x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 September 2017

International City awash in sewage

A massive pool of raw sewage has flooded car parks and streets for days in Dubai's International City, emitting fumes that have raised health concerns among residents.

DUBAI // A massive pool of raw sewage has for several days flooded car parks and streets in International City, emitting fumes that have raised health concerns among residents. They have complained that such flooding is a frequent problem. It is, they say, the result of an inadequate drainage system and lax oversight by the community's developer, Nakheel, which said yesterday that a damaged pipe was being repaired.

The development has been plagued by problems since property prices collapsed last year. Nakheel said in 2008 that it was working with a team of specialists to resolve persistent drainage issues and that it planned on instituting measures to deal with the problem. Yesterday morning, the company said a clean-up was under way and repairs had been carried out. "A situation related to the sewage system at International City has now been resolved," a Nakheel official, who declined to be named, said in an e-mail. "The damaged pipeline is now repaired and the sewage pumping station resumed pumping to the sewage treatment plant."

The developer did not answer specific questions about the drainage system. The official said a team of specialists had been dispatched, an effort which included "the on-site deployment of a number of tankers to pump excess sewage from the sewerage system". That explanation was insufficient for residents such as Regi Thomas, an engineer from India who expressed concern about the persistent sewage problems and their related health effects.

Mr Thomas said he kept his 12-year-old son from leaving the family apartment because of festering excrement at his doorstep. Mr Thomas has lived with his family in the development for six months, and he said lakes of effluent have formed on several occasions. "The water is completely flooding the parking lot," he said. "Some cars are stranded there. In the morning when we got up it was so deep that people chose not to walk to them."

He said he contacted Nakheel about the problem on Friday but had yet to hear back as of yesterday morning. "The problem here is that no one keeps any eye on anything," he said. "There's no proper main sewer line for the area." Some businesses in the area were completely surrounded by sewage. Muddy water looked as if it was about to flood the premises of Pizza D'One, a restaurant that was cut off by the flooding and devoid of customers as a result.

The manager of the nearby transport company DHI said the odour of the effluent was affecting his business. "The smell is the biggest problem," said Abdullah Mohammed. "You can smell it in our offices. When we have customers, what does that say about the quality of our company?" Flooding often occurred after winter rains, he said, but was increasingly the result of an inadequately designed drainage system.

"This is always happening," Mr Mohammed said. "Even inside our office, sometimes we see that the pipes are blocked." He had to hire a cleaning service last month to scrub the company's floors after pipes suddenly overflowed for unexplained reasons. "It could get very expensive if it damages our computers and machinery," he said. It has also proven expensive for the motorists in the area. Baha Saeed, a salesman, said Dubai police fined him last month when he parked on the pavement near his office. He was trying to avoid the brown water that had filled a car park directly opposite the newly formed lake that separated his company's office from the England precinct of International City.

"You couldn't park anywhere else," he said. "I would have had to walk through the sewage," which he said was more than 30 centimetres deep. "They fined me Dh200. Can you believe it?" Mohammed Ali, a Syrian who works at a transport company, spent half an hour deciding whether to wade through 15cm of brown liquid to get to his white 4x4. "It's a lot of water," he said in front of his one-bedroom apartment in the England precinct, where he lives with his wife. "It's a huge problem. What a terrible smell." He eventually stepped into the shin-deep water. "This," he said, "is disgusting." hnaylor@thenational.ae