Red Sea: The streak of dirty water stretches up to 100 metres from the shoreline off Jumeirah near the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/XPRESS

Dubai: A possible algal boom or illegal discharge of untreated sewage on the Jumeirah Open Beach has fouled up a long stretch of Dubai’s pristine beach from Tuesday, raising alarm bells among members of a nearby sailing club.

Kite surfers who regularly use the area for their sport believe the discolouration was caused by effluents illegally dumped through the storm water drain and released into the open sea through a pipe going out near the harbour. The dark streak of water stretches up to 100 metres from the shoreline off Jumeirah near the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club (DOSC).

Narendra, an 29-year-old Indian fisherman tending his fishing net on the shore affected by the murky streak said he first saw it around 7am on Tuesday.

Ron, a regular surfer on the open beach, said: “It’s disgusting. It’s definitely sewage water. It comes and goes. This has been going on and off for the last three years. It’s the handiwork of some people illegally dumping untreated sewage on storm water drainage.”

Some teenagers were seen surfing on the shoreline waters where the streak floats in sharp contrast to the aquamarine colour of the open sea.

An official of DOSC, whose area is visibly affected by the dark-brown discharge, declined to comment. But a member at the club told XPRESS the murky water “is not nice” and that they are “unhappy” about it.

The fact that the wind is blowing towards the shore isn’t helping dissipate the streak.

“It’s really, really bad today,” said James, a European kite surfer. “This is my favourite surfing spot. I fell into it (dark-coloured water), and my face is getting a bit itchy. But it will come off after a good shower,” Gian, a French teenage surfer told XPRESS on Tuesday.

No swimmers in sight

A day later, on Wednesday, about a dozen kite surfers were seen where the streak was still hugging the shore. But swimmers were out of sight.

No comment came from the Dubai Municipality at the time of going to press, but an official said tests previously conducted on samples taken from the site proved the streak was “harmless”.

In October 2008, the Dubai Municipality had shut down the beach near the club after tests reportedly confirmed higher than normal levels of E.coli bacteria in the water. A few days earlier, a sewage truck was seen stopping over an unlocked storm water drain in Al Quoz. The illegal dump had put a stop to swimming and sailing at the club at that time.

Dr Reza Khan, a wildlife and zoo management specialist at Dubai Municipality’s Public Parks and Horticulture Department, however, said it is possible the brown streak is a result of algal blooms, microscopic single-celled plants known as marine phytoplankton, or popularly known as “red tide”.

“Algal blooms deplete the oxygen in the area where it occurs, so animals living around are deprived of oxygen. In some cases, it may result in a massive fish kill, especially if it occurs in summer.”

Two recent episodes of red tide were reported in Dubai in 2009. The first occurred in January near Port Rashid while the second occurred three months later on the Umm Suqeim Park beach, near the Burj Al Arab. This prompted the Dubai Municipality to shut down the affect beaches. 
Red tide wreaked havoc in Ras Al Khaimah and the UAE’s East Coast, too, about the same time.