x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Houses to be demolished, rattling community

Residents are set to have their government-built homes demolished, clearing almost a quarter of their village.

In addition to structural problems with some of Al Adla's housing, residents complain of a lack of facilities.
In addition to structural problems with some of Al Adla's housing, residents complain of a lack of facilities.

AL ADLA, ABU DHABI // Scores of residents are set to have their government-built homes demolished, clearing almost a quarter of their village just three years after moving in. Nearly one in four residents of Al Adla, a village on the outskirts of the capital, has been notified by Abu Dhabi Municipality that their homes will be demolished because of major structural damage blamed on rising groundwater and high salinity levels, while others face major maintenance work.

Salem al Maameri, the director of municipal services, said the municipality has set a target of two months to relocate the families whose houses are beyond repair and to carry out the necessary improvements on a further 50 homes. "Some of the houses are in different shape," said Mr Maameri. "Some are fine and others require some maintenance ... But, the foundations [in the houses being demolished] are not stable, because of the high level of salt in the foundations."

The municipality was finalising the allotment of new homes, with most families given one month to vacate those in Al Adla, Mr Maameri said. Last month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, instructed the municipality to relocate the 20 families whose houses were being demolished into new accommodation in the nearby villages of Al Falah and Al Shati. The municipality had initially intended to move several families to a housing development in Al Shamka, but announced a reversal of the decision last week after residents complained about the size and state of the villas.

In 2005, 100 Emirati families were handed the keys to their homes in Al Adla - a specially built housing development 60km outside the capital, just off the motorway leading to the desert town of Sweihan. Before the houses went up, the area was nothing but sweeping dunes, with Zayed Military City in the distance. Today, rows of houses, a mosque and a small strip of shops, including a grocery and a laundry, make up the isolated village.

Al Adla is oddly quiet; an atmosphere that is compounded by the sight of five empty lots where only a week ago family homes stood. Now only rubble remains. Residents were given their homes as part of a Government programme, which provides either a house or a plot of land for Emiratis. But, with a growing population, some housing developments are being built further outside the cities in custom-built villages, such as Al Adla. Despite the structural problems, some residents say they do not want to leave their homes, while others complain their homes are beyond repair and need to be knocked down rather than just renovated. Some face losing hundreds of thousands of dirhams in renovations made to their homes.

Mr Maameri said the subject of compensation has been raised, but no decision had been made. "[Right now] the urgent issue is maintenance and the demolitions," he said. "[We need the] full co-operation of residents to allow inspectors and workers into their houses." @Email:zconstantine@thenational.ae