x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Reaching for the sky

A Dubai-based structural engineer writes that while the earthquake code changes are welcome, defending against high winds is a bigger issue for tall buildings in the UAE. Other letter topics: halting Arabic's decline, fair pay for domestic workers, and learning online.

Earthquake building codes in Dubai are not as important as those for wind, a reader says. (Jeff Topping/The National)
Earthquake building codes in Dubai are not as important as those for wind, a reader says. (Jeff Topping/The National)

Are quake rules really necessary?

I refer to the recent news that Dubai Municipality has increased the seismic requirements of buildings taller than 10 floors to Zone 2B, as per the uniform building code (New earthquake code for Dubai's tall buildings, May 17).

As a structural engineer, I am not sure if this directive will reduce the risks involved in the design of tall building structures, as these structures are normally governed by wind serviceability issues, due to its longer fundamental period of vibration.

Chris Magadia, Dubai

Policy of forced evictions is sound

The news behind the story Eviction threat to Abu Dhabi villa tenants (May 20) makes a lot of sense, and evictions should go ahead to enforce the law.

The occupancy law protects people - residents, their neighbours and the community at large.

Fire safety is a genuine and serious concern when occupancy levels are exceeded.

Illegal partitioning and buildings crowded with furniture and personal effects in crammed spaces are all real risks to life and property.

Bassem P Fakhry, Abu Dhabi

Give domestic staff more rights

I refer to Emiratis 'should not be forced to pay wages set by maids' home countries' (May 20).

A minimum wage for all maids would be real progress.

It's time employers start seeing their maids as people. Good treatment of all workers is a sign of development. Employees' rights should be balanced with employers' responsibilities.

Yes the Government should be involved, but embassies naturally want to look after their nationals.

A good minimum wage - say Dh1,500 a month - plus a day off per week and a 10-hour maximum per work day are policies that would force parents to think about budgeting, time management, and other family necessities.

M Carr, Abu Dhabi

The minimum wage policy that the employers and the UAE should be discussing is the policy to ensure that domestic staff are paid what they're owed.

That said, if the contracts under discussion are meant to make employers pay more money then that isn't correct either, and may be a policy shift that would have other unintended consequences.

Filipina women are having a tough time staying and working in the UAE because of the wage rules put forth by their embassy (Filipina maids shunned in UAE over minimum wage demands, February 13).

Many times I have seen reports of women from the Philippines coming here, losing jobs and then getting into legal troubles for overstaying their visas or running away from their employers.

Name withheld by request

Loss of Arabic is an avoidable fate for the region

I am upset and frustrated to read that Arabic is among 7,000 languages that might vanish by the end of the century (Alarm bells over future of Arabic language, May 19).

I thank the National Geographic's Disappearing Languages project for warning countries across the globe to pay attention to their languages. But I don't believe that Arabic would disappear. It has existed for many centuries and is the language of the Holy Quran.

But I must agree that Arabic is declining. People choose English with the excuse that it is better for the job market. Many people then use English not only for work but also among family and friends.

For example, I hear many university students replacing the greeting "Salam alaikum" with "Hi". At home, many families now mix Arabic and English. And my classmates and I found in a study that students are better at writing in English than they are in Arabic, although they speak Arabic better.

I agree that it is helpful to know more than one language. But if this weakens your mother tongue, you will not be fully happy with yourself.

Ahoud Al Meraikhi, Abu Dhabi

Online course not same as a degree

The headline on this article is most misleading (Free Ivy League education for all - now in Arabic, May 20).

First, Coursera has no intention of this project leading to a university degree. Coursera provides massive open online courses (MOOCs) which are delivered virtually. So, an education is not being provided as much as a course here and there from any participating institutions.

Second, Coursera is not an Ivy League project (coincidentally, neither Stanford nor Duke is an Ivy League institution). Any number of US institutions participate and are partnering with Coursera to provide courses.

Name withheld by request