SHARJAH // Almost 120 dilapidated and abandoned buildings were demolished in Sharjah city last year as part of the emirate's plan to upgrade residential and business areas, officials say.
The municipality pulled down 118 decades-old and structurally unsound buildings last year, four fewer than 2011, said Abdul Aziz Al Mansouri, the deputy general director of engineering and projects at Sharjah Municipality.
"The demolitions of untidy old buildings is being done to preserve the look of the emirate," Mr Al Mansouri said.
"We also want to preserve the safety of residents as some of the abandoned old buildings had become hubs for illegal residents and illegal activities."
In 2010, 92 illegal residents were arrested after they were found living in two abandoned homes, in Al Marijah and Al Shuwaiheen.
Police said at the time that their living conditions were appalling as the municipality had cut off electricity and water, and many were found sleeping on the ground.
Mr Al Mansouri said that once a building was marked for demolition, the owner is informed by letter and anyone living inside is asked to leave.
Electricity and water are disconnected by the Sharjah Electricity Water Authority before the bulldozers move in.
Mr Al Mansouri said the municipality did not mark buildings to be pulled down based on age.
A professional assessment of the viability of each building is done before it could be condemned.
Buildings deemed suitable to remain intact can be renovated. The municipality issued 319 permits for the renovation and maintenance of old buildings last year.
Neighbourhoods such as Al Shuwaiheen, Al Ghuwair, Al Sharqa and Umm Tarafa have had large-scale demolition works recently.
Once a building has been razed, the department of planning and surveying can help owners to redevelop the plot to meet the latest building standards, when any new plans are presented.
Last year the Sharjah Government announced a Dh20 million fund to provide emergency housing for Emiratis who lived in dilapidated homes that were marked for demolition.