ABU DHABI // About 700 people a month are being fined for throwing cigarette butts on the street and about 50 a day for spitting.
Abu Dhabi Municipality has urged the public to keep the city's streets clean and litter-free, and hopes fining offenders will help to solve the problem.
Littering is not only unsightly, but also costs money and manpower to clean up.
One of the biggest problems is people spitting out paan, a mixture of betel leaf, processed tobacco and other ingredients that is widely used in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Paan leaves stains on building walls and city pavements, and requires special chemicals to clean.
Khalifa Al Rumaithi, the director of public health at the municipality, said: "We fine about 45 to 50 people every day who are caught spitting paan on walls in the Abu Dhabi Island."
Offenders will be fined on the spot if they are found dropping chewing gum or cigarette butts, littering or spitting. Mr Al Rumaithi said his inspectors would stop and fine someone who threw a cigarette out of the window while driving, for example.
He said that sometimes vehicles are stopped at the signal when the offence occurs. In that case, "we don't follow them … we just note the vehicle number plate and fine them".
The fine for throwing chewing gum on the street and littering is Dh500; dropping cigarette butts is Dh200 and spitting on streets and the walls of buildings is Dh100. Paan users are fined Dh500 for spitting. Mr Al Rumaithi said his 85 inspectors frequently find niswar and paan spit on the corners of buildings.
"We can clean filters of cigarette butts, but it's very difficult to clean spots of paan as well as chewing gum because it gets stuck in place," he said.
"For paan, cleaners need special chemicals to clean it, or you need you repaint the wall to hide the defaced corners and walls."
Paan and tobacco are generally chewed by labourers who sit around the walls.
"When they first enter the UAE through airports, we distribute brochures and pamphlets among them to educate them about the rules and cleanliness of the country," he said.
People come here from different countries and we suspect that these habits of spitting and throwing chewing gum on streets might not be punishable in their home country, he added.
The municipality has distributed brochures to taxi drivers and tourists to explain the rules of cleanliness in the country. The pamphlets are available in several languages, including English, Arabic, Urdu and Hindi.
The municipality has also posted rules and guidelines for maintaining cleanliness on display screens at Abu Dhabi International Airport.