Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Goodbye to Satwa

Over the last four or five years a lot of people have complained that the new developments in Dubai are being created at the expense of the old Dubai. That the older parts of town are being demolished to make way for them.

I've always argued, including in posts on this blog, that this is not accurate. 'New Dubai' is being built on what was desert, nothing of the old city was being demolished to make way for it.

That's not true any more, with the announcement of the new US$95 billion Jumeira Gardens project.

Yes you read it correctly. Ninety five billion dollars.

Billed as a city within a city, the wonderful old suburb of Satwa is being demolished to make way for it.

Apart from the nostalgia for an area I love walking around there's a practical problem and I wonder whether it's being addressed in the master plan. The press release makes me doubt it.

Not only does Satwa provide much needed lower cost accommodation for poorly paid but vital members of our society, it also provides a huge variety of retail outlets where they (and we) can buy things we need at sensible prices. So it provides affordable living for many, many people.

It's a convenient location for people working in either the original city or the new developments and it provides affordable accommodation. But more than that, we can get glass cut or furniture made, shoes and watches repaired, tyres replaced or repaired, typing done. We can buy groceries, plants, fruit & veg, perfumes, fish tanks, shoes and clothing, beads and buttons, fabrics of all kinds. We can buy second hand goods from television sets to mobile phones. And inexpensive food from dozens of cafes and restaurants. At affordable prices without the surcharge for a designer label and without the rental of a shop in a marble mall being factored into the price.

If this accommodation and retail district disappears, what happens to the people we need to keep the city running but who are paid very little?

Where will they live? In the new developments? Where will they shop? In the designer outlets? On salaries of a few thousand a month?

International City was supposedly 'affordable' accommodation. A studio flat there is Dh60,000 a year. Five thousand a month is twice as much as an awful lot of people are being paid.

If they can't afford to live in the city they move away. In other countries they move to smaller towns, in Dubai moving to the northern emirates and commuting in every day is becoming a non-option because of gridlocked traffic and, more importantly, fast-rising rents there too. So the option will be to leave the country.

Cities can't operate without this essential workforce. It includes a whole range of people, including retail workers, security guards, bus drivers, cleaners, police, teachers, nurses, firefighters.

Major cities around the world have been struggling with the same problem for some time.

Does this sound familiar..."Essential workers are being priced out of town, and this having an impact on staffing for vital services such as health, transport, policing and education."

It's from the London Government website.

This is nothing new, other cities have already faced the problem and we could avoid it by learning from them. For example, have a look at the London website, here, to see how they're tackling the problem.

Astonishingly it seems that we're not learning from them, we're plunging ahead and creating the same problem right here.

Demolishing an area which does provide affordable living to make way for yet another high-end development adds to the problem.

This is not a small development by the way. If you know Dubai you'll realise how much is being demolished to make way for it. It stretches from Satwa's Al Diyafah Street down the coast to Al Safa Park, from Sheikh Zayed Road to the sea. In fact even into the sea because the map shows that huge new islands will be built.

If you don't know Dubai the landmarks won't mean anything, but you'll understand the size when you realise that it covers over 2,500 acres/1,000 hectares.

Here's the model of Jumeira Gardens being displayed at Cityscape. Running diagonally across the right are the new islands just offshore, the road running diagonally across the bottom left corner is Sheikh Zayed Road:

Photo: Ahmed Ramzan. Gulf News

And here's the plan released by the developer:

I've used these photos in earlier posts (click the 'Old Dubai' label) but here they are again as a glimpse of what will be lost:

Jumeira Gardens and Satwa are two very different places and in the photos and report I see nothing that even remotely suggests affordable housing or shopping.

You can read the report and see more photos here.


Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo said...

This is a damn shame...any character that Dubai had left will be stripped of it; nevermind the countless residents (many of whom are Emirati) who will have no where affordable to go.

LDU said...

Is there any legal mechanism where residents of Satwa can seek a court injunction against the proposed development?

Seabee said...

LDU, in a word - no.

Owners will be compensated for the loss of their buildings but it can't be stopped.

D said...

Pretty sad... there are so many people who live in that area... where will they go? Where can they find another place that they can afford? I myself live in "New Dubai" but... no one had to lose their home because of it... :(:(:(

Keefieboy said...

This is just too sad and stupid for words. It makes me furious to read about it. I used to admire Sheikh Mohammed, but if he thinks this is a great idea then I have to say he's lost the plot.

faiq said...

this is really sad,eventually ppl will left..Dubai will realize after 10-15 year how bad this decision was

CG said...

Have to agre with Keefie. Stupid with a capital S.

Satwa is an important area to Dubai, and we need this balance to keep things flowing.

All new, all costly, all gone.

redstar said...

It's idiotic beyond belief.

By all means tidy Satwa up a bit, but this?

Why ruin the coast with more islands?

Why ruin an area that's currently peaceful, settled and working fine?

I just don't understand it.

dave said...

Like Keefie I used to admire Shk Mo too, but like so many others I feel he has lost touch and not learnt enough from his international travels....

rosh said...

kill me now...