x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Plans to build dam to protect Jeddah from floods

The municipality plans to build a new dam to protect the eastern part of the city from the possible collapse of two other dams.

JEDDAH // The Jeddah municipality plans to build a new dam to protect the eastern part of the city from the possible collapse of two other dams that hold back a sewage lake after environmentalists warned that the lake poses a major threat in a place where at least 113 people died in recent floods. Concerns about the sewage lake, which holds between 12 and 17 million cubic metres of waste water, have mounted in the last few days as weather forecasts predicted Jeddah might see rain this week as heavy as the rain that fell on November 25 and caused floods that destroyed around 6,488 homes, wiped out bridges and killed dozens.

Ali Eshiqi, a professor of enviornomental science at Jeddah-based King Abdul Aziz University, told Alwatan newspaper on Friday that the sewage lake in Jeddah is a potential threat for the city as water was leaking out of the dams that protect it after water level rose in recent years. "For 10 years I was warning from the lake but no mayor was giving me any attention," he added. Prof Eshiqi said the heavy rainfall in Jeddah might contributes to the collapse of the precautionary dam that was built next to it.

According to the municipality, the new dam will be 160 metres in length and 25m wide and 3 meters high, and there is a 1.7 km sand barrier that is closely monitored by the municipality for emergency cases. The municipality has tried to keep to a minimum the dumping of sewage into the lake. Another 230m high precautionary dam was built 12km away from the city to block the water from the lake in case the barrier breaks.

The presidency of the meteorology and environment issued a statement carried by the state news agency, SPA, that warned rescue forces in Jeddah about possible heavy rainfall in the city this week. As the city prepares to face another rainstorm, the committee that Saudi King Abdullah assembled to investigate factors that might have contributed to the floods' destructiveness and to probe any corruption that led to a mishandling of the crisis, began its work yesterday.

A group of 54 residents of Jeddah, including judges, university professors and scholars, issued a unified statement to the committee yesterday attributing the causes of the floods to corruption in local authorities. "Among the reasons of the crisis [the floods] is the poor city planning in Jeddah in many areas such as floods and sewage drainage plus corruption and the waste of public money that it involves which result in the loss of resident's rights," the statement that was carried by local media said.

The group in the statement asked the committee, which is headed by the governor of Mecca, Prince Khalid al Faisal, and includes top state officials, to announce the results of the investigation to the public. However, Alwatan quoted an anonymous source yesterday saying that there will be no public announcements on the findings as they will be only presented to the king who solely has the authority to put officials on trial or announce the results.

The director of disaster management at the civil defence, Brig Muhammad al Qarni, told local media that the committees formed to find housing for the flood victims has provided aid and shelter to over 20,000 people. wmahdi@thenational.ae