Development project endangers mangrove forest



JEDDAH: ARAB NEWS

Published — Thursday 3 October 2013

Last update 8 November 2013 4:28 am

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Fahd Al-Jubair, Eastern Province mayor, recently approved a land reclamation project for the Al-Jamieen plots, which may lead to the destruction of an ecologically vital mangrove forest in the Tarout Island.
The island lies under the jurisdiction of Qatif Municipality.
The Green Gulf Society has appealed to Khaled Al-Sufyan, governor of Qatif, to stop the project, which endangers the mangrove forest of 2 million square meters.
“Notwithstanding repeated complaints, we have noticed land filling activities along the beaches parallel to the remaining mangrove forest in Tarout over the past weeks. The warning boards posted in those locations banning such work have also been discarded,” a local daily reported quoting a statement of the society.
The society requested several authorities including Qatif Municipality, the Border Guard, the Ministry of Agriculture and Water, the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment to declare the mangrove forest a nature reserve and protect it from developers and poachers.
Jaafar Al-Safwani, member of the Agricultural Committee in the Asharqia Chambers, who is also deputy chairman of the fisheries committee, said: “The plot development, which covers the mangrove, would, undoubtedly, destroy one of the most important ecosystems in the Eastern Province.”
Earlier attempts to destroy the mangrove were blocked by a government order ensuring that Tarout Island’s beaches and ecology were protected, he said. Al-Safwani stressed that any permission to landfill the mangrove would upset the marine ecology in the region and endanger the rich fish resources in the Kingdom.
Environmental activists made a number of visits to the Fish Resources Administration, the Ministry of Agriculture and Water as well as the local municipality, upon learning about the mayor’s decision.
The mangrove reclamation order was approved following a meeting between the mayor and the Al-Jamieen project investors. During the meeting it was also decided that the Qatif Municipality would be granted authorization to issue permits for reclamation work.
Project investors are set to begin construction after land-filling of the mangrove area is complete.
The daily also reported it was unable to obtain a response from Qatif Municipality.
Mangrove forests form a belt of protection against erosion and storm surge especially during cyclones in coastal regions. The mangroves’ massive root systems are efficient at dissipating wave energy. Likewise, they slow down tidal water to build their own environments.
The unique ecosystem found in the intricate mesh of mangrove roots offers a quiet marine region for young organisms. Despite restoration efforts, developers have removed over half of the world’s mangroves in recent times, according to environmental researchers.

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