A stretch of the exclusive Jumeirah Beach — a magnet for Western tourists and home to a string of hotels — has been closed.
“It’s a cesspool. Our tests show too many E. coli to count. It’s like swimming in a toilet,” said Keith Mutch, the manager of the Offshore Sailing Club, which has posted warnings and been forced to cancel regattas.
The pollution is a blow to Dubai’s reputation as an international holiday destination offering almost guaranteed sunshine and clear seas.
The debate over who is to blame is also turning toxic, pitting the city’s wealthy expatriates against local authorities, who have been criticised for failing to stop lorry drivers dumping human and industrial waste into the ocean.
The row also illustrates how Dubai’s rapid development threatens to outpace the Emirates’ ability to enforce environmental standards, angering the foreigners that the boom town seeks to attract. Mr Mutch first detected trouble during a walk on the beach last summer.
“The stench was unbearable and the water was a muddy brown. There was toilet paper in the sand,” he recalled.
He traced the sludge to a storm drain, buried behind a pile of rocks near the dock. It was spewing effluent into the sea.
He followed the drain several kilometres inland to the Al Quoz industrial area, which houses the cement, paint and furniture factories that have helped to fuel the city’s rapid growth.
There he discovered that dozens of sewage lorries carrying human waste from Dubai’s 1.3 million inhabitants emptied their tanks into storm drains such as the one leading to the sailing club. The drains, all connected, were built to carry excess water that falls during Dubai’s short rainy season.
According to some truckers — mostly poor workers from southern Asia – illegal dumping of waste is a purely financial decision.
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