The government should increase enforcement of a longstanding law that prohibits blue-collar workers from living in family-filled neighborhoods, members of the Central Municipal Council (CMC) have said.
Speaking at yesterday’s regular session, one of the CMC’s newest members Fatima Ahmed Al Jaham Al Kuwari said she received many complaints from families in Doha’s Al Thumama area about the “phenomenon.”
She told Doha News that male workers were seen standing outside of their homes in transparent undergarments, and that some women in her district complained that they were being watched from building windows while they held private parties in their yards.
Al Kuwari added that the presence of a large number of workers in family areas harms the infrastructure and increases the pressure on the local electricity grid.
Other CMC members also weighed in, saying they too have received complaints from Qatari residents in their districts regarding the same issue, while enforcement remains lax.
Legislation on this issue was passed five years ago, when Qatar’s former Emir ratified Law No. 15 of 2010, Prohibition of workers’ camps within residential areas, although it didn’t go into effect until Nov. 1, 2011.
The move was spurred by complaints from members of the local community who said that they felt “threatened” in residential areas that had a large presence of male workers.
In an opinion piece for the Peninsula in February 2014, Qatari journalist Rashed Al Audah Al Fadeh said:
“These bachelor workers are threatening the privacy and comfort of families, spreading like a deadly epidemic that eats through our social fabric,” he said, and called for stricter enforcement of the legislation.
The law does not apply to individuals working in grocery stores or barbers in the residential area, or to male white-collar employees.
Earlier this month for the first time, the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning published a series of interactive maps on its website in Arabic that highlight the districts where laborer accommodation is banned.
This includes almost all of central Doha.
Certain parts of Al Wakrah, Al Khor, Umm Salal and swathes of Al Rayyan and Al Shahaniyah are also highlighted as “no-go” zones by the Baladiya, a move that some criticized as “apartheid.”
Other residents have expressed discomfort at the segregation, but said something must be done to safeguard women and families given the nation’s 3:1 male-female population.
Qatar’s blue-collar workforce is usually housed in dedicated labor camps, in the Industrial Area to the west of Doha, as well as in other areas that are usually far from “family” residential areas.
But Al Kuwari acknowledged that enforcement of the law has proved difficult due to a lack of suitable housing in that area and elsewhere around Qatar.
Penalties for infringing the 2010 law include fines of up to QR50,000 or up to QR100,000 for repeat offenders.
Until enough housing is built, Al Kuwari proposed implementing temporary solutions to help guarantee that landlords and their tenants respect the “customs and traditions of the Qatari society.”
For example, she suggested setting a limit to the number of people that are allowed to live in a specific residence, to prevent a large number of workers from moving into a confined space.
She also urged the introduction of regulations to prevent residential villas from being turned into labor housing, and encouraged landlords to cooperate with security forces to hold inspection campaigns on properties.
Addressing the parking crunch problem in many neighborhoods, Al Kuwari suggested mandating that more people use buses to transport them to and from work, instead of private cars.
She told Doha News that many workers who are drivers or do other jobs park their cars in residential parking, leading to disputes and conflicts with neighbors.
During the meeting, she requested that her recommendation be submitted to the MMUP, after the approval of CMC.
CMC referred her proposal to two internal committees; legal, and the services and public utilities committees, for further discussion and recommendations on the topic.
Recycling and more green
Yesterday, the CMC also sent proposals to the MMUP on recycling and making Qatar greener.
Citing a study by the Riyadh Center for Information and Consultation Studies, the CMC said trees not only add beauty, but their shade causes temperatures to decrease significantly.
The body recommended trees be planted on all roads and squares across Qatar, increasing green surfaces in the middle of residential areas and raising awareness regarding the effects of afforestation.
The CMC added that all projects for highways and main roads should include a network to irrigate trees and plants, so trees aren’t limited only to intersections and bridges, as they are now.
With regards to recycling, the CMC recommended that MMUP study how to provide bins for recycling in public parks, squares, roads and all public facilities.
The garbage containers would be divided into different sections depending on the kind of waste, including plastic, paper, metal and glass.
The report issued by the services and public utilities committee stated that some facilities already separate waste when they collect it, including Qatar University, Hamad International Airport and some independent schools.
It added that though the MMUP has a factory for waste treatment, there is currently no method of separating the waste once it’s collected.