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.
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.
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.”