RTA allays Safa Park users’ fears over Dubai Canal project

Many parkgoers worry that large areas of greenery will be dug up to make way for the canal, which will add a 1.5km public beach and amenities to the park.
An artist's impression of the canal that will pass through Safa Park in Dubai. WAM
An artist's impression of the canal that will pass through Safa Park in Dubai. WAM

DUBAI // Regular users of Safa Park are worried about how their favourite green spot in the city will be affected by a Dh2 billion extension to Dubai Creek.

The Dubai Canal Project will link the Creek with the Arabian Gulf via a canal passing by Sheikh Zayed Road, Safa Park and Jumeirah 2 by the end of 2016.

The Roads and Transport Authority, which is executing the project, said the 64-hectare Safa Park would be modified but did not say which part of the park or how many acres would be taken up.

But it said the canal would add 2.5 kilometres of waterfront to the park, and a 1.5km public beach, including areas for sports.

Many parkgoers, however, fear they will lose large areas of greenery to the canal.

“It is a big green area in Dubai,” said Cosmo Popa, a football coach who takes 20 children aged between 3 and 15 to the park each day to practise. “We will be upset if it is gone. The greenery here just lifts your mood and it is always cooler here than other parts of Dubai.”

Mr Popa said parents were glad that his training centre took their children to the park.

“They are happy their children are not in front of the computer but playing out here,” he said. “If the park gives way for development, it will affect the birds and the environment here.”

But another user, businessman “Paul”, could see great benefits to the works.

“It can make the park look really nice,” Paul said. “The purpose of the canal is to attract more people to Dubai.

“It is the most beautiful park in Dubai and it can get as pretty as Regent’s Park in London with a canal running through it.”

Emirati Fatima Abdulla, 22, who attends Zayed University, said: “I am always for these kinds of projects.

“It’s not only a good thing to attract tourists, but also for the locals. We tend to spend a lot of time indoors and it would be nice to enjoy outdoor activities. However, hopefully it’s not going to take away from the greenery.”

The RTA said the canal would, indeed, attract more tourists.

“The Dubai water canal is a spectacular project that will not only change the area into a prime tourist destination but will also improve the water quality of the entire Dubai Creek,” said Maitha bin Udai, chief executive of the Traffic and Roads Agency at the RTA.

Ms bin Udai said the canal would add a public beach and the waterfront would include jogging tracks, a walkway, sitting areas and cafes, and would host public events and festivals. Pedestrian bridges would also be built across the canal.

“The project also includes construction of three marine stations within Safa Park, which will enable the public to reach the park in a pleasant experience,” she said.

RTA said construction inside the park was expected to begin in the third quarter of this year. But excavation has already started outside Gate 5 and surrounding areas.

Several diversions are being planned around the city, including on Sheikh Zayed Road, which will be raised to allow the canal to pass under.

The 1km bridge will comprise eight lanes of traffic in each direction, with diversions due to begin on October 25.

Another parkgoer said she took her five-month-old son for a stroll there every day.

“I am not sure how the park will look afterwards,” said Nadine Heikamp, a German expatriate who uses the Gate 5 entrance. “I like coming here. I wonder how accessible it will be once the canal is built.”

Sara Saleh, a Swede who jogs at the park, said: “If they only take up a small part and leave the majority of it, it is OK. It is a nice place.”

Safa, one of the oldest parks in Dubai, was developed in 1973 and has basketball, football and volleyball courts.

The park has a lake where boats can be rented, and a separate section for children and women. The RTA said it would take steps to ensure park users would not be inconvenienced.

“We have studied the sequence of the construction activities and set milestones and conditions to ensure that construction will not interfere with the public activities within the park,” Ms bin Udai said.

pkannan@thenational.ae

Published: May 14, 2014 04:00 AM

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