I grew up in the emirate of Sharjah and the first few years were blissful. I stayed along the Buhaira Corniche and it was quite certainly the place to be. But as the city grew, so did its woes. Roads built in the 90s weren’t updated to accommodate the burgeoning population flooding in from the high rents of Dubai. What now remains is a tangled mess of decades old roads and extremely poor urban planning that leaves residents stressed, angry and frustrated. Much of Sharjah’s infrastructure has gone into making a second corniche, Al Qasba Canal, book fairs and heritage sites. All these additions may have setup Sharjah as the premier place for learning, education and cultural growth but where may I ask is the growth of infrastructure. The buildings got taller, cars quadrupled, barren lands became parking lots but the roads remained the same. The foresight was clearly lacking and today the residents of Sharjah are facing the brunt. With a lackluster public transportation service and limited investments by the government to improve accessibility Sharjah is no longer the beautiful heritage city, it hoped to be. What remains is a city aiming to be Tokyo and Mumbai with small lanes and impossible access.

Now comes the second part of the problem. Urban planning definitely failed in Sharjah. But what also failed is SEWA – Sharjah Electricity & Water Authority. If urban planning wasn’t upto the job, the electricity board clearly should have. They saw the increase, they had the tools to monitor it and knew the changes that had to be made. But they just sat there, waiting for it to come tumbling down. And it did. In 2009, Sharjah underwent the biggest power cuts known to the city. But a year down the line, nothing major has changed. The industrial areas have now seen a 60hr blackout. Banks across the major financial districts in the emirate were completely shut yesterday bringing transactions to a halt. People were left to cool themselves in cars burning fossil fuels that are only harming the environment and increasing pollution due to stagnation. Residents must climb the many stories of their towers to get in to their apartments. Streets are choked, supermarkets closed, banks closed, industries making losses, residents distressed. Is this not a perfect time for anarchy and pandemonium? Thank you SEWA, for single-handedly bringing down a city and its reputation. But amidst all this, people are still resilient as they have nowhere to turn to. All they want to see is a silver lining of hope. But all that SEWA gives back to them is unanswered phone calls and an explanation that states these are ‘ordinary cuts’. I think if the good people of SEWA had to sleep in the sweltering heat, look into the eyes of the people who are losing work, perhaps we would have electricity in the next hour. But to them these are ‘ordinary cuts’ and not giving people hope is the best solution to a problem that has already degraded beyond worse.

I know that like many of the posts in the GulfNews, Khaleej Times and TheNational, my words will probably fall on deaf ears and guilt-free hearts. However, somebody had to say it. Sharjah, you were great once and your roundabout near Gold Souq beckoned me with the evergreen statement ‘Smile, You’re in Sharjah’. Today, however even the cries don’t affect you.

(Image courtesy: Gulf News)