Above the law

2 Jun, '05

What’s the future like for our children in Bahrain when 95% of the land are in private hands. How did a country as tiny as Bahrain end up in a situation where a few individuals own the vast majority of the land mass? How did that happen?

How it happened is quite well known to us Bahrainis who have heard horror stories since we were toddlers of some “higher ups” touring the country in a pickup truck with a few Indians at the back and rolls of barbed wire. When that person spies a parcel of land which takes his fancy, he instructs the his Indians to hop off and start surrounding that plot of barbed wire.

There are also the other stories of another one of those higher ups colloquially called Mr. 3 bricks, because he’s a bit more advanced than the pickup guy where he builds a three brick high fence around the plots he “takes.”

This is mostly how Bahrain was divided into an almost medieval landscape; large plots of land which have been apportioned unfairly, then goes through some sort of sectioning and offered up for sale, hence the seller – who doesn’t legally own that land in the first place – becomes upwards of tens of millions of Dinars richer. And off they move to another “unclaimed” land.

How else did Tubli Bay get raped? It was at some point over 25 square kilometers of the most fertile fish and prawn grounds. Now its filled with sewage AND its reduced in size to between 11 – 13 square kilometers, and other than supporting a few stray flamingos, I doubt that any other fish than the hardiest (and uneatable) could survive there. How did it reduce in size though? The same “technique” as the ones described above. This time however, they dredge, fill-in, section and sell. Disregarding the hundreds of families’ livelihood gained from fishing, or the rich environment of that area.

And they move on.

A few weeks ago, the press reported that one of the “big hamours*” had sold THE SEA to the North of the main island, an area of several tens of kilometers to private investors. The figure gained? The rumour has it pegged at upwards of US$ TWO BILLION.

Is it then strange that we see another “up and coming hamour” trying a fast one on Malkiya’s coast? One that doesn’t give a shit about direct and repeated orders from the municipality and the ministry to stop building a wall that would cut off a whole village from the sea on which they depend for their daily lives and entertainment?

The wall being built in spite of clear laws and government warnings

The wall being built in spite of clear laws and government warnings

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  1. kategirl says:

    Above the law

    Also, the government allegedly gives away land to favoured individuals and then buys it back from them: [url=http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/1yr_arc_Articles.asp?Article=113518&Sn=BNEW&IssueID=28073]Free land for VIPs a scandal says MP[/url]

  2. 7alaylia says:

    Above the law

    I do not know that much about Bahrain. Are there taxes of any sort? I have heard it claimed that the reason that the governments in the Gulf give so little and care so little about their people’s is that they do not rely on them for the monies to conduct day to day business. “Why should the leaders be accountable when the people they lead play very little role in the financing of the state?”

    If the resources and money were in the hands of the people, in real terms, not a “state owned”(read family owned) companies, then the leaders would be directly accountable to the people for how they spend the money and what they do with it.

  3. anonymous says:

    Above the law

    Shame on you Mahmood !!! You mentioned Indians in your story very big no no. I wrote a letter
    that was published in the GDN 6 months ago regarding garbage dumping at tubli and the people I have personnaly caught and turned into the police. I stated the facts that there were 126 people 123 were indians. I asked Bahrainis how this could be allowed to happen foriegners came and wreck this country. People replied and attacked me saying they were poorly paid labourers leave them alone, I am sorry mahmood there is no excuse for this. As my senior Bahraini advisor told me ” You want to turn a first world country into a third world country fill it with third world people. It is sad to say this has been done to Bahrain which cultural identity was lost years ago. As the garbage dumpers repeatedly said to me we do this in india no problem.

  4. mahmood says:

    Re: Above the law

    I never understood the logic of this. Why not just give them money from the treasury and be done with it? Unless of course the intention is for the “people” to give that dignitary money through him selling parcels of that land he’s been given, or if it is as the MP is saying for the government to find a reason to hide the bribe?

    Let me explain that again:

    Situation: Time to reward Mr. X
    Government gives Mr. X land
    Government “suddenly finds out that, “oh, we actually NEED that land, like uh, NOW, so we got to buy it!”
    Government: Mr. X, would you please sell that land to us?
    Mr. X: How much are you offering?
    Government: BD Y per square foot.
    Mr. X: No way! I’ve already gotten SOLID offers for BD Y + Z. If you offer me BD Y + Z + another piece of land as compensation, I’ll sell.
    Government: Oh alright then.

    Situation: Time to reward Mr. X
    Government gives Mr. X land
    Mr X goes to the Ministry of Housing’s Planning department to section the land into parcels, assign roads, services etc and allows him to section it to 40 plots, and gives him the permission to sell the land as housing category A, B or C depending on the zone that land is in.
    Mr X sells all the plots in a couple of days to people like you and me, schmucks desperate for a plot to build on or keep for the children, forget something about investment, we just don’t think like that.
    Mr X goes to the bank with a truckful of suitcases, filled with your money and mine, while we spend the next 15 – 25 years paying off the loan.

    Do you think this should stop?

    I wonder how other countries in the Gulf treat this “reward” situation and whether it is limited to certain individuals or is it more freely available to their own citizens?

  5. anonymous says:

    Above the law

    That wall is appalling. What an awful act of vandalism. I hope the local villagers come with bulldozers during the night and smash it down. People should never be fenced off from the ocean.


  6. anonymous says:

    Re: Above the law

    We hear more or less of the same horror stories in Oman as well. *sigh* You’ve pretty much said it all, so no need for me to repeat it. I’ll just nod my head 🙂

    That wall is an ecological atrocity. I second the notion to tear it down, but I’d like it done in broad daylight, bot in the middle of the night. Things like this make me so angry. i really hope the villagers take a stand.


  7. anonymous says:

    Above the law

    what no E.I. R. Environmental Impact Report?? No public hearings so the public will have input??

  8. sagnutty says:

    Above the law

    Every time I return to Bahrain and visit I am amazed and shocked at how much land reclamation has taken place. I remember just a few years ago when the ocean was literally all the way to where the Seef Mall now sits. Even the land by and around the Old Fort is slowly being reclaimed by man all to the detriment of the environment and the local populus.

    Personally I would rather see the Souk get a big face lift myself and the time energy and money put into maximizing current used space instead of this somewhat reckless practice. Of course opening up the bottom half of the Island would help.

  9. 7alaylia says:

    Above the law

    Must be a Gulf thing. I have heard my wife’s family talking about the same thing happening in Saudi Arabia.

  10. sagnutty says:

    Above the law

    The Gulf in general is pretty shallow and in even at high tide one can walk out in the water a long way before it is even waist high. At low tide parts of the Island seem to grow and grow and lots of “sand bars” pop up till you can literally walk out and inspect the fish traps and boats that 30 mins prior where floating and now are “beached”. So the reclamation that I am talking about isn’t in deep water. Still, your right. The ocean tends to take back what is hers. Thankfully the Gulf is not a violent body of water and the region isn’t a hot zone for earthquakes. You wouldn’t believe how fast buildings go up in Bahrain Ethan. I would say construction is twice as fast as in the US. Once work starts BANG the building seems to be up in no time. Sad to see in my eyes an area that was once ocean, beach or a shallow tidal basin now have a Quasi Sky Scraper on it. Still the growth is impressive at the same time.

  11. 7alaylia says:

    Re(2): Above the law

    I believe there has been some pretty spectacular flooding throughout the years as well in the Netherlands. This is a serious issue in many places in the Gulf. Look at Dubai and how much of this type of thing they are doing. You cannot sell your hotel rooms for $800+ a night if the first floor or two is underwater.

  12. Steelangel says:

    Re: Above the law

    I have my PhD in Physics, not Civil Engineering, however, this made me think of something from my youth.

    A small college near the city I grew up in was built upon a reclaimed swampland. It was an artistic and archetectural marvel of its time (the late 1960s) and still stands today as a unique and very ‘modern’ campus.

    However, it sinks about a quarter inch a year into the swampland. The reclaimation efforts weren’t as good as hoped.

    If the Gulf is that shallow, i can only imagine what type of sinking may be happening right now to some of those buildings. He who builds his house on sand, and all that!

  13. chalk66x says:

    Re(2): Above the law

    My dad lives in SW Florida. What they did there was dig 400+ miles of canals and fill in swamp land. The land is stable but they are still only a few feet above sea level. With global warming I dont expect any of the grandkids to inherate the place.


  14. anonymous says:

    Re(1): Above the law

    Reclaimed land isn’t necessary a disaster waiting to happen. It depends how well it’s been done. After all, a large part of the Netherlands is reclaimed and so is a lot of land on the east coast of England (using imported Dutch engineers). Although eventually these will go back to the ocean (especially as sea levels rise), they’ve survived for hundreds of years so far. It can be done successfully, provided that it’s done properly.

  15. Steelangel says:

    Re(2): Above the law

    [quote]After all, a large part of the Netherlands is reclaimed and so is a lot of land on the east coast of England (using imported Dutch engineers).[/quote]

    As Malik said, there have been some rather amazing floods running through the Netherlands. There’s a bit of truth behind that ‘kid with this finger in the dyke’ legend! Luckily for the Dutch, most of the below-sea-level areas are not heavily populated, or used for enormous civil projects. If the same care is not taken in Bahrain, there could be nasty problems.

  16. GB says:

    Above the law

    When I visited Bahrain for the first time after about 10 years the sea coast was unrecognisable, they’ve literally doubled the land mass and took away so much of the character of the natural beach. There are massive projects and Bahrain was almost unrecognisable after that period of time, shame it’s politics are still stuck in a rut somehow.

  17. Steelangel says:

    Re: Above the law

    I’m more worried that all of this land reclaimation will be for naught. There are many cities who are slowly but surely sinking into the ocean because of badly reclaimed land. Nature takes back what is hers – and if half of future Bahrain sinks into the sea, that’s not going to be pretty, for the politicians, businesses or people.

  18. chalk66x says:

    Above the law

    In Kailua-Kona north of me, the county commission allowed a developer to start a project. They built a bypass road to relieve traffic and complied with all the rules like protecting Hawaiian ruins and graves. Turns out that the county didnt play by all the rules as far as enviromental impact studies etc. Now the developer is suing for the money they have spent. Looks like the county is going to be out 100+ million and that beautifull road is sitting unused. But the EIS worked.

  19. fekete says:

    Above the law

    i dont think this is a question of reclamation. more a question of whether there is a legal mandate that exists behind the sectioning off … and if none exists, then the establishment has just given some great ammunition to al wifaq .. i read in the paper today that they have a meeting to discuss this issue this evening?

    power to the malkiya residents though ..

  20. anonymous says:

    إضافة إلى الأرض… 150 مترا داخل البحر
    السيد سلمان: ساحل المالكية ملك لأمراء خليجيين ووزراء بحرينيين

    قال عضو المجلس البلدي أمير السيد سلمان لوزير شئون البلديات ان الساحل الموجود حاليا في المالكية هو ملك لأحد رؤساء الدول الخليجية بعد أن وهب له، والذي تمتد ملكيته لداخل البحر نحو 150 مترا.
    كما أكد السيد سلمان أن الساحل كله مستملك، فمن الشمال وزع الساحل على كل من باني “جدار العزل” Ùˆ احد الأمراء السعوديين، واحد وزراء المملكة الحاليين، ومن الجنوب بعد “جدار العزل” مباشرة فهو ملك لأحد رؤساء الدول الخليجية، وبعده ملك لأمير سعودي، ومن ثم ملك لأحد أفراد العائلة الحاكمة.
    وأشار السيد سلمان إلى أن المالكية لا تريد أن يصبح وضعها كما حدث لأهالي قرية صدد التي منعت الآن نهائيا من رؤية ساحلها بعد أن استملك بشكل نهائي، بعد أن أغلق الطريق الوحيد المؤدي إلى الساحل، وبذلك يصبح الساحل المستملك ممتدا من نهاية مرفأ كرزكان وحتى قرية الزلاق بشكل متصل من دون تقطع. ورأى السيد سلمان أن المرفأ الذي وعد الأهالي به قد يبنى في مساحة بحرية تردم في المستقبل بعد ملك الأمير الخليجي، مؤكدا رفض الأهالي لهذا المقترح الذي سيهدد الحياة البحرية في المنطقة بعد ان تردم كلها، مطالبا بان يكون المرفأ المزمع إقامته مكان الجدار وفي المساحة المردومة الآن، وحماية الساحل وما تبقى منه.

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