x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 February 2018

Has anyone lost part of a yacht in the Creek?

The Dubai Municipality is working with volunteers to clean up the bottom of Dubai Creek so that marine life can flourish there again.

DUBAI // Fragments of a yacht, thousands of soft drink cans, a vintage suitcase and tonnes of heavily polluted mud have been lifted from the Dubai Creek in the first month of a clean-up operation.

"You would be amazed what we find down there," said Dr Ahmed Hosny, a marine consultant at Dubai Shipbuilding and Engineering. "We have seen tyres, bags of household waste, a pair of flippers, car number plates and even an old suitcase that was more than 60 years old ... You will not believe how dirty it is."

Over the course of the year, workers at Dubai Shipbuilding and Engineering and 75 volunteer divers will sweep clean a large section of the historic waterway in the Jedaf area.

The programme was officially launched at the weekend by officials from Dubai Municipality. The officials have also helped coordinate the disposal of the contaminated sand at a specially created well about 3 kilometres from the port at Jedaf.

Most of the work is being carried out by a specially created barge. About 120 tonnes of polluted sand have been collected on the vessel.

The barge moves in horizontal lines across the Creek, covering the length of the waterway in strips.

Once it is back on land, the sand is shovelled by hand onto lorries. The laborious process limits the barge to only two or three trips a week.

By the end of the year, Dr Hosny believes the group will have collected 260,000 cubic metres of soil from the bottom of the Creek.

Dubai Municipality has established the group of divers under the name Noukhada, which means ship's captain. They are often called on to bring up objects that the pipe cannot collect.

So far, around 173 tonnes worth of material has been collected, including fragments of yachts and fishing nets, said Khalid Suletin, head of the Environment Emergency Office with the Environment Department of Dubai Municipality.

"It is alarming the way we treat the Creek," he said.

Dubai Creek was dredged several times in the 1960s and '70s so large cargo could enter. However, Dr Hosny said that this operation was not another dredging operation.

Instead, the purpose is to clean the Creek rather than make it deeper. Only the equivalent of around 10 centimetres was taken from the topsoil of the Creek bed, he said.

The majority of that soil was contaminated by sulphates.

In much of the Gulf, natural corals - a food source for many fish - have been choked by sediment thrown up through both maritime traffic and offshore development.

It is hoped that removing the top soil would enable life to flourish again in the Creek.

"It's like we're removing the dust from the surface," he said. "Once we do that, the sunlight can penetrate through and that can contribute to the growth of vegetation. That makes sure that fish can still live there. It's polluted at the moment, but it's not too late.

"Once the sun can reach the bottom, new life will come."

To complement the programme, the municipality is organising an awareness programme to instruct boat owners, fishermen and others who use the Creek on how to properly dispose of waste.

"The municipality wants to educate the public on the importance of natural resources and raise awareness to keep the creek clean and preserved", said Hussein Nasser Lootah, the director general of the Municipality. "Apart from being a geographical icon of our history and tradition, Dubai Creek has its environmental value of being home to diverse species of marine creatures and organisms. We are committed to preserving it."

mcroucher@thenational.ae

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