x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Dh1.5bn set aside to improve Abu Dhabi's Western Region

The largest city in the Western Region, also known as Al Gharbia, will benefit from Dh1.5 billion in infrastructure projects earmarked for the area, announced by the Executive Council on May 8.

Cranes can be seen at the future colleges’ campus in Madinat Zayed. People in the area are pleased with the development. Silvia Razgova / The National
Cranes can be seen at the future colleges’ campus in Madinat Zayed. People in the area are pleased with the development. Silvia Razgova / The National

AL GHARBIA // Al Noobi Al Aamri believes the future is bright for his hometown of Madinat Zayed.

The largest city in the Western Region, also known as Al Gharbia, will benefit from Dh1.5 billion in infrastructure projects earmarked for the area, announced by the Executive Council on May 8.

"The region lacks plenty of amenities as well as gardens and amusement parks for children and families," said Mr Al Aamri. "We want big malls like Dubai and Abu Dhabi and at least one university so that our children wouldn't have to travel to the capital.

"I heard that the government has pumped a huge sum of money to develop the region and I think Al Gharbia will become similar to Abu Dhabi and Dubai by 2030," said Mr Al Aamri, an Emirati.

"Already we have small outlets but the quality of goods available there are substandard. We are in peace and safety, there is no problem here, but if the Government wants to improve facilities, these sectors can be developed."

Emiratis living in the Western Region were pleased with plans to develop their home, with upgrades to the roads high on people's list of improvements - particularly the Abu Dhabi to Guwaifat road, which is unlit and in a poor condition.

"The road is not good and it's very old and needs reconstruction," said Hamad Mohammed Al Mazrouei. "It's a two-lane road, one for each side including light and heavy vehicles. It also does not have a gas station or rest areas."

Al Gharbia, which is home to the Shams 1 solar power plant, makes up 60 per cent of the emirate of Abu Dhabi's land mass but has just 11 per cent of its population, at about 225,700 people - or 6.4 per square kilometre.

Towns and cities, including Madinat Zayed, Dalma, Sila, Ghayathi, Ruwais, Liwa and Mirfa, are spread over hundreds of kilometres up to the border with Saudi Arabia.

Oil and gas account for 90 per cent of the area's GDP, yet the region still maintains its close links to traditional Emirati values, culture and the country's Bedouin roots.

However, the need for development touches on almost every aspect of people's lives.

Ahmed Obaid Al Aamri, who lives in Marabe Al Dhafra, 20km from Madinat Zayed, said: "My place does not has a single grocery or shop. I would say there is nothing pertaining to public facilities. Every time I have to travel to Madinat Zayed."

About 2,000 people live in Marabe Al Dhafra, but the area lacks open spaces and parks where families can gather, said Mr Al Aamri.

"I am happy that authorities are pretty concerned about improving infrastructure in the region," he said.

Another resident, Mohammed Al Aamri, said plans for a new 80km motorway linking Madinat Zayed with Ghayathi, costing Dh267 million, would improve the lives of people in Al Gharbia dramatically.

"The road leading to Ghayathi from Madinat Zayed does not have street lights and we cannot see camels when they suddenly cross the road.

"Many camels die on this road. And if we forget to get fuel from either end we face problems, as there are no petrol stations between Madinat Zayed and Ghayathi."

The creation of specialist health care facilities would mean people would no longer have to drive to the capital or Dubai for treatment, and to many the need for hospitals is more pressing than other services as the area's population grows.

Saleh Obaid, who has to travel to Dubai so his mother can receive specialised medical treatment, said: "We can manage, but medical services are intrinsic."

Mohammed Nakheerah agreed: "The hospital is there but it is not specialised, so we have to rush to Abu Dhabi."

anwar@thenational.ae