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Qatar building booms on with bridges project
File - Bulldozers operate on a road under construction near Doha Towers June 25, 2013. (REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous)
File - Bulldozers operate on a road under construction near Doha Towers June 25, 2013. (REUTERS/Mohammed Dabbous)
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DOHA: Qatar announced one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects Monday, comprising three bridges interconnected by subsea tunnels, to be completed before the World Cup football finals in 2022.

The Sharq crossing project will include three bridges spanning between 600 meters and 1,310 meters, which will link Doha’s new Hamad International Airport with the city’s cultural district of Katara and the central business area of West Bay.

“Construction of the project will start in 2015 and completion will be by 2021,” Nasser Ali al-Mawlawi, the president of Qatar’s Public Works Authority, Ashghal, told reporters at a news conference.

No value was given for the project.

The tiny, gas-rich country plans to spend as much as $140 billion on infrastructure projects, including a new airport, stadiums, roads and railways, as it prepares to host the World Cup tournament.

It awarded contracts worth $8.2 billion in June to international and local contractors for the construction of phase one of the Doha Metro project.

Mawlawi said in an interview with Reuters that Ashghal planned to spend more than 100 billion riyals ($27 billion) on projects in the coming years.

“The project that was unveiled today will be paid for by the government of Qatar,” he added.

The bridges on the Sharq project were designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and inspired by the image of flying fish, Ashghal said in a statement. One of the bridges will have a two-deck structure incorporating a recreational park accessible via an elevated walkway and a funicular railway.

Asked if Ashghal was behind schedule in delivering projects for the World Cup, Mawlawi said there were no delays and downplayed challenges in completing projects on time.

Faced with the challenge of completing big construction and infrastructure projects before the World Cup, the Gulf state has an increasing number of its estimated 1.8 million foreigners working on projects related to the event.

In recent months Qatar came under attack from the international community as reports of labor rights abuses surfaced. Mawlawi said the issue was being taken very seriously.

“In Qatar we have very fair labor laws and I think it’s the responsibility of Ashghal to insure that these labor laws are being implemented by the contractors,” he said.

Under the current system, employees cannot change jobs or leave the country without the permission of their sponsors, who are often rich Qataris who provide workers to businesses for personal profit or labor supply companies.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 17, 2013, on page 5.
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