition to the sulphurous exhaust fumes pumped into the troposphere by Jebel Ali power station.



the real nick said...

Can't disagree. I waited two months for a tanker to bother come to my old house and slurp up the contents of the seage tank. I evetually bribed him by paying a 50% 'bakshish' mark up underhand.

However, I'll chip in some facts which may explain (but not excuse) DM's delusional planning:

Several large developments have on-site sewage treatment plants, e.g. Oasis village = Jumeirah Int'l's 5000 headcount staff camp in AL Quoz. They use the water for irrigation, and even sell it on!
Dubai Industrial City and developments in Dubailand, too. There are closed chamber type STPs which don't smell much. Ok, a little bit only.

Under new DM regulations, grey water treatment and recycling has become mandatory for all new public buildings, hotels, schools etc. Means, the load on the public sewage system will to some extent decrease.

alexander said...

Brilliant post!

I first started noticing the yellow queues last year and posted about it back then and had wondered quite when GN/KT et al were going to pick up on it. But I don't think they ever have. A friend lives in International City and says it smells lovely, but her brother lives in a different bit and says it stinks.

Adding to that, the huge landfill must be leaching all sorts of awful stuff into the water table - unless it's all been properly lined and so on.

The partially treated water smells orrible: they use it for all that public greenery. The sickness rate among the muni workers is apparently incredibly high.

Shit job, huh?

Keefieboy said...

There's a mini treatment plant on the edge of Djelly Beybi Gardens: I don't know if it servics any other developments, but oh boy, it's smelly.

This lack of planning, though, is inexcusable: and I think it all comes down to taxation, or lack thereof: DM's budget is basically an annual gift from A Certain Person. New developments in West Dubai have tended to provide their own utilities (because DM doesn't have the budget for them, because A Certain Person has not given it to them). In The Gardens, waste management is handled by a private contractor, as is District A/C. AFAIK, DM has no involvement whatsoever in The Gardens.

It'd all a bit surreal.

Seabee said...

Lack of planning is my major complaint, which I go on about ad nauseum.

It's partly simple inertia, partly the lack of any planning talent or ability and partly Keefie's point of privatisation.

I can't come to grips with the new developments being treated differently from the rest of Dubai. Tecom has its own labour laws, the Municiality isn't responsible for anything - streets, cleaning, traffic signals etc, power, sewage all to be privately provided. I think it's all very odd and it's responsible for a lot of the confusion and chaos.

Even if there's no budget for govmint departments and the decision is to leave it to private developers, the forward planning thing still should apply. You wanna build Dubai Marina? Great - but the infrastructure must include power, water, sewage treatment etc. And all operating when the hordes start to move in.

But they don't do any forward planning.


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