Curbs on demolition contractors in Abu Dhabi

As more dilapidated buildings come down, shady operators with old equipment are unlikely to meet city standards.

ABU DHABI // The municipality is assessing which companies should be allowed to rip down buildings, amid charges that most of them are "shady, dodgy operations". Authorities have invited demolition contractors to submit applications to be on an approved list.

Leading contractors praised the move as a sign the capital is serious about the potentially harmful health and environmental effects of careless destruction of dilapidated structures, some of which contain asbestos, a carcinogen. The process should also rule out the "smash-and-bash merchants" working on large projects, said Ed Forero, who has registered his company, GTS Demolition, for pre-qualification.

"Ninety-nine per cent of them are shady, dodgy operations," he said of other demolition companies. He would like to see the municipality "whittle it down to five or six [companies] that can conduct demolitions in the area". He added: "It's a wonderful step because the Environment Agency and Abu Dhabi Municipality have stood up and said, 'We've got to start doing something about this,' and now they're looking for good contractors."

Saqer Hamdan, the co-owner of MTKA Demolition, which opened its Abu Dhabi branch last year, said many contractors currently working in the capital use antiquated machinery and do not employ proper dust-suppression procedures. "We put [up] scaffolding or spray water so the dust will not cover everywhere," Mr Hamdan said. "We use new machines from 2008 or 2009, which don't produce a lot of carbon dioxide.

"But you look around and you'll see other companies using wrecking balls and the old machines from the 1980s that produce a lot of carbon dioxide." Mr Hamdan noted the companies will have to produce detailed records of their past projects and prove they are qualified if they want to be approved. "They'll have a lot of procedures to go through and they'll be asked to bring this, bring that, go back, come back," he said. "So not just any company can register."

The municipality started pre-qualifying contractors late last month. Companies were invited to submit their licences and list previous projects, as well as provide a list of qualified staff and an inventory of their equipment. A senior engineer in the municipality's infrastructure tenders and contracts division expected the final list to include fewer than 20 companies. "We want to know who's working in the area because we don't have a list for the pre-qualification for demolition companies," said the engineer, who was not authorised to speak with the media.

"We're collecting all the documents now for studying and then we can have make invitations for new projects based from previous experience." Last year, the municipality issued 282 demolition permits. The town planning section expects that figure to rise over the next few years as the capital undergoes urban renewal. Demolition is "increasing for many reasons mainly the demand for new, precious and modern units, the availability of funds and because of the easy procedures in the issuance of licences", the municipality said in a statement.