Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Escape Riyadh, for Jeddah has Drowned | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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“Escape Zaid, for Said has been destroyed.” This is a proverb that could be applied to the cities of Saudi Arabia after Jeddah found itself beset by floods which resulted in a number of deaths, and at the time we could have told the Saudi capital “Escape Riyadh, for Jeddah has drowned.” After the flooding of Jeddah, we believed that its sister cities were safe from suffering a similar fate as “Jeddah is different” and because what happened there was caused by a number of mistakes made by certain parties, and it was these exceptional circumstances that resulted in the city being flooded.

The Saudi capital Riyadh suffered flooding [as a result of heavy rainfall] a few days ago, and this has woken us up to the reality that all Saudi cities are at risk. Most Saudi cities – if not all of them – lack the infrastructure necessary to deal with flooding, and the Mayor of Riyadh said what others could not, namely that the budget is the reason for this. This is because what was issued by the Ministry of Finance represents no more than 16 percent of what is needed by Riyadh, as a result of this approximately 70 percent of the neighborhoods in Riyadh’s lie outside of the drainage system. If this is the case of the capital city’s dealings with the Ministry of Finance, what is the state of the other cities? Will the Ministry of Finance, or one of its officials, take the initiative and issue a statement about the budget for the capital Riyadh, in the same manner as what happened during the Jeddah disaster?

These recurring catastrophes that effects our cities calls for reorganizing relations between the Ministry of Finance and the city municipalities in light of realistic studies appealed for by both parties, for the theory of “paternalism” does not extend to this, for the Ministry of Finance becomes like the most tight-fisted father towards the interests and needs of his children. After the flooding reached its climax, even the capital city Riyadh was not spared, which over the years has come to represent the best and most beautiful model for modern cities. This has resulted in the problem of water drainage in our most prominent cities as being the most important of duties, especially in light of the climactic changes that are sweeping the planet, and which scientists are warning us of.

We must race against time and do everything that we can, for in light of the repeated warnings of scientists nothing should take precedence over the safety of our cities and their populations, and their many achievements.