ABU DHABI // Five villas in the Al Bateen neighbourhood have been partially demolished, as the municipality ramps up efforts to crack down on illegal tenements across the capital.
An official with Abu Dhabi Municipality said yesterday that additions built onto the villas, which were located in streets behind the Gulf Diagnostic Center Hospital, were in violation of municipal law, and posed safety hazards.
"This is not the proper structure of the villas," said the official, who did not wish to be named. "The owners make the gas and water facilities not [compliant with] the specifications of Abu Dhabi Municipality, and in many cases a fire can happen in these villas because these partitions are made with wood."
Subdivided villas posed serious safety risks because they were often of flimsy construction and were over capacity, the official said.
The additions were removed following routine inspections aimed at identifying this kind of communal housing. Inspection teams, working with Abu Dhabi Police, give homeowners, investors and tenants at least a month's notice before first cutting power to the building, then tearing down the additions, the official said.
The Al Bateen demolitions were carried out after court orders were issued, since the villas were in violation of the city's building code. The villas had allegedly become overrun with dust, rubbish and weeds, and were infested with insects and rodents.
The municipality was prompted to take action "by the distortive appearance of these villas to the neighbourhood and streets in a way contrary to the typical urban, aesthetic and tourist appearance currently seen in Abu Dhabi city", according to a press release from the municipality.
Uwaidah Ahmed al Qubaisi, the acting executive director of the municipal services sector of the municipality, said in the release: "The Municipality of Abu Dhabi city has exhausted all grace periods and warnings, and clarified to the occupants the risks of continuing [to live in] unauthorised housing to their lives, security and public health."
The official, who did not wish to be named, said residents were still living in some of the villas when demolition crews arrived.
"In many cases, there are families and children, so we keep that in consideration, that they need time to arrange a new residence," the official said, adding that the municipality was not responsible for ensuring that displaced tenants had new accommodations.
"We make campaigns and warn people; we are just implementing the law," the official said.
Homeowners incur the cost of the demolitions and are subject to penalties and fines. The cost was dependent upon the extent of the violations, the official said. The inspections would continue into next year, the official said. Several other violating buildings were scheduled for removal, another municipal official said.