A Year ago in Dubai

DUBAI — Dubai’s Offshore Sailing Club is an island for wealthy expats. The pub serves Strongbow on tap, flashy boats named Wet Dream and Howzat bob in the harbour and big-name banks sponsor ritzy regattas on weekends.

But down by the docks, a noxious tide of toilet paper, raw sewage and chemical waste has turned the exclusive Jumeirah Beach – once a magnet for Westerners – into foul-smelling sludge. The pollution is bad enough to trigger typhoid and hepatitis in swimmers.

But the battle over who is to blame is even more toxic, pitting Dubai’s wealthy expats against Emirati authorities, who have come under fire for failing to stop truckers from dumping human and industrial waste into the ocean. “It’s a cesspool. Our tests show too many E. coli to count. It’s like swimming in a toilet,” said Keith Mutch, the sailing club’s manager. Their battle also illustrates how Dubai’s rapid development threatens to outpace the Emirates’ ability to enforce environmental standards, angering the very foreigners this boomtown seeks to attract.

Meanwhile the beach, home to a string of five-star hotels, has been closed. The pollution skirts the man-made Palm Island, where celebrities including David Beckham and Simon Cowell own million-dollar villas. Mr. Mutch first detected trouble on a walk on the beach last summer. “The stench was unbearable, and the water was a muddy brown. There was toilet paper in the sand,” he recalled.


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