x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Ajman targets noisy and unsafe generators

Building owners were given six months to comply with new regulations as inspectors carry out spot checks.

Workers operate the generator to supply electricity to a building in Ajman.
Workers operate the generator to supply electricity to a building in Ajman.

AJMAN // Owners of buildings that rely on generators for their power face being fined if they fail to meet new safety standards. Inspectors from the Ajman Municipality and Planning Department will visit the 400 residential buildings that use generators to ensure they comply with the safety and environmental standards set down six months ago.

The campaign is being held in co-operation with the emirate's Civil Defence. Since the Federal Electricity and Water Authority (Fewa) stopped supplying electricity to the northern Emirates about two years ago, many businesses and residential buildings in Ajman have relied on generators for their power. The supply to other northern Emirates has also been a major problem since the Fewa move. Many parts of Sharjah have been hit by power shortages over the past month.

About 400 buildings use generators in Ajman, where supply from the grid is limited to older buildings, government facilities and those owned by UAE nationals. Khalid al Hosni, the director general of the health and environment section at the municipality, said it had given building owners enough time to make sure their generators met requirements, and it was time to deal with those that did not. He said the biggest problem was in buildings where approval from the municipality to install generators had not been obtained.

Those who installed generators without prior permission would be fined up to Dh15,000 (US$4,080) and have the generator confiscated until they met the standards and received authorisation. Using generators not conforming to environmental standards would mean a fine of Dh5,000, as would violation of safety requirements. "We have new machines that can measure the environmental pollution of each generator," he said.

He added that even though generators were required to have soundproofing, the municipality received many complaints about noise from them in residential areas. The machines also need proper ventilation, a fire extinguishing system, and warning signs. They are supposed to be kept in a store not less than three metres tall, with a filter to reduce emissions that meets international standards. The generators should not store large quantities of fuel, the maximum allowed being 400 gallons. Oil and grease must be kept in a safe place and no one should smoke near the generator engine.

Mustafa Shaban, an Egyptian who owns the Bahar seafood restaurant in Rashidiya, was among the first people approved to have a generator, around two years ago. His restaurant had been using a generator since then, but it was expensive to keep it in good enough shape to pass safety inspections. "I can't imagine how much I spend every month on maintenance. At least every week a specialist has to come to check the generator and do the servicing; every time he comes about Dh1,000 would be spent on his services and buying new oil. The only solution for us is electricity, not inspections."

Many residents of the buildings powered by generators complain they are unreliable. "Not a single week goes by without the building owners apologising to us that power is off because the generator is down," said Nisirine, who lives in Rashidiya. She has two children, one less than a year old, and said the summer was very challenging. Residents have also complained that some generators are loud. Abu Marwan, of Karama, said his four-year-old daughter could not sleep as the noise from two neighbouring buildings "did not stop" even late at night. "Every morning we wake her up for school, she is too weak to wake up," he said.