By Ahmad Y. Majdoubeh

When construction or infrastructure work (digging for water pipes, cables or sewers) would take place in the many ever-expanding neighbourhoods of Amman (and other Jordanian cities) in the 1960s, 1970s and up to the mid-to-late 1980s, it would be a messy business.

Contractors would dump much of what they dug out and the material brought for construction (including cement and iron bars) right onto what would be left of the sidewalk and the street, making it difficult for vehicles and pedestrians to use the road conveniently and safely, and for the neighbours to open their windows or sit outside because of the dust and noise.

It used to be a very disorderly and primitive way of conducting business.

As of the early 1990s, we started to witness a noticeably better handling of the situation. The material dug out would be removed efficiently, and the material brought to be used for construction would be placed neatly on sidewalks or spaces, in ways that did not interfere with the flow of traffic or pedestrians. Most of the time, that is.

Many contractors even started fencing off construction areas to prevent interference with the road and life in various neighbourhoods.

People felt both relieved and appreciative. Finally, the professional way of dealing with construction and maintenance work, which many of us witnessed in many advanced countries, were finally making their way to us. Many started complimenting the Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) and all concerned parties for a job well done.

The matter is important to us, perhaps more so than in many other countries, because construction work is an ongoing business, due to the population growth, and to expansion and development. So far, it has not abated.

However, the neat and efficient way of going about construction or maintenance work appears to be in decline now.

Recently, we have started to witness – not just in the less “privileged” neighbourhoods of Amman, but in the most fashionable as well – construction and maintenance work done in a manner similar to that of earlier years. Soil and construction material is dumped on the sidewalks and streets, and fencing is either non-existent or done hastily and inefficiently.

What has happened?

A year ago, an extension to a prestigious international school was constructed in one of the most fashionable neighbourhoods of Amman. Not only was construction going on day and night (even after one or two in the morning and on Fridays – on the basis of a “special” permit, the contractor insisted) but the sidewalk and the road, indeed the whole neighbourhood, were terribly abused. A few months ago, when some road construction (to install some underground pipes) was going on in Medina Street (one of the mo?t trafficked and crowded in the city), work was conducted in the most inefficient and unsafe way imaginable. Examples abound.

Again, what has happened?

Over the years, and especially recently, GAM has done a great job regarding a number of matters (gardens, tunnels, bridges, street naming and numbering, festivals, cultural spots, museums, etc.). One cannot but recognise such important developments, which make life in Amman more convenient and fun. But why has construction and maintenance work deteriorated so visibly?