NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
16 CNG stations to be set up in UAE
ABU DHABI — Oct. 7: Sixteen compressed natural gas (CNG) stations will be set up across the country soon. This was announced by the Technical Committee yesterday.
Nine of them are going to be in Abu Dhabi city and the surrounding areas, two in Al Ain, and five in Sharjah emirate.
Maha, at the intersection between Mina and Salam streets here, is the first petrol station to offer CNG.
Nine out of these 16 fuel stations will also offer installation workshops for conversion to CNG, and they are also going to be spread among the Abu Dhabi and Sharjah emirates — five in the capital, one in Al Ain, and three in Sharjah.
According to the Technical Committee, conversion to CNG will greatly improve the air quality, especially in urban areas. Chaired by the Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD), the committee consists of members from the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc), Emirates Metrology and Standardisation Agency, the Civil Defence, Abu Dhabi Police General Headquarters, the Federal Environment Agency, Mubadala Company, and the Public Transportation Department. Apart from the new 16 chosen sites, Adnoc is already looking to expand the project by installing CNG pumps in stations from other emirates.
Although new to the UAE, natural gas has been used as an alternative fuel for cars in western countries for a good few years. CNG’s main advantage is that it is nearly pollution-free.
It is also lead-free, which means that it produces 90 per cent less carbon monoxide in exhaust emissions. Since it has a specific gravity of 0.587, CNG is lighter than air, so if it leaks, it will disperse into the upper atmosphere, reducing the risk of fire.
There are also financial benefits, since CNG is the most economical fuel source available in the market today. Giving all the environmental and economical benefits, the Government of Abu Dhabi is planning that by 2012 at least, 20 per cent of government-owned vehicles and taxis will be converted to CNG.
According to the Technical Committee, the most polluting cars in the Abu Dhabi emirate are buses, taxis and official vehicles (like the ones owned by the police or municipality), since they are heavily used throughout the day.
Parking meters drive motorists to waste land
Dubai: Oct. 07: Residents have said that new parking meters are forcing them to leave their vehicles on waste land in order to avoid paying charges.
People living in the Toyota building tower near Shaikh Zayed Road have abandoned their car park in droves since meters went live last week.
As reported in Gulf News, 42 parking meters have been installed between Interchanges 1 and 2 of Shaikh Zayed Road, with a space costing Dh1 per hour during hours of operation.
Now that their building's main car park is now covered by a meter, instead of paying tickets, most residents of the Toyota building are simply leaving their vehicles elsewhere.
As a result, the car park is now almost empty and many householders are leaving their cars on waste ground beside the 15-storey towerblock, which is one of the oldest towerblocks on Shaikh Zayed Road.
Richard Thomas, 30, a Briton who lives in the building, said the new meters had proved "pointless".
"Unless you leave very early in the morning and arrive back late at night, you are not going to leave your vehicle in the car park any more. I just leave my car in one of the spaces in front of the building. There are enough spaces available elsewhere in car parks or on bare plots of land that people don't need to use the car park anymore," he said.
Thomas said the car park was now "wasted space" because no one wanted to use it anymore. "There aren't enough shops nearby to attract people in who might need to use the car park, so it seems a shame to put meters there. It seems to have happened at other places in Dubai," he said.
The car park meters are operational between 8am and 1pm, and between 4pm and 9pm, from Saturday to Thursday. One hour's parking costs Dh1, two hours cost Dh5, three hours cost Dh8 and four hours are charged at Dh11.
Mahmoud Mohammad, 49, an Egyptian who rents a flat in the towerblock, was also unhappy to see the meters installed.
"It has just driven people off the proper car park and onto the waste area. It does not help anyone we lose a good place to park our cars.
"I would understand it if they had introduced meters on areas that were popular with shoppers, but to put them next to a residential block seems unfair," he said.
Residents of the Toyota building near Shaikh Zayed Road stopped using the car park after meters went live last week.
On the road to driver's licence
Dubai: Oct. 07: Learning to drive in the UAE is relatively easy. Getting to grips with the traffic and speedy highways, however, is another matter.
To get a Dubai issued driving licence, trainees need to be at least 18 years old to attend a driving school. But before you learn to drive you need a no-objection letter from your sponsor.
The NOC rule was discarded four years ago but now has come back into force apparently to cut down the number of motorists. There are numerous driving schools in Dubai and they will help you with the application process.
If you choose to find an independent instructor from a smaller school you may have to get your paperwork sorted out unassisted.
Depending on your driving skills a driving licence can be obtained in as little as two months.
All applicants must have an eye test which is easily done at any authorised optician and most hospitals and clinics for a small fee.
You need to bring two passport photos and they will issue you with a certificate which can be presented when applying for a licence. Some driving schools can give you an eye test on their premises.
The driving test includes an internal test to assess parking skills which is overseen by the driving school, a highway code test where applicants have to identify road signs, and finally the road test with a Traffic Police officer.
Whether to learn with a manual or an automatic car is up to the student. Learning with a manual car is cheaper than learning with an automatic.
Some driving schools offer a package of pre-booked driving lessons which you must attend every day that last around 40 to 45 minutes.
The package costs approximately Dh1,500 and includes around 35 driving lessons during which the instructor will judge when you are ready for the internal test.
Other schools offer lessons on an hourly rate at times of your choice for anything from Dh30. Private driving instructors are also available and rates vary from Dh40 for a 45 minute lesson, however private instructors are also more flexible and can accommodate you to have two lessons back to back.
Documents you need to register in a school:
Passport, original and copy
Residence visa, copy
Eight passport size photographs
Eye test certificate
Fee, depends on schools and number of lessons
Belhasa Driving Centre - 04 3440276
Emirates Driving Institute - 04 2631100
The yellow pages have more than 30 listings of smaller learning schools
Male or female instructors
Women are usually assigned a female driving instructor but can ask to have a male instructor for a higher fee. To apply for male driving instructor, a woman needs to apply for a no objection letter from her sponsor and the Traffic Police.
The letter needs to highlight the name of the instructor and the driving school and has to be handed in at the "Certificates for Women" counter at the Traffic Police for a cost of Dh10. The police will then attest the letter which must be returned to the driving school.
If you want to be put through your paces before hitting the tarmac with your new wheels, learner drivers can try out the new driving simulators at the Emirates Driving Institute (EDI).
Emirates Driving Institute (EDI) acquired the simulators earlier this year which can recreate authentic real-life driving situations for trainees. These computerised driver training aids from Germany can simulate all sorts of driving situations and weather conditions.
The simulators throw up unexpected situations similar to those that occur in real traffic on the roads such as motorists changing lanes without signalling or braking suddenly.
"Such situations cannot be integrated into conventional training programmes due to the risk factor, but simulator training eliminates all risk," said Amer Ahmad Belhasa, managing director of EDI.
'Cheap accommodation is still a distant dream'
DUBAI — Oct. 07: Getting accommodation at cheaper rates in New Dubai is still a distant dream, say real estate agents who apparently have no plans to build cost effective residential enclaves there.
With industrial areas like Al Quoz and Jebel Ali lying not very far from the new township, people say that it will be much easier for them to commute to their workplaces in those areas if they get flats in New Dubai. Moreover, they believe that with rents in places like Karama, Deira, Bur Dubai and Satwa skyrocketing, new buildings in this area will lower accommodation costs elsewhere.
Aatif Ahmad, a real estate agent, says, “Why should low-cost accommodation come up in New Dubai? That particular area is going to be a posh one. Moreover, places like the Media City and the Internet City are not very far from it. The idea is to make another Dubai even more beautiful than what it is now. People belonging to high income groups are being targeted. I don’t think anyone has even thought of building cost-effective residential complexes,” he said.
Real estate agents further say that even if low cost accommodation comes up in New Dubai, it will not bring down rents in any way. “Rents won't be affected at all. Every day, there are thousands of people coming to Dubai to earn their living. So all places will be filled up in no time. So, it's a wrong concept,” says Abdullah Khateem, a real estate agent.
People, however, refuse to believe them. “This is absolutely wrong. If at all there is a plan to come up with accommodation at cheaper rates, more and more people will be moving to the new areas. Most of the people work in places like Jebel Ali and Al Quoz. It can lead to big business for real estate companies,” says S Suresh, who works in Jebel Ali.
“There are many people working in these places and they have to travel all the way from Bur Dubai, Deira, etc. With people moving to the new city, the pressure on traffic can be less than what it is now,” adds Suresh.
“We are talking about a city with the best of facilities. The focus is not on low cost accommodation at present,” reiterates a Dubai-based real estate agent.