Lorry drivers who dump sewage face deportation

The decision was an effort to stop drivers dumping sewage to avoid queues at the city's only sewage treatment plant.

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DUBAI // Lorry drivers caught repeatedly dumping raw sewage into the sea or storm drains could be deported, the municipality said on Tuesday. Hussain Nasser Lootah, acting director general of the municipality, said the decision was part of its effort to stop drivers dumping sewage to avoid queues of between 12 and 16 hours at the city's only sewage treatment plant, located in Al Aweer. "If the driver is found repeating the offence for a second time, we will be compelled to ask the company to deport the driver from the city of Dubai," said Mr Lootah.
The municipality has already increased the fine for illegal dumping from Dh50,000 (US$13,600) to Dh100,000, but the measure has failed to stop the practice. Mr Lootah said municipal inspectors had impounded more than 75 tankers caught dumping sewage illegally since the practice began to receive widespread publicity over the past couple of months. "The trucks are now held at the municipality yard and action will be taken against these companies," he said. He made the comments at an event to publicise the EnviroCities 2008 international conference, which will focus on the sources and health effects of air pollution.
However, Mr Lootah said there were fewer cases of raw sewage being dumped. "We have captured 75 tankers so far but my team tells me that the number of cases has fallen last week," he said. Ten days ago Dubai Municipality offered cash rewards of Dh2,000 to anybody who told the authorities about tankers dumping sewage. The announcement was made after the authorities caught 55 tankers in a week of official inspections.
The problem was highlighted after pollution from illegally dumped sewage forced the closing of a public beach and fouled the waters of a Dubai sailing club. The Dubai Offshore Sailing Club in Jumeirah was flooded with sewage that washed up around it and fouled its yacht basin in September, making it impossible to continue sailing lessons in its harbour. A stretch of the beach next to the club has been closed and swimmers have been warned to stay away from the area.
Abdulla Mohammed Rafia, the municipality's assistant director general for environment and public health affairs, who was at the launch of the conference with Mr Lootah, said the city's beaches were largely unaffected by the dumping. "The sea has its own self-cleansing property, which is why the beaches have not been much affected," he said. "However, we closed a section of the beach only as a precautionary measure."
Mr Rafia said dumping of raw sewage was unacceptable: "The huge fine of Dh100,000 is unheard of, but this just shows how serious we are about this issue." He blamed the problem on some "greedy drivers". "Illegal dumping is happening and for obvious reasons. This is just greed on the part of the drivers who are trying to earn more money," he said. Fast-growing freehold areas in Dubai that are not expanding in accordance with municipality regulations are also part of the problem, Mr Rafia added. "Such developments are growing and their facilities are not ready. All of them should have their own sewage treatment facility."
The lack of local treatment facilities means sewage tankers face long queues at the lone treatment plant. Mr Lootah said the problem would be eased when the first phase of a new treatment plant in Jebel Ali came into operation in mid-2009. "Once this is launched, there will be a strong change of tanker movement as many will be able to discharge sewage at Jebel Ali." pmenon@thenational.ae