Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat – The Jeddah municipality has been instructed by the senior government to remove Misk Lake in eastern Jeddah, entirely draining it within a year, as well as restoring the floodplain in Jeddah, even if this includes removing the residential neighbourhoods that have sprung up along there, such as the Safa and Al Samir 3 neighbourhoods.
Engineer Ibrahim Ketabkhane, the Jeddah undersecretary for projects and reconstruction, informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the Jeddah municipality plans to restore the Jeddah floodplain [safety area for excess rain water to collect], either by removing the residential neighbourhoods that have sprung up in this area, or by constructing water catchments in eastern Jeddah that connect directly to the water ducts that flow into the sea.
Ketabkhane confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that following guidance from the Governor of Mecca, Prince Khalid al Faisal, Misk [sewage] lake will be drained throughout the year, with this water being sent to the eight evaporation lakes [plants] near the sewage lake. Sewage will no longer be pumped into this lake, and it will be turned into a tertiary treatment plant. Misk Lake previously saw its storage capacity increase from 30 thousand cubic meters to 60 thousand cubic meters at the beginning of the month.
He also pointed out that “the amount of water flowing into the treatment lake is around 50 thousand cubic meters, with the remaining capacity of water in Lake Misk reaching 10 thousand cubic meters.”
Ketabkhane also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the plan also includes the construction of water transport lines, with water being pumped into the southern channel [of the floodplain] which flows into the sea.”
Ketabkhane said that during the previous period these procedures contributed to reducing the water levels [of the lake] by around 25 percent, but that the rainfall experienced by Jeddah during the previous period led to the water levels rising by around 2 meters.
Undersecretary Ibrahim Ketabkhane also revealed that the Safa and Al Samir 3 residential neighbourhoods are among the areas that exist on the floodplain, which puts them in danger in the event of heavy rainfall.
He added that “the cost of the Jeddah projects to drain rainfall stands at around 2.2 billion riyals, with the drainage projects in the Abhar region costing a remaining 3 billion riyals. However the total Ministry of Finance budget for these projects has yet to be utilized so far.”
Ketabkhane also told Asharq Al-Awsat that a study commissioned by the Jeddah municipality on how to address the floods, came up with solutions that include removing the residential neighbourhoods that are built upon the floodplain, as well as building water catchments in eastern Jeddah to collect rainfall and transport it directly into the sea via the water ducts.
The Committee of Inquiry, formed by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, which is headed by Mecca Governor Prince Khalid al Faisal met for the first time on Saturday to discuss the Jeddah flood and its repercussions. Prince Khalid al Faisal said that procedures and developments have been initiated [to combat this], along with the formation of committees and the implementation of programs.
The Media Director of the Jeddah municipality, Ahmed al Ghamdi, confirmed that the situation with regards to Misk Lake is reassuring, and that the municipality is working to strengthen the protective dam.
Al Ghamdi told Asharq Al-Awsat, “The water level in the lake has fallen by 5 meters, and now stands at around 10 meters, in light of the precautionary operations to drain water from the lake, with 45 thousand cubic meters being drained per day into the sea via the southern [floodplain] channel.”
He also recalled that the creation of the evaporation lakes [plants] were also part of the precautionary program to reduce pressure on the dam, along with the installation of more than 20 water pumps. Al Ghamdi said that work is ongoing to cover the floodplain – that stretches around 16 km – in concrete, and this operation will be completed within six weeks.
The death toll of the Jeddah floods stands at 113, but 48 people have been reported missing, and search and rescue teams continue to search the area. The Saudi Presidency of Meteorology and Environment also announced that a thunderstorm is expected to hit Jeddah [later in the week] accompanied by surface winds of up to 45km per hour.
Director of the Jeddah Civil Defence Media Centre, Brigadier General Mohamed al-Qarni said that with the absence of new rainfall in Jeddah [until now], the situation is encouraging, and the water level of Misk Lake is not expected to increase.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the operation of draining the lake’s water into the sea has begun under the direction of Jeddah Governor Prince Mishaal Bin Majed, and that this [operation] is fully active. However al Qarni added that this project has encountered obstacles, but these will be resolved within the next few days.
He added “the water drainage of the main lake is taking place in the same way except for the existence of a scientific mechanism and team to develop solutions in the context of building a third precautionary dam.”