ON CLEAN STREETS
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.