x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Khalifa tours desert region

The President met hundreds of Al Gharbia residents yesterday as part of his tour of the vast desert region.

A development in Al Gharbia. Sheikh Khalifa met hundreds of residents during his visit to the region.
A development in Al Gharbia. Sheikh Khalifa met hundreds of residents during his visit to the region.

ABU DHABI // Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, met hundreds of Al Gharbia residents yesterday as part of his tour of the vast desert region. Close to 500 people queued up for a chance to see the President and to share a few moments with him. The President is on the third day of his visit to Al Gharbia, which has recently seen hundreds of millions of dirhams allocated to upgrade services, infrastructure, homes, education, tourism and health facilities.

Yesterday, he held an open diwan - where he received visitors - at Sheikh Khalifa Palace in the oasis district of Liwa, where residents aired their views on the region, with some reciting poetry written for the President. Khalifa al Mansoori, the executive director of area services for the Western Region Municipality, who was at the palace, said the event was a success. During the visit, Sheikh Khalifa reiterated the Government's pledge to improve the quality of life in Al Gharbia and stressed the need to train young people the skills necessary to sustain the new developments.

"The projects would bring new investment opportunities to citizens of the area," the President was quoted as saying by WAM, the government news agency. "Nowadays, it is not only cities that are attracting larger populations. New areas are also attracting investments, thanks to their competitive edge. The Government would encourage any initiatives by the private sector to invest in these areas." Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, accompanied Sheikh Khalifa on the visit.

On Tuesday, the President toured the Al Dhafra development, just outside Madinat Zayed, where thousands of people will soon be relocated to nearly 800 houses under construction. The first phase will see 200 villas worth Dh206 million (US$56m) built and is expected to be completed by the end of June 2009. The second phase will include 114 villas constructed at a cost of Dh109m, while a further 274 villas will be built in the third phase for Dh261m, specifically for armed forces personnel.

The fourth phase of 200 villas will be financed by the Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme at a cost of Dh191m. Following consultations with residents of towns, including Madinat Zayed, Sheikh Khalifa instructed the local authorities to act upon the needs of the people, WAM reported. "Government bodies should assume their responsibility as services providers interacting with the needs of citizens away from the routine and at par with the highest standards," he said.

Development of the region, which accounts for 80 per cent of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, is increasingly coming under the spotlight. Yesterday, the Western Region Development Council (WRDC), along with the Urban Planning Council and the Western Region Municipality, announced a new planning task force for the region to streamline efforts. "I cannot stress enough the importance of all the entities working for Al Gharbia keeping each other informed of their progress to ensure that we are all on the same page," said Mohamed Hamad bin Azzan al Mazrouei, the director general of the WRDC. "The Al Gharbia planning task force will ensure that all plans and projects for the region are well co-ordinated and in line with the requirements of Al Gharbia's people. It is also necessary that all information and updates, including any studies or surveys conducted in the region, are communicated with all entities involved to enable growth and help us achieve our overall plan for success effectively."

During a workshop yesterday, which included the main entities working in the region, discussions focused on transportation within and out of the region. Ameri Flight detailed recommendations for a planned expansion of the airport in Jebel Dhanna, and the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, Masdar, presented plans for a hydrogen power plant in the region. * Additional reporting by WAM @Email:zconstantine@thenational.ae