Abu Dhabi plans special 'workers city'
Abu Dhabi, June 3, 2008
The Abu Dhabi Government has unveiled plans to build a series of large cities to provide housing for hundreds of thousands of 'limited-income workers.'
Within four-and-half years, there will be housing for 800,000 vitally-needed labourers, skilled workers, technicians, supervisors and engineers to ensure that a lack of accommodation does not stifle growth, said a report in the UAE daily 'The National'.
The cities are being planned by the Government-backed Higher Corporation for Specialised Economic Zones (ZonesCorp), which said in a statement it expected half of the accommodation to be complete by the end of 2010.
The government has already given approval to the project, the report added.
During the past few years the UAE has attracted criticism from human rights groups and the foreign media for the standards of workers’ housing.
There have also been strikes in protest at living conditions and wages and, as recruiting foreign workers has become more difficult, the Government has increased its efforts to address the problem, it said.
The developments would make Abu Dhabi one of the “leading destinations worldwide” in terms of providing high-standard accommodation for “limited-income workers”.
Sameer Magdi, a spokesman for ZonesCorp, said the “very spacious” accommodation represented a step forward from the current conditions in which many workers lived.
“All utilities will be provided, there will be air conditioning and everything needed for decent living conditions will be available,” he said.
According to the plan, private investors will finance the cities and, in some cases, also manage them. Some residents will live in dormitories and others will have single or double rooms.
Magdi said labourers from any sector could live in the cities, but the emphasis would be on housing for industrial and construction workers.
“We have investment projects that need large numbers of labourers, technicians and supervisors, and this means investors won’t have to worry about finding accommodation,” said Magdi.
The project is the result of directives from Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the UAE president and ruler of Abu Dhabi, and has been closely followed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
While the 800,000 spaces announced on Monday would be in the emirate, Magdi said that ZonesCorp would later consider similar projects in Dubai and Sharjah.
The cities will have “competitive” rents and will be linked electronically to the Ministry of Interior, Civil Defence, the armed forces and the Ministry of Health for emergency response.
The developments will include recreational areas, restaurants, health clinics, parks, public areas and mosques. There will also be offices where residents can access services related to visas, labour cards, health insurance and driving licences.
Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed, chairman of ZonesCorp and chairman of the court of the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, said the project reflected the demands of international law that workers should have “decent living conditions”.
Accommodation for each unskilled worker will measure six sq m, compared with the statutory minimum of 3.7 sq m. For skilled workers, there will be 15 sq m while technicians and supervisors will have 20 sq m.
The project includes permanent cities for industrial employees and, for workers in construction, temporary cities across the emirate and “fast temporary” cities in the Al Faya area.
Hareb al Khaili, the ZonesCorp chief executive, said the company would soon acquire plots of land and finance the project through private-sector investment. The accommodation would be managed by the investors or by international consultants selected by ZonesCorp.
Khadem al Muhairi, executive director of ZonesCorp’s department of workers’ residential cities, said: “The col