Left-Right: Aditi Gandhi, Manouj Aswaani and Nitin Kumar. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai

Shocking! That was my reaction when I first saw the community report submission from Aditi Gandhi. The picture with it showed an alley between two buildings in the Al Mankhool area of Dubai drowning in garbage. Truly horrible conduct, especially when you see the lengths to which the UAE’s civic bodies go to, to maintain cleanliness and hygiene.

And as the reader aptly pointed out, there are garbage skips provided at regular intervals in communities, along with dustbins. Why would people not bother?

It is surely not for lack of amenities, education or because of socio-economic deprivation. Sadly, it seems to boil down to the fact that people just cannot be bothered. But, the irony is that this behaviour will have a direct impact on the people living in the area - as it will give space to rodents and germs to thrive, thereby exposing residents to the probability of ill health.

The report won first place because of its investigative quality, supported by the visual evidence of the problem. It was published on August 23.

Second place goes to Nitin Kumar for his report on motorists who flout the rules of pedestrians’ right of way. He pointed out that this is apparently a very common problem in Al Qusais and Deira, which he accompanied with very telling images. Highly surprising, indeed, because Dubai Police takes the matter of not allowing pedestrians right of way very seriously. There is a fine of Dh500, along with black points on the driving licence. The report was published on August 17.

Third place goes to Manouj Aswani for raising the issue of tobacco products’ retailers selling ‘dokha’ to minors, in parts of International City. He spoke to a number of residents and parents about the problem, all of who agreed that the authorities need to monitor these stores and check their sales policy. As he rightly pointed out, there should be “zero tolerance” on this matter.

As per the Global Health Observatory data from the World Health Organisation (WHO), “in 2015, over 1.1 billion people smoked tobacco. Far more males than females smoked tobacco. Although it is declining worldwide and in many countries, the prevalence of tobacco smoking appears to be increasing in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region and the African Region.

“Tobacco is the only legal drug that kills many of its users when used exactly as intended by manufacturers. WHO has estimated that tobacco use (smoking and smokeless) is currently responsible for the death of about six million people across the world each year with many of these deaths occurring prematurely. This total includes about 600,000 people, who are also estimated to die from the effects of second-hand smoke. Although often associated with ill-health, disability and death from noncommunicable chronic diseases, tobacco smoking is also associated with an increased risk of death from communicable diseases.”

In a bid to reduce the number of avoidable deaths from smoking, the World Health Assembly established “a global voluntary tobacco target” in 2013, which is a “30 per cent relative reduction in prevalence of... tobacco use in persons aged 15+ years”.

So, if you see a young person being sold tobacco or related products, please report it to the authorities.

PROFILES

First: Aditi Gandhi

Published on August 23, 2017.

Aditi Gandhi, a pupil based in Dubai, came across an alley between two buildings in the Al Mankhool area in Dubai, which was strewn with garbage. This unpleasant sight forced her to raise her voice against the practice of littering in the UAE.

She said: “The community reports section is a wonderful platform for readers, like myself, to express our views and highlight different issues, especially the ones that are usually ignored. These reports help to effectively raise awareness about what is happening in our neighbourhood, thereby urging people to become responsible towards the community and the environment. The issues faced may be big or small, but it is through these reports that they are conveyed across to a large number of readers.”

She believes that by writing these reports, residents in the UAE help the relevant authorities.

She said: “They are alerted towards finding solutions to the different problems. So, in my opinion, the reports not just address the concerns of residents, but also bring about a positive change within the community. They focus on the message that we all need to think and act responsibly.”

After her report was published in Gulf News, she received positive feedback from her friends and neighbours. Her school promoted the report on their Facebook page and she succeeded in urging her peers to stop littering.

She said: “They felt more responsible and promised to be more vigilant towards this issue. Through my reports, I wish to inspire children and adults alike to be environmentally conscious in order to make a big impact.”

Second: Nitin Kumar

Published on: August 17, 2017

Nitin Kumar, a sales coordinator based in Dubai, raised his concerns regarding motorists not giving way to pedestrians at the designated crossings. As a pedestrian, he is worried about his own and the safety of those around him, as motorists refuse to slow down at pedestrian crossings in Deira, Dubai.

He said: “I think community reports are a brilliant platform, where readers can easily raise awareness regarding any issue that is affecting our community. Small steps will lead to big change in people’s attitude and help make our lives better.”

In his experience, people have been very supportive of his reports. As a regular contributor to the community reports section of Gulf News, he always gets positive feedback from his friends for helping highlight issues that matter.

Third: Manouj Aswaani

Published on: August 7, 2017

Manouj Aswaani, a marketing professional based in Dubai, got concerned when he walked into a supermarket in Dubai’s International City and noticed that dokha, the tobacco smoked through a midwakh, pipe, was being sold to minors. He immediately decided to raise awareness on the issue.

He said: “Community reports are the perfect platform to get your message across and create awareness among the residents in the UAE.”

Even though the Dubai Municipality did not respond to his concerns, when raised with them by the newspaper, Aswaani received tremendous support from those around him.

He said: “I received messages from many people including friends, relatives and colleagues. They all reacted positively and appreciated that Gulf News had published such a report as it is an important issue. They also expect punitive measures and action from the authorities against such outlets.”

— Profiles compiled by Rabab Khan/Community Interactivity Editor