Browsing 'flooding' News

Flooding near Ramada signal

Via Adam Ezequiel So

Flooding near Ramada signal

Company owners, contractors and consulting engineers who may be liable for the damage wrought by this week’s rains are not allowed to leave the country, Qatar’s attorney general has said.

In a statement carried on QNA late last night, Attorney General Dr. Ali bin Fetais Al Marri said the travel ban would be in place as the state investigates what happened during Wednesday’s rainfall and decides who to charge for the ensuing chaos, which included flooded roads and damaged buildings.

Flooding during Wednesday's downpour

Ahmed El Morshedy

Flooding during Wednesday\’s downpour

The move comes after Qatar’s prime minister instructed authorities this week to bring the companies behind the country’s “flawed projects” before the public prosecutor.

The investigation will include at least five firms, but a spokesperson for Qatar’s Government Communication Office told Doha News that these companies would not be publicly named yet.

Deluge

Days after meteorologists forecasted that heavy rains would hit the country, Qatar received a year’s worth of rain in about nine hours.

The precipitation caused gridlock on the roads as many areas became flooded. Additionally, several schools and and malls across the country reported leakage and ceiling collapses, causing them to close temporarily.

Qatar’s Hamad International Airport, which opened last year, was especially hard hit.

Though it did not close, there were multiple reports of water raining down into the passenger terminal, provoking widespread criticism about the structure’s soundness:

In addition to airport contractors, it is likely that Qatar’s public works authority will be scrutinized for its role in the flooding of roads across the country.

Salwa flooding

NJood Al Kuwari/Twitter

Salwa flooding

Previously, a panel set up by the prime minister in 2014 took only a month to find Ashghal responsible for the flooding of Salwa Road underpasses following heavy rainfall.

At the time, the panel’s report suggested ways of preventing another such problem,

including establishing a permanent emergency and crisis management system at Ashghal, and coming up with a new system to monitor how well the sewage network is coping during periods of heavy rainfall.

It is not clear if these steps were ever taken, however.

Thoughts?

A scene from Wednesday rainstorm.

Kate Reeves

A scene from Wednesday rainstorm.

Wednesday’s rainstorm brought several areas of Qatar to a standstill, flooding some streets and rendering many roads impassable.

As life returns to normal, three public policy experts at the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI) at Qatar University suggest that the country stop treating rain as an enemy and instead make use of it as its Bedouin ancestors once did.

Wednesday – like every day that rain comes to Doha – the same questions resurfaced:

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Shaji Manshad/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Isn’t there a stormwater collection network?

Why, after just a few hours of rain, do the tunnels and streets flood in a country that brags about world-class infrastructure?

Doesn’t Qatar deserve the best?

In many cases, these sentiments stem from a broader concern about the state of the country’s infrastructure.

SESRI has been asking residents, “What is the single most important issue facing Qatar today?” since 2010.

Almost every year, “infrastructure” continues to be the single most important issue for both Qatari citizens and expatriates.

And the proportion citing infrastructure as the most important issue has increased substantially, from 22 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in 2014 among Qataris and from 26 percent to 36 percent among expatriates.

For most of the year, those feelings reflect frustration with traffic jams, road conditions and the constant construction around the country. But on the handful of days that it rains, it is generally flooding that concerns Qatar residents.

For illustrative purposes only.

Awqaf

For illustrative purposes only.

That said, the most cost-efficient solution is not to create a very expensive rainwater network all over Doha, given that it only rains a few days each year.

Instead, Qatar could adopt a throwback from its Bedouin past, by relying on small-scale, highly localized infrastructure that collects, stores and later re-uses rainwater.

This is increasingly the approach used by municipalities in dry states all over the world, which use rainwater to irrigate green spaces and agricultural lands.

This turns rainwater into a local resource, rather than a municipal problem.

Where the water goes

So what happens to most of the rainwater Qatar currently gets?

Outside of Doha, the water that falls onto Qatar’s sandy and rocky landscape will form temporary puddles and ponds that will be lost to evaporation.

The same thing happens to the water that has not made it deep enough into the soil to escape the sun’s reappearance and strong evaporative powers.

Only a fraction of the rainwater will make it to the natural reservoirs underground – hardly enough to replenish Qatar’s very limited freshwater resources that are already seriously depleted by agricultural over-pumping.

Sunday rain

Muhammad Kamran Qureshi/Flickr

Sunday rain

In Doha, too, most of the rainwater lies on the streets, roads and sidewalks, parking and rooftops (when they are not leaking), and is then lost to the sun.

However, as unbelievable as it may seem, the capital is home to hundreds of kilometers of state-owned water pipelines.

Almost all of these are used to transport and distribute desalinated water for consumption, or to recollect used water from homes and businesses for treatment by the city’s sewage system.

But there is no proper citywide water network in place for rainwater collection.

In some places, authorities have installed stormwater drains to collect rain, which is generally discharged into the sewage system. That means that the clean water from the rain is directly dumped into – and lost to – the sewage network.

Flooding in Markhiya

Ahmed El Morshedy

Flooding in Markhiya

Isn’t there an ethical issue that, in one of the world’s driest countries, all the rainwater is either lost or wasted rather than reused?

Mixing clean rainwater with raw sewage puts an additional burden on the country’s costly and energy-intensive wastewater treatment system.

But the biggest problem comes when it rains heavily. Human waste can rise from the sewer and sometimes floods the streets and sidewalks with water containing fecal matter.

Mentality change

In a sense, rainwater is treated as some sort of enemy by authorities in Qatar, who pump this water away and thoroughly reprocess it before dumping most of it far from Doha.

Maybe it is time to challenge this mentality by reviving the wisdom and traditions of older generations of Qataris, who carefully collected rain whenever it fell.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Joseph "Jay" Suasin/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Just because we now have advanced desalination technology, we shouldn’t scorn the rain.

For instance, a series of small water reservoirs can be buried along the road where water gathers, and some green plots can be installed above it to help absorb the rain, avoid flooding and improve quality of life.

Notably, a SESRI survey conducted last month found that more than three-quarters of Qatar residents wanted more green spaces.

This technique is called simply rain gardens, and yes, it is feasible even in arid places.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia are even considering using them for the holy cities, and such strategies have been recommended for dry regions for several years by various environmental agencies, including the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Australian authorities and the European Union’s Environmental Agency.

Flooded roads in Fereej Khulaib

Lesley Walker

Flooded roads in Fereej Khulaib

When taking into account the cost of the status quo (including road accidents, days of school cancelled, hundreds of thousands of working hours lost to traffic jams nation-wide, etc.), this smart and cost-efficient approach to rainwater collection and reuse makes a lot of sense.

Maybe we could then see water as the blessing that it is, in line with Qatar’s traditions and values. For as the Quran [50:9] stipulates:

“And We send down from the sky rain chartered with blessing, and We produce therewith gardens and grain for harvests.”

Thoughts?


Laurent A. Lambert, Michael C. Ewers and Fatimah Alkhaldi are public policy experts at the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute at Qatar University.

Raining in Doha

Shaji Manshad/Flickr

Raining in Doha

Updated at 9pm to include the number of ambulance calls

Qatar’s prime minister has ordered an investigation into why a seasonal storm caused so much chaos across the country today, QNA reports.

This evening, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani instructed authorities to bring the companies behind the country’s “flawed projects” before the public prosecutor.

The investigation will include at least five companies, but a spokesperson for Qatar’s Government Communication Office told Doha News that the firms in question would not be identified at this time.

According to a statement on the news agency:

“Parties responsible for dereliction or negligence, whether governmental or private, will be held accountable. All concerned bodies and companies that implemented the projects, which the current rains and the weather conditions have revealed their flaws, must be referred to investigation and then to the Public Prosecution.”

Hard-hit

Though heavy rain has been in the forecast for about a week, many were unprepared for the scale of the flooding and damage caused, which prompted several schools and malls across the country to close temporarily.

Hamad Medical Corp. paramedics responded to 250 emergency calls and road traffic collisions between 6am and 3pm. That’s 50 more than the previous day, the health care authority said in a statement.

According to a meteorologist at Al Jazeera English, Doha was hit with a year’s worth of rain in nine hours. School is expected to resume on Thursday, though Qatar is forecast to get one more day of rain before the weather clears up in time for the weekend.

Flooding near Ramada signal

Via Adam Ezequiel So

Flooding near Ramada signal

Storms have deposited between 20-30mm of rain over many areas in and around Doha, according to Qatar’s Meteorology Department (MET).

The area around Hamad International Airport was hit the hardest, receiving more than 80mm of rain from mid-Tuesday to noon today.

The multibillion-dollar airport, which opened last year, was one of many buildings across the country that failed to hold up to the storm, with reports of water raining down into the passenger terminal this morning:

Other incidents also involved newly built or recently renovated structures, such as water seeping into the Sheraton Hotel and a section of ceiling collapsing inside Ezdan Mall.

The widespread damage prompted some residents to question building and construction standards in Qatar.

Stuck in the rain

Katie Reeves

Stuck in the rain

Speaking to Doha News today, Al Sharq journalist Ahmed Al Mohannadi said that heavy rain shouldn’t paralyze the country.

He said although Qatar has new buildings and the MET can predict weather changes beforehand, construction standards, drainage systems and emergency response continue to be a problem.

“We don’t learn from our previous mistakes,” he said, adding that more people needed to be held accountable for the problems caused by the rain.

Salwa Road flooding

The prime minister has ordered similar investigations in the past, including into the March 2014 flooding of a Salwa Road underpass following heavy rainfall.

Flooding of Salwa Road underpasses in March 2014.

Razy K Salam

Flooding of Salwa Road underpasses in March 2014.

Eventually, a committee found that incident was caused by the lack of an outlet for the road’s drains, a fact that Ashghal itself also disclosed.

In a report, the panel made several recommendations aimed at preventing similar incidents in the future. These included setting up a permanent emergency and crisis management system at Ashghal and establishing a new system to monitor how well the sewage network is coping during periods of heavy rain.

It’s not known if Ashghal implemented these recommendations or, if it did, what impact the new systems had during today’s storm.

It does appear, however, that the drains on Salwa Road have since been connected:

As the investigation opens, Qatar’s Ministry of Municipality appears to be working overtime to sop up the mess on the roads:

Thoughts?