How Jeddah redevelopment project aims to clean up urban environment, improve quality of life

Special Demolition work is under way in Jeddah's 26 undeveloped districts as part of the city's major redevelopment. (Supplied)
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Demolition work is under way in Jeddah's 26 undeveloped districts as part of the city's major redevelopment. (Supplied)
Special How Jeddah redevelopment project aims to clean up urban environment, improve quality of life
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Special The socially corrosive effects of criminality in the slums has left authorities with little choice but to redevelop them from scratch. (Supplied)
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The socially corrosive effects of criminality in the slums has left authorities with little choice but to redevelop them from scratch. (Supplied)
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Updated 14 April 2022

How Jeddah redevelopment project aims to clean up urban environment, improve quality of life

How Jeddah redevelopment project aims to clean up urban environment, improve quality of life
  • Jeddah’s population grew rapidly during Saudi Arabia’s oil boom, leading to the spread of informal settlements
  • Municipal authorities have evaluated 64 districts across the city for restoration, modification, or demolition

JEDDAH: Deprived neighborhoods in Saudi Arabia’s coastal city of Jeddah are undergoing major redevelopment after decades of relentless urbanization led to a host of social, economic, and environmental issues.

Municipal authorities are clearing districts and squatter settlements where planners say substandard infrastructure, criminality, and disease are blighting the lives of roughly half a million people.

Saudi cities have historically benefited from the close attention and generous investment of the central government, evident in the provision of a well-maintained physical infrastructure and impressive skylines.

But investment has had to keep pace with a rapidly growing urban population. According to the Kingdom’s Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, approximately 82.1 percent of the Kingdom’s total population now lives in urban areas.

This trend is part of a global phenomenon, driven by a host of economic and environmental factors. According to UN-Habitat, around 60 percent of the global population will live in cities by the year 2030.

Current trends indicate that an additional 3 billion people will be living in cities by 2050, increasing the urban share of the world’s population to two-thirds. Some 90 percent of this urban growth is likely to occur in low- and middle-income countries.

In the context of cities like Jeddah, this has meant the rapid growth of densely populated and poorly planned urban districts that have swamped local infrastructure. In the words of Saleh Al-Turki, mayor of Jeddah since 2018: “Mistakes were made, ignored, and corruption occurred.”

According to an October 2017 paper published by Dr. Hisham Mortada, a professor of architecture at the College of Environmental Design at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, the city’s rapid population growth began in the 1970s during the Kingdom’s oil boom.




While Jeddah's substandard housing in some communities have provided an affordable starting point for many new arrivals, they are also seen as a breeding ground for criminality. (Supplied)

The paper, titled “Analytical conception of slums of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,” traces the growth of the city’s slums to the demolition of the old city walls in 1947, which led to the creation of Al-Suhaifa, Al-Hindawiya, and Al-Sabeel.

“The districts later became an extension of old Jeddah and slums since they were built with poor construction materials and techniques and without planning,” the report said.

Other reasons given for the spread of Jeddah’s slums include an absence of state funding, a significant increase in property prices against falling incomes, and mass immigration, which by 1978 caused the city’s population to balloon to 1 million people — 53 percent of whom were foreign migrants.

Four decades later, with Jeddah’s population swelling to around 4 million, the old slum districts that had grown around the south and center of the city have expanded northwards.

Determined to address the problem, the municipality announced plans late last year to demolish 64 districts across the city, including several associated with high crime rates and where illegal migrants had come to reside in densely packed communities.




Jeddah's Al-Kandarah district is one of the 26 districts considered undeveloped. (Supplied)

To date, the Jeddah Governorate’s Undeveloped Neighborhoods Committee has begun demolition work in 26 districts covering an area of 18.5 million square meters.

Eight of these districts are located within the lands of the King Abdulaziz Endowment for Al-Ain Al-Aziziyah, a charitable project established in 1948 to transport water to the city.

Municipal officials say the demolition work is due for completion by mid-November.

“The conditions in these areas are unfavorable,” Jeddah mayor Al-Turki told Rotana Khalijiya’s “Al-Soora” TV host Abdullah Al-Mudaifer in February. “It lacks security, there are no blueprints, its infrastructure is nearly non-existent, it is a den of crime. These are all facts.”

Those residents who hold the title deeds to their properties are being provided with free housing and compensation, Al-Turki said. To date, more than 550 families have been resettled, with 4,781 housing units to be allocated by the end of the year.

One of the municipality’s prime motivations for clearing these districts is the poor road access and the fire risk posed by the density of buildings.




While Jeddah's substandard housing in some communities have provided an affordable starting point for many new arrivals, they are also seen as a breeding ground for criminality. (Supplied)

“Given the tight spaces, it is difficult for vehicles to enter, never mind fire trucks, and today, the main concern to civil defense in Jeddah is the slums,” said Al-Turki. “If any fire erupts, it’s difficult to get through.”

Another motivation was the desire to clamp down on criminal activities. “The slums were a haven for human trafficking, a source of crime, and a place for thefts,” Maj. Gen. Saleh Al-Jabri, director of Makkah Region Police, said in the same TV interview.

“We’ve seized large quantities of drugs in a very short time. More than 218 kilograms was seized in these neighborhoods. These neighborhoods became central selling points for drug dealers. In some areas, they (are) publicly sold on these streets.”

Al-Jabri said drug dealers and human trafficking syndicates have long operated under the radar within the labyrinth of ramshackle neighborhoods. Crystal meth, a highly addictive drug known locally as Al-Shbo, is the most common narcotic sold in the slums.

In one recent bust, Al-Jabri said authorities were able to seize SR60 million ($15.9 million) in cash and more than 100 kilograms in gold worth SR50 million ($13.3 million) ready to be smuggled out of the Kingdom.




Jeddah's old slum districts have expanded northwards, such as in Al-Ammariyah, as the population swelled to around 4 million these past years. (Supplied) 

Slums are extremely damaging to natural ecosystems and greatly increase the transmissibility of airborne, waterborne, and vector-borne diseases. Today, dengue fever, a prevalent vector-borne illness in Jeddah, costs the municipality SR150 million ($40 million) annually.

The issue was further highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which necessitated social distancing and self-isolation for those infected — measures that are near impossible to implement in overcrowded settlements.

Despite the clear benefits, slum clearance does carry negative social consequences. Thousands of people across several generations have long called these informal settlements home, establishing close-knit social networks with their neighbors that are not easily replaced.

And although housing in these communities is considered substandard, it is also viewed as an affordable starting point for many new arrivals in the Kingdom and those migrating from the countryside.

“Humans go through development phases just like cities,” Maha Al-Qattan, a Saudi sociologist, told Arab News.

“The closeness and ties between the people living within the slums are no different. People change, and it’s not like it was before when they would visit each other or call on one another. Today these slums are a convenience more so than a living place.”

Nevertheless, the socially corrosive effects of criminality in the slums has left authorities with little choice but to redevelop them from scratch. “They harbor dangers to society within the walls and outside,” Al-Qattan said.




With development work in full swing, Jeddah's numerous slum areas — such as Al-Jabeel — are expected to be transformed soon into vibrant economic and cultural hubs. (Supplied)

“Crimes will never cease, but it is essential to curb them by extracting the cancer that imposes pressure on communities and governments.

“These are ticking time bombs. The longer you keep them, the more difficult it will be to achieve the standards to upgrade the quality of life in cities.”

The decision to clear these areas is motivated by the desire to improve overall quality of life in the Kingdom’s cities, transforming them into vibrant economic and cultural hubs that are inviting to investors and tourists. It is also motivated by environmental concerns and the push towards greater sustainability.   

The first studies on the condition of slums and their effect on the city’s development began in 1972, but plans to deal with them were repeatedly put off in favor of less disruptive initiatives to improve existing infrastructure, according to Al-Turki.   

Now, thanks to the Saudi government’s commitment to raising overall quality of life in the Kingdom, under the umbrella of its economic and social reform agenda Vision 2030, urban redevelopment is back on track and far more ambitious in scope.   

“Vision 2030 placed pressure on the Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing to elevate the quality of life, increase green spaces,” said Al-Turki.   

“A green Riyadh, a green Jeddah, a green Middle East. All this would not happen in a city with weak infrastructure.”


Saudi Arabia sponsors $1bn economic reform in Yemen

Saudi Arabia sponsors $1bn economic reform in Yemen
Updated 28 November 2022

Saudi Arabia sponsors $1bn economic reform in Yemen

Saudi Arabia sponsors $1bn economic reform in Yemen
  • AMF program to improve transparency in banking, financial and private sectors
  • Saudi Arabia has been lead donor to Yemen since 2001

RIYADH: Under the sponsorship of Saudi Arabia, the Arab Monetary Fund has signed a $1 billion agreement with the Yemeni government to revitalize its flagging economy.

The deal, signed in Riyadh, seeks to establish a comprehensive economic, financial and monetary reform program to improve governance and transparency, expand and diversify production and lower unemployment and poverty.

Saudi Minister of Finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan said that the program will develop Yemen’s financial and banking sector, strengthen the role of the private sector and promote long-term economic development. 

The reform priorities for the government include developing public resources, controlling and rationalizing government spending, improving efficiency, and rehabilitating critical infrastructure in electricity, water and transport services. 

Priorities for the financial and banking sectors include developing a supervision system to improve transparency and accountability and bolstering services for small and medium businesses and youths and women in rural areas. It will also seek to boost digitalization and payment method flexibility.

The program says the private sector is a primary driver of sustainable economic growth, and key in paving the way for greater integration into the global economy, the flow of foreign investment, and the strengthening of international partnerships. 

The Yemeni government expressed interest in exploring opportunities for regional and international institutions to collaborate to support Yemeni economic reform. 

The agreement’s sponsorship by Saudi Arabia is an extension of the country's economic support for Yemen. The Kingdom gave the Central Bank of Yemen $1 billion in 2012 and $2 billion in 2018 to cover the import of basic food commodities. 

From 2001 to 2022, Saudi Arabia has led the list of donor countries to Yemen, providing 30 percent of total support.

 


Saudi, Egyptian interior ministers hold talks in Riyadh

Saudi, Egyptian interior ministers hold talks in Riyadh
Updated 27 November 2022

Saudi, Egyptian interior ministers hold talks in Riyadh

Saudi, Egyptian interior ministers hold talks in Riyadh
  • Cooperation agreement signed to combat crime

RIYADH: Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud held talks with his Egyptian counterpart Mahmoud Tawfiq in Riyadh on Sunday, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

They discussed ways to improve security cooperation between their ministries. The talks also saw the signing of a cooperation agreement to combat crime.

Saudi attendees included Deputy Interior Minister Dr. Nasser bin Abdul Aziz Al-Dawood, Interior Ministry Undersecretary Dr. Hisham bin Abdulrahman Al-Faleh, Interior Ministry Undersecretary for Security Affairs Mohammed bin Muhanna Al-Muhanna, and Public Security Director Mohammed Al-Bassami.

Egyptian attendees included Adel Al-Sayed Abdulaziz Jaafar, head of the National Security Agency, and officials from the Interior Ministry.

 


Sustainable development of Saudi island will boost economy

Darin and Tarout is among the most archaeologically significant islands in Eastern Province. (SPA)
Darin and Tarout is among the most archaeologically significant islands in Eastern Province. (SPA)
Updated 28 November 2022

Sustainable development of Saudi island will boost economy

Darin and Tarout is among the most archaeologically significant islands in Eastern Province. (SPA)
  • Dr. Saad Dahlawi: 'The Kingdom is witnessing unprecedented economic and developmental growth and following the standards of sustainable development'

RIYADH: Economists and environmentalists say sustainable investment is important for an island north of Dammam allocated billions of riyals for development.

Experts told Arab News that the SR2.64 billion ($703 million) granted to Darin and Tarout island by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last week has much potential to boost the Eastern Province’s economy.

Darin and Tarout is among the most archaeologically significant islands in the region, with evidence of 5,000 years of continuous human habitation and around a dozen heritage sites, including a fortress dating back hundreds of years.

Dr. Saad Dahlawi, Assistant Professor, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (L) and
Fahad Almutlaq, CEO of Sharqia Development Authority.

Officials aim to improve the quality of life for its 120,000 people while preserving its cultural and historical heritage, revitalizing its natural beauty sites and enhancing its tourism economy.

As much as 48 percent of its 32 sq. km area will be dedicated to public parks, waterfronts, roads, and facilities. The island hopes to boost the number of tourists to 1.36 million by 2030 and generate thousands of jobs.

HIGHLIGHT

Officials aim to improve the quality of life for its 120,000 people while preserving its cultural and historical heritage, revitalizing its natural beauty sites and enhancing its tourism economy.

“This project represents the first strategic works and initiatives done by the Eastern Region Development Authority,” said Eastern Province Development Authority CEO Fahad Al-Mutlaq.

He said that work would start next year on a program to gradually improve social and economic conditions after comprehensive studies were completed.

Fadhel Al-Buainain, a member of the Shura Council, said that the island had historical importance.

Fadhel Al-Buainain, member of the Saudi Economists Association and member of the Shoura Council (L) and Abdullah Al-Khuzam, member of the National Program for the Development of Handicrafts.

“Developing Darin Castle and Darin Airport as heritage tourist destinations will enhance the cultural side,” he said. “The establishment of the largest forest on the banks of the Gulf will contribute to enhancing the environmental goals of the Kingdom.

“If eco-hotels are developed in natural areas, this will be an important base for eco-tourism, which will support the economy of the island.”

Al-Buainain, who is also a member of the Saudi Economists Association, said that the development plan would make an important economic contribution to the region.

“Providing small and medium investment and employment opportunities will have an important socio-economic impact,” he said, adding that the development would contribute to achieving the goals of Vision 2030.

Dr. Saad Dahlawi, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Imam Abd al-Rahman bin Faisal University, said he believed that the development announcement came at the perfect time.

“The Kingdom is witnessing unprecedented economic and developmental growth and following the standards of sustainable development,” he said.

Dahlawi added however that project leaders needed to assess impacts on the environment and especially on marine life to ensure that endangered species are not put at further risk.

“Such a study would provide decision-makers with a clear picture of how to implement the project sustainably,” he said.

Dahlawi said it was important to follow international environmental standards, as well as the standards and requirements of the National Center for Environmental Compliance, to avoid any damage to the environment.

Abdullah Al-Khuzam, a member of The National Handicraft Development Program, said the intention to turn Darin Airport into a heritage museum “means that a new prosperity period is being written on one of the oldest inhabited islands in the Arabian Gulf.”

He said that the museum and planned art festivals would help present “our ancient culture and civilization to the world.”

 

 


University signs deal to boost Saudi student fitness

University signs deal to boost Saudi student fitness
Updated 27 November 2022

University signs deal to boost Saudi student fitness

University signs deal to boost Saudi student fitness
  • The SFA is the main body responsible for promoting a healthy lifestyle in the Kingdom by providing sports activities

JEDDAH: The Saudi Sports for All Federation has signed a deal with the Arab Open University in Riyadh to cooperate on creating sports programs that will help build a healthy and active society.

Both organizations will also work together to promote sports culture and community sports to build a healthy lifestyle among the AOU’s students.

The federation will use the university’s sports facilities to launch initiatives and sports groups, organize community events and motivate students to take part.

SFA President Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal said the agreement was part of a strategy to work with partners and improve the health of the nation.

“We will also cooperate with the university in research, studies, data and statistics to attract a large number of university students to participate in sports and physical activities. This will help achieve our strategic objectives,” he said.

AOU Rector Ali Al-Shahrani said he was pleased to have signed the agreement.

“We seek to provide an integrated educational environment for our students by launching initiatives, sports events, and community programs within the university’s facilities. This agreement will help promote a sports culture among our students.

“We aim to provide multiple opportunities for people to participate in sports and physical activity in order to promote a healthy lifestyle and prevent diseases.”

The SFA is the main body responsible for promoting a healthy lifestyle in the Kingdom by providing sports activities. Its priorities are education, community, volunteering, fitness and health, campaigns, and promotions for people of all ages.

The AOU operates in nine Arab countries. It was founded in 1996 by Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz as a nonprofit institution and a nontraditional education academic entity. It focuses on scientific, social and cultural subjects.

In 2002, it worked with the Open University in the UK to transform into an integrated institution.

 


Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh
Updated 27 November 2022

Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia’s largest e-sports festival kick starts in Riyadh
  • RUSH event allows video-game aficionados to experience latest tech

RIYADH: The RUSH festival, the largest event for virtual sports and games, opened at the Riyadh Front on Saturday as part of the Riyadh Season of activities.

Over five days, it will provide gamers with the best-known games and real-life experiences.

They will get the chance to play real games such as “Fortnite,” “FIFA,” and “Valorant.” The event will also bring together the best international teams so that the biggest tournaments and direct qualifiers can be held on the e-sports stage.

Representatives of the 25 E-Sport organization greeted fans at the event’s meet-and-greet booth.

Aoun, the organization’s director of operations, told Arab News: “We have content makers and professional players in all games, and we came to meet the audience here.”

HIGHLIGHT

Over five days, the RUSH festival will provide gamers with the best-known games and real-life experiences. They will get the chance to play real games such as ‘Fortnite,’ ‘FIFA,’ and ‘Valorant.’

The festival aims to provide fun video games, competitions, and challenges through direct tournaments with prizes, and includes live entertainment shows, DJ performances, an augmented reality experience, and a cosplay competition.

The Valar Club booth was promoting e-sports for women.

Malak Al-Qahtani, founder of Valar Club, told Arab News: “Valar Club is the first licensed women’s club from the federation’s electronic sports, and our goal is to help female Saudi players, as they aspire to the world, and help with their training.”

Saudi YouTuber Pika Loli travelled from Jeddah to attend the event.

“This event brings together most of the YouTubers and gamers, and it is a good opportunity to get to know each other, and it will increase our followers and grow the channel on YouTube.”

Some of the cosplayers were dressed as video game characters.

Abdulelah Al-Qahtani said: “Today we are dressed as characters from the ‘Genshin Impact’ game, and I think this is so good that Saudi Arabia brought up a hidden community, like cosplayers and gamers.”

With a focus on the whole of the gaming industry, from console and PC gaming to mobile and e-sports, the RUSH festival aims to give gaming aficionados the opportunity to access and experience the latest tech and the chance to interact with each other in real life, and online.

Tickets for the event are available via https://riyadhseason.sa/event-details-en.html?id=599/en_RUSH.