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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

‘What’s it doing to my children’s lungs?’: Mesaieed residents and the struggle with burning waste

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By Doha News Staff

Dark smoke, noxious fumes, dying plants and health problems — what life is like for residents near the Mesaieed Waste Treatment Centre.

It was 3 a.m. when Mesaieed resident ‘Kiara’ (an alias), witnessed smoke, accompanied by a suffocating smell, entering her home.

“It was so bad that the smoke was coming into AC vents,” Kiara told Doha News.

However, her house was not on fire.

Instead, like many residents in Mesaieed Industrial City, she has been dealing with the daily effects of what appears to be burning waste.

On the night of August 8, residents in different parts of Doha reported a burning smell and smoke. Later the Ministry of Interior tweeted that firefighters contained a fire at a landfill site in the Al-Afja area without casualties.

But since then, the smell of burning garbage has become more frequent and less tolerable. Typically, residents report, the smell begins at night and lasts until dawn. The smoke seen is dark to begin with and becomes white later in the day.

“We know we’re in an industrial city, we know we’re going to get things like this from time to time, but this is every single night. It has never been this bad,” says Kiara.

“All the plants outside have started to go brown. So if it’s doing that to the plants what is it doing to my children’s lungs?”

Many others are also concerned about their own health and that of their children, particularly those already struggling with existing respiratory problems. Residents told Doha News they wake up with chest pains and nosebleeds, although have been avoiding medical centres amid fear of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some parents told us they have made their children sleep with them in their bedrooms or on the living room floor to avoid areas where the smell is stronger, and have been covering their air vents, glueing their windows shut and keeping doors tightly closed.

“We would like a restful sleep at night,” another resident, who chose the alias ‘Megan’, told Doha News.

No response to community concerns

The Mesaieed Waste Treatment Centre, which falls under the authority of the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, was designed to meet local environmental and safety standards. It has the capacity to treat about 2,300 tonnes of household, agricultural and slaughterhouse waste every day.

In response to the accumulating concerns regarding the burning smell, residents reached out to the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, but got no response. Doha News also approached the organisation for comment but has yet to hear back.

Located approximately 40km south of Doha, Mesaieed Industrial City has transformed over the years, becoming a residential area with family facilities including schools and a community park. As it is a relatively small residential area, locals have developed tight connections with one another.

“The thing is, we really love living in Mesaieed; it’s a really nice community,” says Megan. “It’s a great place because it’s not as big or as busy as Doha.”

Watch now: Viral video shows security guards working under boiling Doha sun

Apart from the immediate problem with smells, fumes and smoke, residents are also concerned about the long-term health implications. But for now, they simply want to be heard and to have their complaints addressed.

“I just want it to stop. I feel that we’re not really given much thought. They’re not really thinking about the residents when they do things like this. I don’t think it’s good for the health of the people who live here. I don’t think this is good for the environment,” says Kiara.


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