Even as people continue to drown off the coast of Dubai's public beaches, and most officials shirk away from their responsibilities, Nakheel - Dubai-based master developer - says it is the sole authority responsible for the safety and security of the beaches on the Palm Jumeirah and other projects.
“There are life guards and regular security patrols to ensure safety on the beaches. Additionally, regular checks are carried out on water content and quality for health and safety reasons,” a company spokesperson told 'Emirates 24/7'.
Who is responsible for safety at public beaches?
Every year a number of fatal drowning incidents are reported off the coast of Dubai. Most of these incidents take place at the public beaches, where safety is less of a concern than at the recreational beaches. This raises the question whether the availability of an open beach should be reviewed.
However, this is a question to which the response is hard to find. The parties involved easily direct the question to others, and a unified view has been lacking.
The public beaches of Dubai are managed by the Environment Department of Dubai Municipality. However, the responsibility of this department lies in the maintenance of this coastline, more than in the safety of its visitors.
"I think these beaches are safe for the beachgoers," says Hamdan al Shaer, Head of the Environment Department. "We have installed signboards warning of the risks of swimming, and red flags are raised when the sea is dangerous. But safety is not our concern. We are responsible for the engineering of the coastline."
Jebel Ali Ports Police has frequently voiced concern over the situation. In response to the regular occurrence of fatal drowning incidents it has deployed patrol teams, which monitor the public beaches. "But it is not our job," says Lt. Col. Abdullah Al Mazyoud, vice-director of Jebel Ali Ports Police. "The actual responsibility lies with Dubai Municipality."
The Parks and Horticulture Department is responsible for the three recreational beaches Dubai counts, which are Umm Suqeim Beach, Jumeirah Beach Park and Mamzar Beach. On these beaches it deploys a range of safety measures.
"Altogether we deploy 33 lifeguards, who are trained or tested every month. There is permanent safety equipment available at these beaches and there are flags warning of strong current or high waves," tells Ahmad Abdel Karim, director of the Public Parks and Horticulture Department.
On nine locations of public beach strip signboards have been installed and on some public beaches life guards have been deployed.
"I don't think that a beach is safe when there is no life guard," says Panneerselvam, who guards a stretch of open beach with two more guards. "We can put up sign boards and flags, but people will go into the sea anyways. We had to rescue four people this year, and last year we saved 12 people from the water."
According to Ahmad the responsibility on public beaches lies with the beachgoer. In fact, the concept of an open beach is not uncommon when you look at other coastal countries around the world. In places like Australia, US and South Africa, some of the most deadly beaches are until now left to nature.
But making the beachgoer responsible for his safety proves to be a difficult task. "Sometimes people do not listen. They do not look at the signs or flags, and even when I tell them not to go into the water they do it anyway," says Panneerselvam.
"On this beach there are a lot of people who cannot swim. They go into the water anyway, and when they suddenly get into deeper waters I have to save them."
Efforts of this website to clarify who manages the coastline infrastructure in terms of the public-recreational ratio have not been successful.