Mohit Talreja Irresponsible behaviour Gulf News reader Mohit Talreja came across these glass shards thrown on the road in Sharjah. Image Credit: Mohit Talreja/Gulf News reader

Gulf News community reporters have repeatedly raised issues that are a direct result of the careless attitude of some residents oblivious to the fact that their behaviour is having a negative impact on society or hurting other individuals. We take a look at three such issues including people not taking proper care when moving with trolleys in carparks, littering from cars and abandoning trash on pavements. We spoke to readers, experts and the authorities to take an in-depth look at the problems including probable solutions and the psychological reasoning for the conduct.

Gulf News reader Fatima Suhail wrote a community report about how residents leave shopping trolleys in a random manner in the parking lots of supermarkets (“Supermarket customers should be more responsible”, Gulf News, November 12). Due to somebody’s irresponsible attitude, her car was scratched while parked outside a grocery store.

“How much time does it take for us to put our shopping trolley back in its proper place?” she asked.

The reader’s report received a large response from other readers, with many people sharing their bad experiences.

Gulf News reader Rama Murthy told Gulf News: "I purchased a new car and less than a week later visited a popular hypermarket in the Al Shindagha area, in Dubai. After shopping, when I returned to my parked vehicle, I noticed a scratch on it that was made by a trolley. Someone had clearly been irresponsible.

"The problem is that there is a small gap between every parking spot so the public takes the trolleys through these gaps between the parked cars and there is a high probability that they damage someobdy’s vehicle in the process.

"I sincerely request the authorities or institutions to find a solution to this problem. I also urge the public to not damage somebody else’s property in this manner and be a little more careful in the future."

Common issue

Many people posted comments on gulfnews.com agreeing that this was an issue that needed resolution.

Maria Cecilia Echeverria, an Abu Dhabi resident, wrote: “This is so true! I request fellow shoppers to be responsible and careful with the shopping carts that they use. What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”

Nameesh, a Dubai resident, wrote: “I paid around Dh1,500 last month for my car to be polished and repaired after it was damaged due to this reason. We have no option.”

Asheem Abdullah, another Dubai resident, wrote: “Scratches and dents are the pleasures of owning a car in the UAE. Parents let their little ones push trolleys and play with them. Even if you see a child pushing a trolley and hitting your car, you dare not say anything to his or her parents because you might offend them. The lack of civic sense is the common norm.”

Expert opinion

The question on everyone’s mind is, why do people behave in this manner?

According to Subas Pradhan, a psychiatrist based in Dubai, people are so engrossed in their own issues that they become careless.

He said: “People today are so preoccupied with their own problems that they don’t have the time or inclination to follow the rules or worry about someone else. But, at the end of the day, it’s not a justification to behave badly. In this case, somebody’s car was scratched, but someone could have been injured, too. People are not realising the consequences of their actions. They may not intend to harm others, but because of a stressful life they develop an amount of carelessness. Also, there is a lack of education. People need to understand that it’s a facility provided by the companies and not their property. They need to be educated on the fact that their actions or misutilising the facilities are putting other people in difficulty.”

Some hypermarkets have come up with different solutions to curb this issue.

Pradhan said: “In some of the leading hypermarkets, there is now a chain installed on the trolleys and you need to put in a one dirham coin to unlock it. At the end of the shopping trip, the customer has an incentive to leave the trolley in its designated place to collect that one dirham. If there is such a system, or any other form of incentive, the behaviour of the customers could be controlled.”

Pradhan also mentioned that he has come across shopping trolleys in his residential building. People shop from a nearby store and then walk home with their purchase. To curb this practice, some international stores use the electronic locking wheel solution. It is an invisible barrier that doesn’t allow customers to take a shopping trolley beyond a certain point. A thin wire is placed around the perimeter of the parking lot, slightly below the parking lot’s surface. The wheels of the trolley stop when it leaves the designated area. 

The second issue that we’re tackling in this in-depth report is one that also reflects on people’s carelessness and irresponsible attitudes. A lot of times, you’ll be parking your car in a designated public spot and you’ll drive over glass bottles, soda cans or other disposables. These items are left behind by residents, regardless of the fact that there would be a trash can nearby. There is a Dh500 fine for littering, too, but it doesn’t seem to have an impact on some people.

Gulf News reader Mohit Talreja said: "The youth of today are doing a plethora of activities to raise awareness on the protection of the environment. The various waste management authorities in the UAE are also doing their best to maintain the aesthetic beauty by providing lots of facilities and raising awareness among the public about the proper disposal of waste. But, the fact is that due to the callous behaviour of some people in society, the inappropriate disposal of waste is still prevalent.

"I have been noticing various upholstered items like furniture, sofa sets and closets are being disposed off regularly on pavements by residents of an area of Abu Shagara and King Faisal in Sharjah.

"A few days ago, I was shocked and disheartened to see numerous shards of glass that were inappropriately disposed off around the pavement in a bustling area of King Faisal Road. I couldn’t notice these scattered glasses and was about to step in this deadly trap.

"Hazardous waste like these are posing a threat to the residents. I noticed that adults and children passing by the area were totally oblivious to the presence of these glass shards on the pavement. It becomes even more difficult to see these transparent glass pieces in the night, increasing the jeopardy of a fatal accident. Children and women with small babies who walk through this area are more vulnerable to such type of fatal accidents.

"I have seen that a lot of workers are deployed to pick up trash from different areas and they work day and night to keep the city clean. Such inappropriate disposal of waste increases their workload.

"It is my humble request to the residents to act responsibly; play your part by putting recyclable waste in segregated bins provided by the authorities and for bulky waste you can call the waste management companies."

Authorities respond

The reader’s concerns were raised with the management of Sharjah Municipality.

They said: “It’s simple; the public are encouraged to call our hotline 993 to report such matters and Sharjah Municipality will take action immediately. The municipality organises cleanliness and awareness campaigns throughout the year to educate irresponsible individuals about the dangers of littering on the streets and its adverse impact on the public health and environment as well as the aesthetic appearance of the city.” 

Another issue that many readers have raised and written about is that of motorists disposing cigarette butts or garbage from a moving vehicle.

Gulf News reader Saj P. said: "The authorities have initiated several campaigns against smoking while driving and also highlighted the dangers of doing so. However, many motorists still continue to smoke while they drive and throw the cigarette butt out once they’re done. I came across such an instance in Abu Dhabi while I waited at a traffic signal on the Khalidiya Street.

"The driver and passenger were both smoking, with their windows down. I could see the passenger put his hand out of the car and using the road as an ashtray. After some puffs, the individual threw the cigarette on the road, while it was still lit. In this time, the signal turned green and they drove away at a high speed.

"The authorities need to be stricter when it comes to such behaviour so that such indecent and dangerous acts don’t happen again."

A common sight

Mandy, a Dubai resident, posted a comment on gulfnews.com in agreement. She wrote: “Born and raised in the UAE, I see an increase in the number of irresponsibe individuals in the country. I believe with the influx of cultures, many new residents have ignored the values of the country. You see smokers tossing their cigarettes and trash out their car windows. It’s really disappointing. The UAE welcomes everyone, we should respect it.”

K. S. Murali, another Dubai resident, shared a similar view.

He told Gulf News: “I request the respective authorities to look into this issue. Many motorists smoke in their cars and then throw cigarette butts on the road. If there is any oil residue on the road, it could lead to disaster not only for that motorist, but for many others on the road. I have seen some drivers keep their hands out of the window and dropping ash while they smoke. The ash flies onto the vehicle behind and this could also be dangerous.”

Subas Pradhan, the Dubai-based psychiatrist, said: “Put all other addictive drugs on one side and cigarettes on one and the latter is still the costliest addiction. There are countless studies on its effects and the number of deaths caused by it every year. Additionally, the issue of passive smoking has also been highlighted but is quite neglected. When people smoke in their cars, the effect of passive smoking becomes worse for the passenger. And, if you smoke in your car while there is a child around, it accounts as child abuse.

“When people smoke, they throw the cigarette butt out of the window. Another aspect that concerns me is people spitting from their vehicles. The fines that the authorities have implemented on these are a good way to curb the situation. But, there is still a lack of knowledge. Rules are only half the solution; people need to be educated.”

Pradhan doesn’t think it would be fair to assume that everyone is doing it intentionally.

He said: “We cannot think that all people are necessarily bad. When in their cars, they may be stuck in traffic or anxious about a personal issue. Smoking might give them temporary relief. In this process, they forget that there are other people around and may be careless. But, there may be some doing it intentionally. This is negligent behaviour and a lack of respect for the law. Not paying attention to common courtesy is unacceptable.”

Fines

According to a Gulf News report published on March 24, motorists and beach-goers who throw their cigarette butts on roads and public beaches will be slapped with a Dh500 fine. Littering or dumping waste in an area will also result in the municipality inspectors imposing a fine of Dh500.

The Dubai Municipality alone is said to spend over Dh50 million annually on the maintenance of public parks. The municipality has placed ashtrays and waste bins every 50 to 100 metres in the busy central business district areas of Dubai. The Dubai Municipality started implementing its ban on smoking in public areas in 2007.

Additionally, motorists who smoke in a car with a child inside will be fined Dh500, as stated in the anti-tobacco federal law. Smoking is also regulated in shopping malls, restaurants and amusement centres.