Work forges ahead on Saudi megaproject despite pandemic

Qiddiya, an initiative born from the roots of Vision 2030 and supported by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is set to become the Kingdom’s capital of entertainment, sports and the arts. (Photo/QIC)
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Updated 11 June 2020

Work forges ahead on Saudi megaproject despite pandemic

  • Saudi firms awarded first Qiddiya construction contracts keep work on track by following precautions

RIYADH: Work on Saudi Arabia’s epic Qiddiya entertainment megaproject has been forging ahead despite a global economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

While many countries have been forced to stall or scale down similar construction schemes due to the pandemic, it has been business as usual in the Kingdom for the building of the ambitious visitor destination.

To ensure the tourism project has been able to remain on track, Qiddiya Investment Co. (QIC) — which is driving the development — obtained the necessary permits to carry on with construction on the site while closely monitoring health and safety measures outlined by the authorities.

Qiddiya, an initiative born from the Vision 2030 reform plan and supported by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is located southwest of Riyadh, and is set to become the Kingdom’s capital of entertainment, sports, and the arts.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, Arab News spoke to QIC officials about the project’s latest developments and the company’s plans to continue with construction.

Preliminary construction — to prepare the site for the subsequent phases of development — commenced at the end of 2019 and is due to be completed next year.

QIC Chief Executive Officer Michael Reininger said: “After taking the necessary precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of our employees and contractors, we obtained the necessary work permits to continue work on the site.

“Qiddiya is set to become the Kingdom’s capital of entertainment, sports and the arts, and the only way to achieve this is to remain on track with the development of the project and carry on working, come what may.”

Preliminary construction commenced at the end of 2019 and is due to be completed next year. (Photo/Supplied)

A key tenet of Vision 2030 is to enable local businesses to contribute and play an important role in the Kingdom’s transformation, and in this context, QIC has awarded three key construction contracts to Saudi companies.

Shibh Al-Jazira Contracting Co. (SAJCO) secured a deal to begin construction of the first phase of the roads network to provide easy access to the site and enable future building work.

The first contract for 2020 was awarded to Abdul Ali Al-Ajmi Co. to start work on preparing site foundations for Qiddiya’s first major zones, the Resort Core, and the City Center.

A second 2020 contract has gone to Saudi Pan Kingdom Co. (SAPAC) to build security fencing around the entire premises as the first step toward allowing the commencement of multiple construction projects scheduled to begin this year.

Kareem Shamma, Qiddiya’s chief development officer, said: “In compliance with the Kingdom’s regulations, we are proud to bring you this major construction update showing how Qiddiya is moving forward with some of its key infrastructure projects.

“We are also grateful to our partners for their commitment and support in delivering only the best during these challenging circumstances. Collectively, we continue to take all the necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of our employees and the community.”

In addition to the ongoing progress, QIC is committed to the preservation of the site’s natural resources and ecosystem.

By focusing on biodiversity and creating improved microclimates, it aims to encourage comfortable pedestrian movement in attractive surroundings, while promoting well-being, cutting carbon fuel consumption, reducing, reusing and recycling waste, and managing valuable water resources in the most efficient way possible.

In coordination with the Saudi Electricity Co. and National Grid SA, Qiddiya has also carried out a major transfer of high- and medium-voltage overhead power lines between existing and new towers on site.

Salman Al-Hubeis, the executive director of project development, said: “We are proud to be on schedule with some of our key infrastructure projects at Qiddiya.

“We are thankful to our development partners for their support during this difficult time as we continue site preparation and security projects as well as power lines relocation projects.”

Saudi body to help UN devise policies for sustainable living

Updated 13 August 2020

Saudi body to help UN devise policies for sustainable living

  • Saudi Green Building Forum granted accreditation as an observer to UNEP governing body

RIYADH: A professional association from Saudi Arabia will play a key policymaking role at a UN governing body addressing the importance of environmental needs.
Following careful assessment and consideration of the commitments and engagements of the Saudi Green Building Forum (SGBF), the nonprofit organization has been granted accreditation as an observer at the governing body of the UN Environment Program (UNEP). SGBF will play a role as an observer at all public meetings and sessions of the UNEP and its subsidiary organs.
Speaking to Arab News, Faisal Al-Fadl, founder of the nonprofit organization, said that the forum’s mission has been developing for the past 10 years and this accreditation was considered an important step in strengthening the role of Saudi civil society institutions, locally and internationally. This was in line with Vision 2030, which has not only played an integral role in the NGO’s mission but also paved the way for the Kingdom’s people to go the extra mile in building an advanced and resilient society.
SGBF was initiated in 2010 and established in 2014. In 2017, it became the first professional body from Saudi Arabia in consultative status with the UN.
“The Saudi Forum was an advocacy group with an honest voice to bridge the gap; through UNEP we now have the tools to become the policymakers,” Al-Fadl said. It is a challenge that the group founder says will be met by providing communities with the proper tools to implement commitments.
As the observing body on the environmental framework at the UNEP, SGBF’s role will include promoting its concepts and goals to be reflected within the community of change. For change to happen, people of a community at a grassroots level who have committed to the preservation of moral codes of conduct are key to changing mentality and behavior to guarantee a future for the next generations, Al-Fadl said.
“As an open platform, our role is being the honest voice of bridging the gap. Economic and social progress accompanied by environmental degradation and pandemics are endangering the very systems on which our future development and our survival depends,” he said.
SGBF represents the Kingdom and its call to communities, stakeholders, and policymakers to build on the principles of volunteering, advocacy and sustainable development.
For the NGO, their next step is increasing the engagement of civil society, finding solutions to the problem of volunteer integration in societies, and to prioritize and address social challenges for women, youth and the elderly, calling on member states to increase their role in building and developing practices that minimize the negative impact on the planet.
Al-Fadl added that protecting the planet and building resilience was not easy. Without bolstering local action, including volunteers to accelerate the implementation, it would be a long time until goals were met and result seen, he said.
“UN member countries have the responsibility in confronting the human crisis of inestimable proportions, which impose its heaviest tolls on the supply chain for those marginalized and
most vulnerable in cities and communities around the world,” Al-Fadl said.