x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Federal National Council members in call to sack UAE utilities executive

FNC members have called for the sacking of the Federal Electricity and Water Authority's director general for failing to tackle persistent power cuts and poor water quality in the Northern Emirates.

The FNC member Ahmed Al Shamsi, above, asks questions about utilities in the Northern Emirates.
The FNC member Ahmed Al Shamsi, above, asks questions about utilities in the Northern Emirates.

ABU DHABI // FNC members have called for the sacking of the Federal Electricity and Water Authority's director general for failing to tackle persistent power cuts and poor water quality in the Northern Emirates.

Many members, particularly those from the Northern Emirates, called on the Minister of Energy Mohammed Al Hamli to investigate the authority, also known as Fewa.

They pointed to poor provision of power and water, as well as widespread complaints about the authority's staffing practices, citing allegations of unfair promotions and dismissals.

When the minister refused their request, Mohammed Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi) and Faisal Al Teniji (RAK) demanded that the director general, Mohammed Saleh, be dismissed.

Most of the council nodded in agreement, but no vote was taken.

It followed a four-hour grilling of Mr Al Hamli, during which he repeatedly turned to the director general to provide answers for the members' questions.

Members complained of poor water quality in the Northern Emirates, and of over-chlorination.

Aisha Al Yammahi (Fujairah) said that one municipality in the Northern Emirates had said too much chlorine was being put in the water.

"They said the water needed to be investigated," Ms Al Yammahi said.

Mr Saleh said it was true that levels were higher than they should be, but the Abu Dhabi Electricity and Water Authority (Adwea) had assured him they were not dangerous.

"They are studying it and finding solutions to it and last week they assured us there was no danger," he said.

Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman) said independent testing had also found bacteria in the water.

"I want someone to say they drink or even cook with the water," Mr Al Shamsi said.

"Even when brushing teeth we cannot use it."

The minister said conditions would improve.

Mr Al Hamli was first told by Ahmad Al Amash (RAK) that many residents in the Northern Emirates were often left without power, and that electricity pylons were too close to residential areas.

The minister protested that the houses were built after the pylons were installed, but Mr Al Shamsi disagreed. "They were there before the cables were," he said.

Mr Al Hamli said the cables were the responsibility of Adwea, and that his ministry only installed cables with municipality approval.

Mr Al Shamsi said that he knew of a family who had left Dh20,000 worth of medication in the fridge while they were out of town for three days.

When they returned they found there had been a power cut and the medicine had to be thrown out.

Members also complained that in some areas street lighting had been cut because local authorities had failed to pay their electricity bills.

Mr Al Shamsi said Emiratis should not suffer because of an dispute between Fewa and local authorities.

"The problem is between us and them in paying bills," Mr Al Hamli said.

"Yes, Emiratis are not to blame for this, but bills need to be paid."

Mr Al Hamli insisted that the situation with electricity supply would improve within the next few months.

Fewa is carrying out projects worth up to Dh10 billion to improve water and electricity infrastructure, with Dh1.3bn set aside for the Northern Emirates alone

The aim is to meet 95 per cent of demand for electricity in all emirates by next year, and to boost desalination capacity.

osalem@thenational.ae