x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 December 2017

Developments 'eating away' at Bahrain's public beaches

Reclamation projects in the island state do not serve the public good, opposition MPs argue

The MPs Jawad Fairooz, left, and Sayyed Maki al Wedai object to land reclamation projects such as the Nurana project, background.
The MPs Jawad Fairooz, left, and Sayyed Maki al Wedai object to land reclamation projects such as the Nurana project, background.

MANAMA // Bahraini opposition MPs warned yesterday that the island's limited public sea-front could fall below its current minuscule proportion and that the northern governorate - where the majority of the population live - could have no public sea-front at all, as two of the controversial land reclamation projects are set to begin just off the coast of the capital.

Public beaches make up only 3.5 per cent of the entire Bahraini coastline. The two projects, coupled with another major land reclamation project known as the Northern City, where some 11 artificial islands are being created for housing, virtually seals the sea from remaining coastal fishing villages, according to the opposition MPs. The MPs say the developers have not obtained all the necessary approval, and despite an official ban on carrying out any work until the controversy had been resolved, one of them began reclaiming land closer to the shoreline than had been proposed.

One of the controversial developments, the Nurana project, which is owned by NS Holdings and being developed by Manara Developments, obtained environmental approvals from the government for its US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) project, according to a statement released by Manara. The two million square-metre project, which is 60 per cent residential and 40 per cent commercial, is located off the coast of Karanah village.

The other project which the MPs had raised concerns about is known as Seef Marina. "It is obvious that there is no public benefit to the two projects," Jawad Fairooz, an Al Wefaq MP, said following a tour with journalists of the construction sites. "The municipal council had not approved these two projects and in addition to being harmful to the residences and the environment, the projects will not inject any income into the country's budget," he said.

Mr Fairooz, who heads the public facilities committee in the parliament, said it would not hesitate to question all those involved or had turned a blind eye if no immediate action was taken by the government to suspend the projects. Fellow Al Wefaq MP Sayyed Maki al Wedai, who represents the coastal area where the project is located, said that they oppose the project because of what he described as a flagrant disregard of the governing laws and the dangers it represented to local residents and their livelihood.

"This is an area which had seen no development; there are no schools beyond the elementary one, no health care services, no residential services, no road network development, and on top of that they wish to take their livelihood. It is unacceptable," Mr al Wedai, who is part of the legislative committee in the parliament, said. However, the director of general urban planning at the ministry of municipality and agriculture, Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, denied that any of the projects were flouting offical guidelines.

"The Seef Marina project is in the initial stages of planning and study. The project has not been presented to the northern municipal council yet because all the projects of such a nature are studied at the national level before they are even considered for approval by the government," Sheikh Al Khalifa said. "It's not true that four million square metres of sea had been reclaimed for [private developments] outside the country's structural strategic plan. I am aware that the [Wefaq] MP has the best of intentions for the public when raising these issues, but he had based his comments on inaccurate details."

Sheikh Al Khalifa also dismissed claims that the two projects would limit the public access to the sea-front. "Fifty per cent of the sea-front area of each project, if not more, [will be] open to the public," Mr al Khalifa said. @Email:mmahdi@thenational.ae