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Drones to catch litterbugs in Dubai desert camps

Fines on fleeing campers to be tagged on car number plates

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News archives
One of the regulations for campers is to dispose of the waste in plastic bags that should be dropped in bins provided by the municipality.
Gulf News

Dubai: Desert campers in Dubai beware. Drones will keep a watch over you to ensure you do not leave litter in the desert.

Dubai Municipality’s Waste Management Department has started using an unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera to check if campers in Dubai deserts are leaving rubbish behind.

If there is waste littered around someone’s camp, fines ranging from Dh500 to Dh5,000 will be imposed on the campers.

NAT Abdulmajeed SaifaieIf the campers cannot be caught red-handed, the fines will be tagged on their car number plates, said Abdul Majeed Abdul Aziz Al Saifaie (left), director of the department.

“First of all, I want to say that fining people is not our target…keeping the city tidy and clean is our target,” he said.

Using drones to catch litterbugs is one of the new initiatives of the department that aims to make Dubai a city with the most advanced waste management system in the world.

Though the plan was announced in April, the department started using a drone in winter camping areas only from this season.

Currently, one drone is used to monitor the desert areas in Al Khawaneej, said Al Saifaie. Once the new orders arrive, the municipality plans to deploy more drones in the deserts and to catch litterbugs destroying the beaches as well.

“Now our target area is some kilometres inside the desert. Instead of sending an inspector in a car to check if there is waste, I can use a drone and send an inspector there only if there is a need,” he said.

Hundreds of temporary camps are set up in Dubai’s desert areas allocated for winter camping every year. Campers are required to get a permit for setting up these camps and abide by rules to protect health, safety and environment.

“Our inspectors go to all the camps and give them plastic bags and awareness materials about the rules.”

One of the regulations for campers is to dispose of the waste in plastic bags that should be dropped in bins provided by the municipality. There is a strict warning against leaving charcoal in the sand after barbequeing outside the camp.

“If people leave charcoal in the sand, someone can step on it and get burnt. Also, it is a big environmental issue. In a few years you will see all this beautiful sand turning black.”

Currently, Dubai generates 8,200 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day. Al Saifaie said the municipality will continue to introduce a host of smart technologies to achieve its goal of diverting 75 per cent of the amount of waste going to landfills by 2021. These include new recycling stations, tipping fee for waste trucks at landfills with smart gate, GPS tracking system, and RFID (radio frequency identification).

“The tipping fee will be introduced in some months…but companies will be given a six-month grace period to implement it,” said Al Saifaie.

The official spoke to the media ahead of the fourth edition of Middle East Cleaning Technology Week that is taking place at the Dubai International Convention Centre from Sunday to Tuesday.

The international show for the cleaning sector will see participation from prominent regional and international companies showcasing their latest innovations across three trade shows.

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