Beginning of the demolition of the historic village of Jebel Ali

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Knocking down buildings is never the cleanest job.

In one of Dubai’s oldest communities, however, there are complaints that unwanted visitors have slipped in and taken up residence as demolition crews get to work.

Snakes have been spotted in increasing numbers, some say.

Others reported rats around vacant buildings and debris in the streets as air conditioning and kitchen and bathroom fixtures are ripped out.

One of the houses on our route recently became vacant and within a day there was a truck outside the front door and men were tearing up air conditioners, sinks and toilets.

Emma Copson, resident of Jebel Ali village

Demolition work has started in the village of Jebel Ali, where around 290 houses dating from the 1970s will be replaced by luxury townhouses and villas.

As part of the redevelopment plans, residents of the Nakheel-owned community were given 12 months’ notice to vacate the premises last year.

While many tenants have opted to sign leases that expire in October, they said construction work and an increase in pests are making their living situation difficult.

“Quite frankly it’s awful but it’s going to get worse,” said Emma Copson, a UK resident who has lived in the villas since 2020.

“[Nakheel] promised us that the demolition work would only start after [all the tenants] had moved, but houses near Spinneys have already been demolished.

“One of the houses on our road recently became vacant and within a day there was a truck outside the front door and men ripping out air conditioners, sinks and toilets.”

Emotional long-term residents

Nader Elias said: “Due to construction and demolition there is a lot of disruption, a lack of security and the properties around us have been prepared for demolition.

“We started to see more snakes – they appeared twice in our house – and the whole area became dusty and [messy] due to demolition.

Elias said he contacted the developer several times with his complaints, but little was done to resolve the issues.

British resident Euan Megson left the area two weeks ago after living in his villa for seven years.

He said the area had ‘degraded so quickly’ which is why they decided to move early.

“It’s really, really sad,” he said.

“There are palm trees that are dying. They’ve stripped empty villas of AC units, boilers, that sort of thing, and they’re storing them in other vacant villas that still have windows and doors attached.

“There is also material left as an eyesore for residents.

“None of this was supposed to start until the last person left the village. [later this year].”

Mr Megson, who runs a communications business in Dubai, added: “It was very emotional for the locals who have lived here for years and it was hard to see the early demolition work, which started prematurely.”

After emailing a complaint in March, Mr Megson said Nakheel had confirmed that three villas were set to be demolished.

In their March 28 response, they said all required permits had been obtained from the enforcement authority, along with formal inspection plans.

“The work will be carried out in a way that ensures safe options and compliance with all relevant legislation and reflects the safety risk assessments that have been carried out and the mitigation plans for this type of activity,” says the communicated.

The National contacted Nakheel but they declined to comment.

Originally built for British and Dutch personnel from the nearby port of Jebel Ali in the mid-1970s, over the years the village has also become popular with people of other nationalities.

Under redevelopment plans released by Nakheel in March, three- and four-bedroom townhouses and large villas will form part of a new gated community.

Updated: June 29, 2022, 4:39 p.m.

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