Polluters are targeted in beach clampdown as Dh20 million programme aims to make the area desirable location for tourists and businesses.
Ajman waterfront gets a facelift
AJMAN // Tens of millions of dirhams have been allocated to preserve and clean up the waterfront and beaches of Ajman to help attract more tourists.
The Corniche, Al Zora and Ajman Creek areas would be given 15 workers each to maintain them as part of the programme's Dh20 million budget, said Khalid al Hosni, who heads the Ajman Municipality public health department.
Authorities will also boost scrutiny of water polluters and work to prevent a recurrence of last year's algal bloom, which caused disruption to businesses and tourism.
"We are putting emphasis on redeveloping a clean waterfront that would put Ajman on the world map," he said.
"The government had already handed us our allocated budget for the [fiscal] year 2010 to 2011 and we are already at work."
The emirate has begun a number of projects to make its waterfront a more desirable destination for workers and businesses by 2030, including community centres and an expansion of the street network.
Officials were being selective about the development of the area to ensure it retained its original character, said Ali al Hamrani, the director general of the municipality's planning directorate.
"There were projects with proposals that depended on reclamation of land that were turned down because they could deprive people of a good view of the sea," he said.
Authorities will also levy fines of as much as Dh100,000 on companies and individuals they identify as major sources of pollution. Some of the entities running afoul of official scrutiny include sewage tankers found dumping their cargos, ships dropping oil waste overboard and construction firms caught allowing excess materials to find their way into the water.
Officials are particularly keen to avoid a repeat of the algae or "red tide" surge of 2009, which led to economic losses before it could be stemmed.
Red tides can produce natural toxins and deplete the oxygen in the water, killing fish and other species. Regular seawater samples were being taken to establish the extent of any pollution, Mr al Hosni said.
"We have carried out several tests in the last two months," he said. "All the tests have shown similar results. Our waters are clean and not contaminated with any red tide."
The Ministry of Environment and Water said recent satellite images had shown the presence of non-harmful types of microscopic plants called phytoplankton, which are part of the marine food chain but do not contribute to red tide. Other types of those organisms can cause algal bloom.
Some 560 fishermen who had claimed to have spotted red algae they thought might be red tide made field trips in the Northern Emirates to identify areas they suspected were endangered.
In Fujairah, 120 fishermen moved up to 40 nautical miles on the water but could not find any red tide, said Abdullah Dallali, the chairman of Fujairah Fishermen's Association. Saeed Sulaiman, the head of the Khor Fakhan Fishermen's Association, said he had a team of 150 fishermen on the sea and they noticed a little red algae, which was different from the red tide of last year.
"It may be true it is not red tide but we don't want it in our waters," he said. "We shall co-operate with the ministry office in our region to see that they are all removed."
Ibrahim Yousef, of the Kalba Fishermen's Association, who had a team of more than 200 colleagues, said they had spotted a blue tint in some areas that they had not yet identified.
"There is no red tide but we want ministry officials to examine our water and assure us that the blue tint prevalent in some areas is not dangerous," he said.