(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Who doesn't like to barbecue or sit by a bonfire in the UAE desert during winter? Of the multitude of camping destinations, one just got knocked off the list -- Al Qudra Lake.
Visitors to Al Qudra Lake will not longer be able to camp, barbecue or light a bonfire in the area as Dubai Municipality recently added signboards banning these outdoor activities.
About 35 warning signboards with illustrations of banned activities have been added in the Al Qudra Lake premises, which serves as a major winter desert camping attraction and weekend barbecue picnic spot.
Violators will face warnings and a Dh500 fine that will be tagged on the car number plate. The amount of fine will be doubled in case of a repeat offence.
Dubai resident Srijita Sreenivasan said the municipality issued her a Dh500 fine last week for building a campfire with a group of friends.
"We were fined for making a bonfire 'directly from the ground'. We hadn't seen the signboard as it features several illustrations that are hard to see from a moving vehicle at night," said Sreenivasan, a regular visitor to the lake.
"We made sure we didn't litter because we read several of those signs on the way to Al Qudra. If we had seen the signboard (which bans setting up bonfires) as well, we wouldn't have done it."
Sreenivasan added that when she posted the warning on her social media pages, she received 'thank you' messages from visitors. "People aren't aware that these rules exist."
Another regular to the area is Mursalin Haidar, who noticed the boards during his visit over the past two weekends. "People were setting their bonfires regardless of the signboards, as they weren't aware. I was only wary of them because a friend had warned me after being fined earlier," said Haidar.
Kirk Fernandez, who visits the conservation reserve up to four times a month during winter, said that the area was packed with camps and barbecues during the National Day week despite the signboards that had been set up in the area.
"It makes sense that it is banned because people end up littering the area and distorting its beauty," said Fernandez. "I usually see bags lined around camps and glasses scattered on the ground despite the presence of garbage cans in the area. People leave charcoal and wood behind after finishing their bonfire."
Dubai Municipality has been intensifying its efforts to crack down on litterbugs after witnessing recognizable amounts of waste being dumped around the lake located mid of Seih Al Salam desert and Bab Al Shams. Officials said up to 2,000 bags of trash would be collected on weekends.
After adding more 200 trashcans, warning signboards and hiring over 20 cleaners, Eng. Abdulmajeed Sifaie, director of waste management department at Dubai Municipality, told Khaleej Times the department will start slapping offenders with a fine of Dh500.
"We tried to avoid fining people as much as possible, but we noticed the condition continued getting worse as the place continues to attract more visitors," Sifaie had previously noted.
Nestled in the middle of the desert, Al Qudra Lake has been serving as a unique spot for barbecue picnics and wildlife spotting, offering activities including cycling tracks and desert camping spots accessible to owners of non-four-wheel-drive vehicles.
The lake is home to 175 species of birds, the highest number recorded from the lake and its environs that extends up to a 3km radius while including several man-made oases and small plots of natural reserves.
Things not to do in Al Qudra Lake areas:
- Dog walking
- Animal feeding
- Hunting/killing wildlife
- Entry of motorcycle and vehicles
- Cutting/removing plants
Sherouk Zakaria "Born and raised in UAE, Sherouk Zakaria is a Senior Correspondent at Khaleej Times. Joined since May 2016, she covers Dubai Municipality, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), special events and humanitarian issues. Her choice of journalism as a career stems from her passion of telling people's stories and writing to inspire or make a difference. In her free time, she's an occasional theater and film actress. Sherouk received her BA in Mass Communications from the American University in Sharjah in 2013. Before joining Khaleej Times, she was a senior lifestyle/entertainment editor for a magazine in Dubai."