SHARJAH // The municipality has begun helping owners to turn villas from which working men have been evicted into family homes.
Walls surrounding homes in Al Halwan area are being pulled down as police said they provided a hiding place for criminals. The municipality said the walls also encouraged rubbish dumping.
The workers were evicted last month by decree from Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, the Ruler of Sharjah, after Emirati residents complained of having their privacy invaded.
Abdul Aziz Al Mansouri, the director of technical affairs at the municipality, said the demolition work was part of a year-long campaign to spruce up Halwan, Al Khalidiya, Al Nassiriya, Al Qadisiya, Al Abar and Al Sabagh.
Dilapidated buildings will be destroyed unless their owners agree to renovate them for families.
"We want to clean up all the old walls and old abandoned homes throughout the emirate in general," Mr Al Mansouri said. "Some old walls and abandoned houses have turned into waste landfills, accumulated dust and weeds, and have become a breeding ground for rodents and insects."
Before a wall or a building is torn down, municipality technicians visit the site and report on the state of the building.
The report is sent to the owner and if there is no response it is posted in newspapers. If there is still no response, the municipality will demolish the property.
It costs Dh10,000 to Dh15,000 to demolish a property.
"Besides the safety reasons, the demolition of such very old buildings serves to clean the image of the city," said Mr Al Mansouri.
Sultan Al Mualla, director general of the municipality, said an earlier campaign to demolish old buildings was well under way. He said 173 buildings had been demolished so far this year, in areas including Al Shuwayheen, Al Ghuwaifet and Butina.
Municipal figures this year showed authorities razed 1,187 buildings in the past three years.
Hundreds of the buildings in Halwan, especially along Wasit Road, are empty after Dr Sheikh Sultan's decree.
Owners are already carrying out renovations in some buildings.
An Emirati woman supervising demolition work at one site said she had previously rented two flats to workers, but was now renovating them and hoped to find families to live in them.
Another Emirati resident, Mohammed Marwan, said the area was safer but, "our concern now is those abandoned buildings.
"Many still have their doors open and unless the authorities do something they could become another crime haven."