Saudis have had enough of false promises
By: Khaled Almaeena
Recent newspaper reports have focused on the tragic deaths of a father and son who both fell into an uncovered manhole in the Saudi city of Jeddah.
The incident has caused great alarm and has opened the wounds of similar distressing accidents that have occurred in the city of Jeddah which have reminded its citizens of the continuing danger of the city’s unfinished sewage project that seems to linger on indefinitely. Meanwhile, some Jeddah residents have expressed their willingness to provide manhole covers to the Municipality in order avoid future accidents. I don’t know if the Jeddah Municipality which is embroiled in arguments with the National Water Company has taken up the offer.
The dangers of exposed manholes, incomplete drainage canals and manmade craters continue to threaten the lives of Jeddah’s residents. There is literally no area that does not have this problem.
The Municipality has failed to provide even the basic services to residents due to the incompetence of unskilled labor, unsupervised work, the neglect and complacency of city officials, inefficient strategies and plans as well as the unethical and indifferent behavior of those given the task to deliver. Indeed, the fact remains that this danger to the public is the result of a lack of professionalism, mismanagement and total disregard of basic safety measures and procedures.
The dangers of exposed manholes, incomplete drainage canals and manmade craters continue to threaten the lives of Jeddah’s residents
To all officials we say: We are not interested in hearing justifications or listening to the blame game between different government departments. Jeddah’s residents need immediate solutions and quick results that can save the lives of innocent pedestrians and children. No official can absolve himself of the responsibility for the death of innocent people.
We constantly hear of mega-billion riyal projects, huge budgets and rosy promises, but year after year, we see no results and the threat to our safety lingers on with no serious commitment to end the problem once and for all.
It is heartbreaking to drive through the city of Jeddah and see districts like Al-Faisaliyah with gutted roads or al-Sharafiyah which was once a beautiful neighborhood stretching from the old airport to Madinah road now destroyed by overflowing sewage, littered garbage, potholes, hanging electric wires and the list goes on. As for South Jeddah, the less said the better. Alas Jeddah which was once called the Bride of the Red Sea has now become a huge slum. Compared to Gulf cities, Jeddah is shabby and run-down.
Meanwhile, the Municipality has also failed to enforce construction rules and regulations and has yet to apply standards in its urban planning. Contractors continue to block half the city’s streets with cement, sand and gravel. When they finally leave a construction site, the area is littered with debris, broken pipes and steel objects that damage the roads in almost all residential districts in Jeddah. All this is happening while Municipal inspectors are busy going after fruit and vegetable vendors on the streets and confiscating their goods leaving many to wonder where these goods eventually end up.
Some argue that Jeddah’s problems are far too many and will need a long time to be resolved. This defeatist justification has been circulating for over 10 years now. It is no longer acceptable. Let us not be fooled by cosmetic progress that includes the world’s tallest fountain or tallest flagpole. We need an urgent strategy to overcome our problems which requires the work ethics of sincere, honest and hardworking people. We need officials and expertise leading from the front, making inspections, seeking the skills of the competent, eliminating the corrupt, setting targets to efficiently implement delayed projects and applying international standards in every detail.
The responsibility to serve the city of Jeddah and its residents lies with all local bodies, organizations and ministries. There should be coordinated and concerted efforts to ensure that the sewage system in Jeddah is completed as soon as possible, that broken roads are repaired and that foul smells are eliminated. These major issues need immediate attention.
Jeddawis have had enough of false promises.
Khaled Almaeena is a veteran Saudi journalist, commentator, businessman and the editor-at-large of the Saudi Gazette. Almaeena has held a broad range of positions in Saudi media for over thirty years, including CEO of a PR firm, Saudi Television news anchor, talk show host, radio announcer, lecturer and journalist. As a journalist, Almaeena has represented Saudi media at Arab summits in Baghdad, Morocco and elsewhere. In 1990, he was one of four journalists to cover the historic resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Russia. He also traveled to China as part of this diplomatic mission. Almaeena’s political and social columns appear regularly in Gulf News, Asharq al-Aswat, al-Eqtisadiah, Arab News, Times of Oman, Asian Age and The China Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena