New workers targeted in bid to keep city clean

Leaflets on public health and hygiene are being distributed to new workers arriving in the UAE.

ABU DHABI - 12JUL2011 - The overlowing garbage bins and garbage all around teh bins are seen in Khalidiyah area behind Al Muhairy Centre in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
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ABU DHABI // Thousands of new workers arriving at Abu Dhabi International Airport and taxi drivers were the targets of an awareness campaign to keep the capital clean.

About 5,000 pamphlets outlining fines for public health and hygiene violations such as spitting and littering were handed out to labourers arriving in the country last week. On Wednesday, 8,000 more were distributed to taxi drivers.

Khaleefa Al Romaithi, Abu Dhabi municipality's director of public health, said workers were specifically identified for the education campaign because "many of them come from societies where there are different rules".

"We want to inform them when they arrive that there are rules here," Mr Al Romaithi said. "We're trying to send the message to the whole community that this shouldn't happen in Abu Dhabi."

Last month, the municipality stepped up efforts to enforce public health regulations. Spitting on the street is punishable by a Dh100 fine, while dropping chewing gum could cost offenders Dh200. Littering or throwing cigarette butts in the street comes with a Dh500 fine.

While some offenders have been fined on the spot by municipal inspectors, others are caught while driving. Violators will not be able to renew their licences until they pay the fine.

"The problem we are facing when we give the fine is that people are saying, 'I didn't know it's not allowed'," Mr Al Romaithi said. "We don't want anyone to say this again. Everyone in Abu Dhabi is to know that this is not allowed."

The pamphlets were distributed in Arabic, English, Urdu and Bengali. Leaflets were inserted in to passports for workers at the airport, and awareness messages are displayed on monitors in the terminal.

Next week, inspectors will continue the campaign on city buses, distributing more pamphlets and giving presentations. More than 15,000 leaflets are expected to be distributed next year.

The campaign is "a great idea", said Saif Hamam, a business development consultant at Emirates Institute for Health and Safety, an organisation in Abu Dhabi that offers training to improve health, safety and hygiene for workers.

"It's a step forward. In Abu Dhabi, it is obvious that the environment is not respected, and people from different cultures and nationalities, they may not understand the concept of protecting it."

Mr Hamam said he hoped the municipality would consider a similar campaign for distributing information on workplace health and safety regulations.

The leaflets are not designed specifically for labourers, and Mr Al Romaithi said the campaign would expand to include tourists and residents. "We want everyone to know about this," he said.

The municipality will study trends in the fines over the next three months to determine how well the campaign is working.