Gulf News recognises readers who took a stand and raised their voice on issues that they felt were important, relevant and required immediate attention. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan, Gulf News

How many voices does it take to right a wrong? Gulf News’ community reporters have often found that it takes just one.

The newspaper recognises its readers who took a stand and raised issues that they felt were important, relevant and required immediate attention.

Today, we acknowledge and fete those who shared their experiences and brought important issues to the fore during the month of March.

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 busy roads riddled with potholes to streetlights left on during the day time.

Readers have found this to be the right platform to create awareness and turn the spotlight on pressing issues that truly impact their lives.

Raising serious issues, seeking answers from the relevant authorities and highlighting social problems takes effort. But community reporters do not shy away from taking the leap if they have a chance of making a real difference.

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

First Place: Picnic-goers threaten marine life

March 13
By: Vijoy V.J.

Reason for selection:
Dead turtles on the beach are a dismaying sight for any picnic-goer, but our reader decided to highlight the issue and seek answers.

UAE Editor Meher Murshed said: “[This is] yet another story of human neglect causing the deaths of [animals]. Camels are dying after eating plastic in the desert and turtles are now victims, too.”

He urged responsibility and accountability on the part of the public. “A campaign by the authorities alone cannot solve this menace. We have to care as well.”

Profile: Vijoy V.J. is a marketing officer and a resident of Dubai.
During a picnic, he said he was startled by the remains of turtles on a beach off Ajman. The carcasses “easily number 50”, according to the community reporter.

He said: “I still don’t know why this is happening. Perhaps they are looking for a smooth shore to lay eggs, but are finding rocks instead.

“I encourage the authorities — especially the environmental departments — to take up the issue and stop these poor creatures from dying.”

Second Place: Drive against smoking needed

March 25
By: Hashini Silva

Reason for selection:
It takes a single matchstick to start a fire. For the community reporter, the risks are multiplied drastically when smokers light up near gas-filling points.

UAE Editor Meher Murshed commended the reader for highlighting an issue that often goes unnoticed.

He said: “Careless actions can lead to disasters. People are often seen smoking at petrol pumps knowing fully well the dangers. Smoking near gas-filling points only shows how selfish some people can be. Care, at least, for others’ lives.”
Profile: Hashini Silva is a homemaker based in Dubai.

She expressed satisfaction with the results Gulf News’ platform tends to usher in.
“I have noticed that after [the publication] of my community report, people who had been smoking near gas-filling points have stopped smoking in the vicinity. Also, the security officers in the buildings are more vigilant and position themselves often around the buildings and in the car parks to avoid such misconduct.”

The reader added that community reports were a good way to bring the issue to light. “They have been a key aspect in bringing up happenings and issues around the community and [serve as] an effective way of channelling the respective authorities to take the necessary corrective actions.”

Third Place:  It is time to repair these manhole covers

March 14
By: P. C. Ummer

Reason for selection:
The reader’s photographs raised alarm about the need for better road maintenance around Abu Dhabi.

While the issue may seem trivial, it raises safety concerns for both motorists and pedestrians.

UAE Editor Meher Murshed said: “A telling picture warning of an accident waiting to happen. The authorities must fix the problem.”

Profile: P. C. Ummer is an assistant sales manager, based in Abu Dhabi.

Following his community report, the reader said he has noticed a positive change.
“Many of the broken manhole covers have been replaced, but there are still some areas where there is much to be done. Immediate action from the municipality is needed because it is extremely dangerous to leave the manholes uncovered.”