The Dubai Municipality rule prohibiting bonfires and barbequing on public beaches has been in place since 2010. Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: Party-goers stuck in traffic were not the only people frustrated during the New Year's Eve celebrations. Those looking forward to a quiet barbecue on the beach were also disappointed.

In a drastic change from its usual practice of a verbal reprimand, Dubai Municipality has started issuing fines of up to Dh1,000 to people who hold barbecues in undesignated areas.

A senior official at the municipality confirmed that the rule prohibiting bonfires and barbequing on public beaches has been in place since 2010.

Mousa Nimer has been celebrating New Year’s Eve with friends at the Sufouh Open Beach since 2011. A barbecue has always been part of the celebration. This year, as he arrived to watch the fireworks, a municipality inspector informed him that barbecuing on the beach was prohibited.

“Adding to the closure of the Palm Jumeirah access, we were approached by a man from Dubai Municipality, who told us to gather our firewood and grilling equipment and put it back in our vehicle if we wanted to avoid a fine of Dh1,000,” he said. “This is a big shame since this is an annual ritual for us. I’m sure there are many others who do the same.”

Khalid Sulaiteen, head of the Environmental Emergency Office at Dubai Municipality, told Gulf News that the rules on activities in parks and beaches have been in place for a long time, but no one followed them. “We used to verbally warn people not to barbecue [in undesignated areas], but since nobody listened, we have now started issuing fines.”

People visiting the beach are only permitted to barbecue in designated areas. “If you do not see a designated place to grill food, then it is not allowed anywhere on the beach,” Sulaiteen said.

He pointed out that the rule was put in place to protect not only the environment, but the safety of beachgoers. Barbequing on the beach also leaves a bad smell in the area, he said.

“If the charcoal is not properly disposed, it can burn the feet of people who accidentally walk on it. People must celebrate in a responsible manner,” he added.