Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Jeddah! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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I have simply named this article ‘Jeddah’ because one finds oneself [caught] been two positions; either to write in a lamenting manner, which is not helpful, or to write a justification, which is not appropriate. There are those who say that Jeddah’s problem lies in the people who wanted cheap land, but what do we say about those who were given land in the areas affected [by the flooding]?

What Jeddah needs today is strict accountability of those responsible for the neglect, and a speedy completion of what needs to be done to ensure that the Jeddah tragedy that resulted from this rainfall is not repeated. When we say accountability, we must recognize that the safety precautions [in Jeddah] are almost non-existent, and these are imperative, and not a luxury. There must also be a direct review of the built-up areas that are present on the floodplain, as well as the necessity of completing a sanitation project.

When we say accountability there must [also] be a re-evaluation of the achievements of the projects in Jeddah, and the extent of their safety, as well as their compliance with safety procedures, whether these are residential buildings or educational structures or others, with those found [to be responsible for] negligence in this regard being exposed and held accountable. It is true that all countries experience rainfall and that natural disasters do occur, but what happened in Jeddah was the result of the city not being able to handle just a few hours of rain. This rain could have been an Eid gift for the people of Jeddah, but instead it came to be described as a disaster. One of the priority issues that must be addressed today is, for example, what is known as “Misk Lake” which does not take after its name [meaning Musk Lake]; why was this issue not dealt with directly prior to this disaster that affected the city and the people?

For those who do not know Jeddah, the city today is a workshop; but as I said just a few hours of rain revealed what was hidden, and the reason for this was the absence of safety procedures and the many long years of neglect, which resulted in the flood corridors being disregarded and suddenly being transformed into residential neighbourhoods. However, as the ancient proverb goes, the flood knows its course, and it is therefore essential that there is a clear and integrated project to ensure the safety of the city and people [of Jeddah].

We are writing about Jeddah because it is one of the beautiful gateways of Saudi Arabia, and one of the most beautiful things about Jeddah is that it is universally loved. The people of Jeddah are not jealous of those who come [to the city] from outside, as the Bride of the Sea – as Jeddah is known in Saudi Arabia – is a home to the people of Riyadh, Mecca, Medina, and Al Qassim. Jeddah is [also] a home to people from the north and the south [of Saudi Arabia], and even the people from the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia are greeted in Jeddah as family. It is true that every Saudi Arabian has special feelings of nostalgia towards their own city or village, but according to those who love Jeddah, the city is the ultimate example of this. Jeddah is a haven, and therefore we care about it, and we are emotional when dealing with its issues, and above all else, we care for the safety of its people. What happened in Jeddah was sad, but Jeddah does not benefit from the assigning of blame or justifications…what is more important is to quickly address the urgent needs of the city, the most important of which is accountability and proceeding quickly to address old mistakes.

After Price Khalid al Faisal was appointed [governor] in Mecca, he held a council in which he heard the list of concerns with regards to the city of Jeddah. The Prince replied to this saying, “You want me to address the problems of fifty years in five months?” The Prince had every right to say this, however we [now] say that he must move immediately to implement the plans that he supervised following his appointment, as well as hold those who neglected [Jeddah] accountable.

Happy Eid to you all.