Help brighten up your city, Abu Dhabi asks

Residents urged by municipality to pitch in to fix eyesores such as graffiti, litter and potholes.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - June 15, 2009: Graffiti at Ahmed & Khalid A/C Repairing in the neighborhood between 13th and 15th Streets off Muroor road (4th Street) that has been reported to the Municipality 993 hotline. The municipality has said they will clean up the Graffiti, writer Matt Kwong will be assessing their response time.
( Ryan Carter / The National ) *** Local Caption ***  RC004-MunicipalityClean.JPGRC004-MunicipalityClean_2.JPGRC004-MunicipalityClean_2.JPG
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ABU DHABI // Help the city to shape up was the message to Abu Dhabi residents yesterday. The municipality has launched a programme to brighten up the city and is inviting residents to pitch in to fix eyesores such as graffiti, litter and potholes. As part of the "Asematy" initiative, an air-conditioned, mobile tent will travel to 11 neighbourhoods over the next year. Local residents will be invited to drop by and report any problems, and can volunteer to lend a hand by picking up a paintbrush or a rubbish sack.

The campaign is being launched under the patronage of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the chairwoman of the UAE General Women's Union. The first neighbourhood to be visited by the tent is Al Muroor. It opened there yesterday. "As a big city, we have to gather and take care of the city and encourage people to give their feedback to improve quality of life," said Abdullah al Shamsi, the municipality's acting executive director of infrastructure and assets.

"This should be a mandate for each of us. It's not a matter of the municipality only; it's a chance for people to look after their neighbourhoods." Among the biggest problems are overgrown weeds and trees, caved-in sidewalks, messy rubbish dump areas, illegally constructed housing partitions and broken street signs. While the municipality will take charge of fixing the major problems, residents also have the opportunity to take part in smaller projects such as repainting vandalized walls or cleaning up litter. The project aims in part to give residents a sense of ownership of their neighbourhoods and the city. "Asematy" means "my capital" in Arabic.

"This is to enhance their awareness, but it's also for us to understand and be closer to the community and understand their requirements, their concerns," Mr al Shamsi said. A municipal spokesperson said the campaign would last roughly a year. "People can come in, sign in and then they can say, 'OK, this thing is happening in this area,' and we will keep their names until we have a group where we can take them out if they're interested in helping fix the problem."

The tent at Al Muroor, opposite the Emirates Private School, is expected to remain open for about two months, and will be open daily from 8.30am to 2.30pm, and again from 3pm to 9pm. The tent will remain open in other districts, which have yet to be announced, for at least a month at a time.