Fly-posters swatted as hundreds help in city clean-up

Officials in Dubai warn offenders they face fines of up to Dh200 if caught littering with flyers, as a clean-up campaign began.

Dubai - February 2, 2010 - Posters advertising for roommates and rooms to let in Bur Dubai, February 2, 2010. (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National) 
  *** Local Caption ***  JT001-0202-BUR DUBAI SIGNS_MG_1720.jpg
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DUBAI // They advertise anything from jobs and flats for rent to massage parlours, but the thousands of flyers that litter large areas of Dubai are driving officials up the wall. Yesterday, as a clean-up campaign began, the authorities said "enough is enough", warning offenders that they face fines of Dh200 (US$54) and that they have a plan to catch them.

Hundreds of volunteers joined the municipality's No Bills campaign, tearing down posters and flyers from walls, bus shelters, telephone booths and lampposts. All the paper that is removed during the week-long campaign will be recycled. The campaign comes amid growing concern that many of the flyers advertise illegal activities such as prostitution. "Such unwanted stickers give a bad image and should not be encouraged," said Suhai Alawadhi, who is leading the clean-up in Bur Dubai.

The campaign was launched at Karama Park, where the problem is particularly acute. Other areas which will be targeted include Satwa, Deira and Al Qusais. Four teams of undercover inspectors, each comprising four members, will hand out fines to anyone caught posting flyers. Residents are aware that putting up flyers is illegal, Mr Alawadhi said. "They know it is wrong. There will be no more grace and we will fine anyone who is caught," he said.

However, he said catching the culprits might not be easy, even though most flyers carry contact numbers. "If we call them and tell them that they are being fined, they will never turn up to pay the fine," said Mr Alawadhi. To get around this, municipal workers of different nationalities will pose as customers and try to meet them, at which point they would be fined, he said. "If they do not fall for it, they will be lucky," said Mr Alawadhi.

Hussain Nasser Lootah, the municipality's director general, said: "We launched this as part of the municipality's efforts to tackle every aspect that gives an unacceptable look to Dubai." The campaign will focus on educating residents. "The idea is not to issue fines to everyone. Sometimes people really need to advertise and we are working on alternatives for them," said Mr Lootah. Legitimate advertisers can advertise on noticeboards in supermarkets and in newspapers, officials said.

Anosh Shafi, an Indian accountant who lives in Karama, said: "I can understand why the municipality wants this to stop, but many have no other alternative to advertise. I was able to find accommodation through such posters." He agreed, however, that advertising could be done in a more organised manner. "Probably some boards to post flyers in such areas would help," said Mr Shafi. The municipality plans to follow up its No Bills campaign with one urging residents not to hang clothes on balconies to dry. Officials have raised the issue several times, saying laundry on balconies is unsightly.