(L) Sharath Mohandas and Aju John (R) Image Credit: Supplied

It may not be possible for people to right all wrongs — but Gulf News’ community reporters prove every day that highlighting issues can bring dramatic and much-needed change.

The newspaper recognises readers who took a stand and raised their voice on issues that they felt were important, relevant and required immediate attention.
Today, we acknowledge and award those who shared their experiences and brought significant matters to the fore during the month of April.

Over the past few months, the Your Turn page’s Community Report section has highlighted myriad subjects that concerned residents and helped alert the authorities about matters that required urgent attention.

Topics of concern ranged from malfunctioning pedestrian crossing signals to the lack of safe play areas for children.

Readers have found Community Reports to be the right platform to create awareness and turn the spotlight on situations that generate interest and truly impact their lives.
Raising important questions, seeking answers from the relevant authorities and highlighting social issues take effort. Our community reporters do not hesitate to prod and poke, if it has a chance of making a real difference.

The community reports published in April were judged by UAE Editor Meher Murshed. The criteria for selection included content, issue, impact on community, responsibility and the quality of contribution.

FIRST PRIZE

Must smokers leave a trail of ash?
April 28
By: Sharath Mohandas 

Reason for selection:
A wisp of cigarette smoke escaping through a car window may be a common sight on UAE roads, but just what kind of consequences do such practices have?
According to Murshed, the reader chose to explore an important topic in his community report.
He said: “[It is] a problem that has plagued other motorists for some time. There have been accidents because smokers have tossed cigarettes out of vehicles. Stricter penalties are needed to curb this dangerous habit.”

Profile: Sharath Mohandas is a businessman, living in Dubai.
While smoking in cars is a dangerous habit, the reader stressed on the impact it has on passengers, too.
He said: “As a non-smoker, I am always irritated when I have to inhale second-hand smoke.
“Such practices in public places should be banned and the authorities should create awareness about its hazards.”
He hoped his community report would gain the attention of the right authorities.

SECOND PRIZE

Faulty signboard endangers lives
April 20
By: Aju John

Reason for selection:
The reader’s initiative to highlight a perilous situation won the support of our judge. He commended the community reporter for clicking a photograph of a sign that hangs dangerously overhead in a central area, in Sharjah.
Murshed said: “A signboard is supposed to ensure a safe journey — this one is a hazard.”

Profile: Aju John works as a flight coordinator and is based in Sharjah.
He said: “Writing in the [form of] community reports is indeed a great way to bring out important and relevant issues, which are at times neglected by the authorities.”
However, the sign in question still hangs dangerously over motorists, John added.
He urged the concerned authorities to take notice and repair the sign as soon as possible.

THIRD PRIZE

Residents get a dose of the macabre
April 13
By Fausiv Rahman

Reason for selection:
It is not often that a garbage disposal area in a residential neighbourhood can double up as a graveyard for cows and other animals.
The reader’s concern about the carcass, which was left exposed to the elements for over two months, was penned in a community report. It raised a bigger issue of neglected garbage dumps in Abu Dhabi and the need for frequent clean-ups.
Murshed said: “An excellent picture that tells the story. The authorities must take care.”

PROFILE:
Fausiv Rahman is a graphic designer, based in Abu Dhabi.
While festering garbage is a major concern in itself, the addition of animal carcasses makes the issue more significant.
The community reporter urged the authorities to address the situation in Al Bahiya, where he said “more than 200 families” reside and are affected.