Almost 200 in Abu Dhabi fined in 2016 for spitting on streets

Spitting on streets and corners of buildings are prohibited in Abu Dhabi and violators have to cough up Dh1,000.

Tobacco and betel leave residue stains a building. Spitting is illegal in Abu Dhabi and subject to a fine. Pawan Singh / The National
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ABU DHABI // Shakoor Mohammed’s stomach turns each time he sees someone chewing paan leaves and spitting sticky brown and red residue on the ground.

Unfortunately for the Pakistani, it is an all too common sight in his neighbourhood close to Electra Street, especially on Thursdays and Fridays when large numbers of labourers travel into the city from camps and accommodation on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.

“They buy paan masala and gutka [chewing tobacco] from the shops and cosy around the city and spit in most corners of buildings,” Mr Mohammed said. “The continued spitting makes a place smell foul and makes the area unhygienic.”

In the busy neighbourhoods around Electra and Hamdan Streets, brown and red stains from paan were clear to see in the corners, building entrances and in alleyways.

Mr Mohammed urged the authorities to take tough action against people who spit in public.

Last year, Abu Dhabi Municipality said 180 people were made to cough up Dh1,000 for spitting, while 352 were fined for dropping cigarette ends.

Chewing betel and paan leaves is considered a tradition in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal where it is offered to guests after meals.

“Mostly all Bangladeshis chew, it as it’s very popular among them,” said Najmul Huda who was chewing on paan. He never spits on buildings or walls, he said.

“I spit in bins and I don’t deface corners of buildings.”

Indian Madan Gupta said people can easily become addicted to chewing the leaves.

“It’s not healthy to chew, but workers are so addicted to it so they can’t abandon it but they should lead a healthy lifestyle since they are here in the UAE and exercise cleanliness.

“It doesn’t look good whether it happens here in Abu Dhabi or in India. It must stop,” Mr Gupta said.

Despite a crackdown by the municipality, there are still shops selling the banned betel leaves.

A shopkeeper on Electra Street said municipality officials issue hefty fines if they are caught selling paan. His customers also face fines, so are careful to hide them out of sight.

A spokesman for the municipality said spitting on the streets is a violation of the health and hygiene rules.

“It’s not only restricted to spitting betel leaves [paan] and neswar [tobacco] but all kinds of spitting.”

Fines for anyone caught spitting in public were increased in 2015 to Dh1,000 from Dh200.

anwar@thenational.ae

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