For the last one and a half years now, the Dubai abra operators have been left without a place to park their abras for the night.
"There is no place for me to park my abra at night after I am done driving it for the day," said Dilawar Ali of Bangladesh, who has been operating an abra on the Dubai Creek for 15 years.
"Every night I face a lot of problems as I look for an appropriate place to park the boat where I can leave it safe for the night."
One and a half years back, the abra operators were allowed to park their abras against the wharf on the Bur Dubai side of the creek. But that place has been declared off limits for them without providing an alternative.
"For decades we had parked our abras against this wharf and had never been forbidden by the authorities to do so. But 18 months ago we were told not to park our abras here without being given some other parking place," said Khalid Ali of Iran, an abra operator for the last 22 years.
The parking place on the wharf that had been declared off limits for the abras was given over to private boats owners and dhow tour operators.
"Most of the dhow tour operators offering dinner cruises on the Dubai creek have taken over our parking space along with private boat owners. That is highly unfair," complained Varun Rao of India.
"People who own boats are rich and can afford to pay to park their boats at some other wharf. What about poor people like us who cannot go anywhere else? Neither can we afford to pay to park our vessels at some other wharf," Rao said.
The only option left with the abra operators is to park their abras against the docking stations. Every night dozens of abras are packed against each other like sardines at various docking stations. This alternative is not without its problems too.
"All the abras are parked against the docking station in a big cluster," explained Pradeep Jha of India.
"If an abra operator wants to start work early in the morning, he can't do so until the abras parked behind his vessel are removed. Due to this work cannot be started until most of the abra operators arrive," he pointed out.
Also leaving an abra parked at a place other than a wharf can lead to accidents. The changing tides of water and the different speeds of the blowing winds can cause serious accidents if a boat is not tied up to a proper wharf.
"There have been many cases in which the parked abras were damaged when they collided with one another due to strong winds and water currents. A few were nearly submerged too," said Yaar Muhammad of Pakistan. "Due to this nobody is comfortable leaving their abra unattended in the night.""My partner and I take turns in being on our abra 24 hours a day now. We simply can't tie it up and leave it unattended at night. We take turns to stay on our abra throughout the night. Many other abra operators do the same. It's tough but what else can we do?" asked Rowshan Mehrdad of Iran.
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