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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Expat workers in Musheireb struggle with new electricity cuts

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Photos by Nada Badawi

Thousands of low-income workers residing in the Musheireb area of Doha are complaining bitterly about new electricity cuts that have plunged their buildings into darkness this week.

Several residential buildings in the area have been marked for demolition to make way for newer, more upscale developments.

Speaking to Doha News, a project engineer who is working on a construction site in the neighborhood said that many of the current buildings are old and run-down, which is why they’re being replaced.

Most are also only a few floors high, taking up a lot of space in a congested area, he added.

“We’re aiming to erect buildings of 10 and more stories in order to be able to accommodate as many people as possible,” he said.

However, some of the existing residents told Doha News that rundown is all they can afford, given Qatar’s rising rental rates.

They added that they plan to remain in the area despite the lack of power, because they have nowhere else to go. One Indian worker who lives in a housing camp with over 200 others said:

“This is a huge problem for me and many workers who live here because we’re on very low wages and can’t find new affordable homes.”

The majority of the thousands of people residing in the Musheireb area are Asian expats from Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan, according to the Gulf Times.

Downtown Doha

The area adjacent to Souq Waqif has been under construction for the past several years, as development on the Msheireb Downtown Doha (MDD) project continues.

The $5.5 billion endeavor, which is slated to be completed in 2016, is considered Qatar’s first sustainable downtown regeneration project, and will include residential, office and retail spaces.

But to make room for the massive development, many old buildings containing shops and residences have to be demolished. However, MDD has said the most recent demolition notices are not connected to its project.

And several shop-owners told Doha News this week that they have been granted a reprieve, after already signing agreements with MDD.

“Our business has not been affected by any power cuts, and I believe this is for all businesses here in the area, ” a restaurant manager said.

Mishandling

One factor that eats at several residents is that they were not made aware of the power cuts in a timely manner, and only given a week’s notice.

National electricity and water utilities company Kahramaa, which has come under fire this week over the power cuts, did not comment on the time period in which it served notice.

But a spokesman told Doha News they the company was instructed to cut power by the government. In an emailed statement, Kahramaa said:

“As per the procedure, Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (KAHRAMAA) has to abide by the instructions of the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning concerning the disconnection of utility connections.

Through your reputed news website, KAHRAMAA would like to request all the building owners or tenants of the affected area to contact the concerned organizations for their grievances as our jurisdiction does not fall on this matter.”

To avoid having to move, some residents said they are taking their complaints to the National Human Rights Committee, Gulf Times reports. Others are just praying for a miracle.

Speaking to Doha News, one Bangladeshi worker said, “We can’t keep living without power for a long time like this.”

Thoughts?

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Observant One
Observant One
7 years ago

Aside from the uncaring nature of just cutting power to low income workers I was particularly interested in the comment, ” were aiming to erect building of 10 stories or more to accommodate as many people as possible”. Great build more high density housing in an already gridlocked overpopulated area? That will soon be overdeveloped and those people living in there will have to drive elsewhere to work. No hope is there, Doha will be forever gridlocked with this type if urban ‘planning’.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
7 years ago
Reply to  Observant One

With all the money that they throw at these consultants, you would expect one of them to give them a half-decent community infrastructure plan. I’ve seen better planning in communities constructed 50 years back!

sameeh
sameeh
7 years ago

First of all this totally unethical in every culture to cut somebodies power off with information and all the companies and individual under the kafala system who have hired these people are responsible for these accommodation . I know a few friend who were involved in the survey they were having in these area and how the people were being treated there the door were banged open without even knocking them . totally pathetic

John Doe
John Doe
7 years ago

I believe that reasonably priced, high density housing could be a relief for accommodating the ever increasing numbers of middle class people coming into the country, provided there are adequate infrastructural arrangements in the area to support it. I am talking about constructing large scale parking buildings with reserved parking for residents in the area, good stores with sufficient utility availability, more access points and wider roads to reduce congestion, and government controlled rent, to reduce inflation.

After all, if an area cant go horizontal, there is no where else to go, but vertical.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
7 years ago
Reply to  John Doe

Well that’s all well and good, but where should the low income workers relocate to? Their affordable housing is being demolished to build middle class housing, but nothing is being built in its place. I’m not suggesting that the laborers have a ‘right’ to live in Qatar; but how will this economy, which has as its foundation the availability of cheap labor for working in shops, laundries, tailors, car washes, function? There’s a real risk that actions like this will result in noticeable inflation in the cost of services, as workers demand higher pay to cover the cost of their (more expensive) housing.

Marilyn McLeroy
Marilyn McLeroy
7 years ago
Reply to  John Doe

These are low income people that live here not middle income. Most of these do not even have a need for parking. Where are they to go?

Observant One
Observant One
7 years ago
Reply to  John Doe

Look at Al Sadd, the development there by knocking down 2 or 3 story buildings and building 10 story residential apartments has caused huge social, infrastructure and traffic stress…all your points are valid and true but it just wont happen,.

KK
KK
7 years ago

To Msheireb ? I thought social responsibility is a key objective (as per your website).

R_Chow
R_Chow
7 years ago
Reply to  KK

This Msheireb project has engaged some of the world’s top most designers and consultants, but when I look at the way they implemented the works by causing intolerable sufferings to the people in the surroundings, I do not know what to say. I wonder if there is any government authority in Qatar that monitors these. And about the lower-income people that used to live in this area because of its central location and access to cheaper food and clothing shops are having to disperse in the outskirts of the city. They will have very difficulty to get to their work due to lack of public transport and might have to leave this country. The tea-boy in our office who supports a big family back home has already moved to three different buildings ever since this project started and told me how desperately he is looking for a place close by and can not find anything. This is indeed ‘social responsibility’ from Msheireb!

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago
Reply to  R_Chow

You want the short answer? No proper planning. If there was proper planing, one of the key aspects of such projects would to consider where would all the people living in an area that is to be demolished and rebuilt move. Before starting the project, alternative options must be made available.

And you know, it’s not just lower income expats that are suffering through this; many Qatari families had / have to go through this when the area where their houses are is selected. Such was the case for some of the people living in the vast land now owned by QF. Some even had to go through the whole loss power and water!

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