ON CLEAN STREETS

CEO Middle East - - CONTENTS -

SIT­TING IN A TAXI ON ROUTE TO PARIS AF­TER my flight there last month I re­alised some­thing: Each time I visit, the city seems dirt­ier. That’s not to say Paris isn’t won­der­ful. The sight of the Arc de Tri­om­phe on one end of the Champs El­y­sees and the Obelisk on the other is still as en­chant­ing as it was the first time I vis­ited the city. And from the striped tees to the neu­tral coloured jack­ets, the vibe that a Parisi­enne em­bod­ies in Europe is some­thing truly unique.

In the case of the trash on the streets, how­ever, the city is not. Barcelona, Brus­sels, Vi­enna, even Ham­burg in Ger­many, would sur­prise first time vis­i­tors to Europe an­tic­i­pat­ing par­a­digms of ur­ban spot­less­ness. Not all cities I would as­sume are the same, and none of the cities men­tioned are filthy, I would point out. But let’s just say that were I to live in Zurich, I’d be much less com­pelled to ask a guest to take their shoes off when step­ping on to the car­pet than if I were liv­ing in any other city.

Europe is a far cry, in terms of the clean­li­ness of its streets, from any coun­try in the GCC, it is ob­vi­ous and there might be mul­ti­ple fac­tors at play lead­ing to cleaner streets here: tougher laws on lit­ter­ing, smaller pop­u­la­tions, and there­fore fewer peo­ple on the streets due to the heat, as well as fewer peo­ple fre­quent­ing pub­lic trans­port. In­ter­est­ingly, air qual­ity in the UAE for in­stance tends to rank lower than in cities in Europe where the pub­lic trans­port sys­tems are well-de­vel­oped (don’t take my word on that though, mea­sur­ing air qual­ity is af­ter all, a murky sci­ence, pun in­tended). It’s cer­tainly pos­si­ble, there­fore, that as im­prov­ing pub­lic trans­port sys­tems in the GCC come about, coun­tries here could find them­selves con­tend­ing with a prob­lem that most oth­ers find it hard to deal with: trash in the streets.

Dubai is fol­low­ing plans to de­velop the pub­lic trans­port sys­tem earnestly, by ex­tend­ing metro lines and adding more busses to the RTA’s fleet. Much of this will ben­e­fit the 20-25 mil­lion vis­i­tors ex­pected to fre­quent Dubai in 2020. There isn’t an im­pend­ing trash cri­sis on the hori­zon, that’s not the point of this ram­ble. Just that host­ing the largest World Expo ever seen and bring­ing in record break­ing crowds could have an in­tended con­se­quence.

For­tu­nately, waste man­age­ment was one of many things dis­cussed dur­ing the brief­ings be­tween the UAE and French del­e­ga­tions that I was privy to, as both coun­tries pre­pare to host ma­jor events (Paris will host the Olympics in 2024.) If there’s one thing Dubai has spoiled me with, it’s that I don’t have to worry about what I step in to when I go out for a walk.

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