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 finances are in good shape, says central bank’s governor

Saudi finances are in good shape, says central bank’s governor
Updated 16 sec ago

Saudi finances are in good shape, says central bank’s governor

Saudi finances are in good shape, says central bank’s governor
  • The Saudi Central Bank will continue to manage its foreign-exchange reserves based on ‘balanced investment policies,’ Fahad Almubarak added
  • Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said a predicted SR16 billion surplus reflects shrewd past investments by the Kingdom in its oil and gas sector

RIYADH: Monetary conditions in Saudi Arabia are reassuring, thanks to prudent monetary policies, and the country’s banking sector continues to enjoy good levels of liquidity, the governor of the Saudi Central Bank said on Wednesday.

Fahad Almubarak said the bank would continue to manage its foreign-exchange reserves based on “balanced investment policies.”

He added: “Despite the exceptional circumstances in the Kingdom and the world, the Saudi economy … has proven a high ability to withstand shocks. Monetary conditions in the Kingdom are reassuring as a result of the central bank’s prudent monetary policy.”

Almubarak commended the banking sector for “its financial solvency, operational efficiency, good liquidity, and ability to face current challenges.”

His comments followed the approval of the state budget for the coming fiscal year, which forecasts a surplus of SR16 billion ($4.3 billion) and gross domestic product growth of 3.1 percent, the finance ministry said.

During a media briefing in Riyadh on Wednesday, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said the predicted surplus reflects prior investments the Kingdom made in its oil and gas sector, as well as growth in non-oil sectors as officials implement the country’s Vision 2030 agenda for economic diversification.

“We invested a lot of money when people did not,” he said, according to AFP. “We are not celebrating the surplus; for us it’s not really big news, it’s something that we expected. We’ve been working … to curtail our spending, to increase our non-oil revenues.”

He added that “difficult decisions” that were taken are unlikely to be reversed based on a surplus this year and the expected surplus next year.

“The last thing we want is actually to change policies in haste,” he said.

The surplus will be distributed during the first quarter of 2023, with the bulk of it being used to increase the Kingdom’s reserves, Al-Jadaan said. Some will go to the National Development Fund and some “may be” transferred to the sovereign wealth fund, he added. He also said that the 2023 budget forecasts SR259 billion of military spending, according to Reuters.

“We listened to the blessing of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques of announcing the budget in the cabinet session, which took into account the rapid growth that the Kingdom has been witnessing and the achievement of many targets under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030,” he said in comments broadcast on Al-Ekhbariya TV.

(With Reuters and AFP)


Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister
Updated 08 December 2022

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister

Summits in Riyadh reflect Kingdom’s desire to enhance relations with China: Saudi foreign minister
  • Speaking as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Riyadh for an official visit, Prince Faisal bin Farhan said bilateral relations are characterized by friendship, trust, cooperation and coordination
  • Xi is expected to attend a Saudi-Chinese summit, the Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development, and the Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development

RIYADH: Three summits due to take place in Riyadh in the coming days reflect the shared determination of the Kingdom, the other Gulf Cooperation Council nations and the wider Arab world to strengthen cooperation and enhance strategic relations with China in pursuit of greater growth and prosperity for all of the countries and their peoples, according to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.

“The relations between the Kingdom and China are strategic and close in light of the international developments and changes taking place,” he said.

He added that the bilateral relationship is characterized by friendship, mutual trust, cooperation and continuous coordination, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

His comments came as Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday evening for a three-day official visit, during which he is expected to attend a Saudi-Chinese summit, the Gulf-China Summit for Cooperation and Development, and the Riyadh Arab-China Summit for Cooperation and Development.

Prince Faisal praised the contribution made by a high-level Saudi-Chinese joint committee to the development of relations between the two countries in many fields. He said the bilateral economic relationship is progressing rapidly against the backdrop of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development and diversification plan and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which offer promising opportunities for cooperation, sustainable development and mutual benefits.

He added that China has ranked as the Kingdom’s top trading partner since 2018, and that the value of bilateral trade in 2021 was SR309 billion ($82.1 billion), an increase of 39 percent compared with the previous year.


Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister
Updated 08 December 2022

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister

Culture can open the door to a ‘green’ future, says Saudi minister
  • Prince Badr met with a number of his counterparts on the sidelines of the forum
  • A number of agreements were signed during bilateral meetings to enhance cultural cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization, on Wednesday organized the 23rd Conference of Arab Culture Ministers in the capital, Riyadh, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The event, which was held under the patronage of Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, minister of culture, and chairman of the National Committee for Education, Culture and Science, was attended by ministers and officials from 20 Arab countries, as well as representatives of the Arab League, and regional and international organizations.

The minister of culture, who is also president of the 23rd session, said: “This year’s session, whose main theme is: ‘Culture and the green future,’ aims to make the cultural sector more sustainable, as we seek to make it the starting point of international efforts involving the cultural sector with its various branches, extending to cover all elements of its value chain.”

He added: “The utilization of culture toward the green future contributes to instilling culture in the global development debate, which receives the full attention of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, through the Kingdom’s participation in global cultural platforms, where the ‘Culture and the green future’ theme conforms to the goals of the Kingdom Vision 2030.”

He said that this, in return, highlights the Kingdom’s support of collective efforts to enhance knowledge, skills and practices related to making the cultural sector more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

During the conference, ministers focused on the role of culture in achieving sustainable development, while working to develop effective sectorial policies that bring added value to collective efforts to move toward a more creative and sustainable future.

Meanwhile, Prince Badr met with his Egyptian counterpart Nevin Al-Kilany on the sidelines of the forum, where the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance cooperation in the cultural field.

The memorandum included cultural fields, such as heritage, visual arts, performing arts, literature, books and publishing, Islamic decoration and other creative tracks.

It also included work to enhance the participation of Saudi and Egyptian intellectuals in festivals and cultural events held in the two countries, in addition to joint cooperation in training and qualifying local artistic cadres, and benefiting from experiences in the two countries in the fields of museums, urban heritage and handicraft industries.

Prince Badr praised the strong strategic relations that link the Kingdom with Egypt in all cultural fields. The two parties also discussed cooperation in the field of registering intangible heritage files with UNESCO, and cooperation in the field of exchanging expertise through cultural scholarship programs.

Prince Badr met with the Moroccan Minister of Youth, Culture and Communication Mohamed Mehdi Bensaid where another agreement was signed to enhance cultural cooperation in various fields, including literature, publishing and translation, heritage, architecture and design, museums, theater and performing arts.

The memorandum also included enhancing the participation of Saudi and Moroccan intellectuals in festivals and cultural events held in the two countries, in addition to exchanging expertise in organizations and cultural policies.

He also held similar meetings with the Director-General of the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Salem Al-Malik, and the Director-General of ALECSO, Mohamed Ould Amar, where they discussed the most prominent current cooperation programs between the organizations and the Kingdom, and memoranda of understanding were signed.

He also met with his Tunisian and Djiboutian counterparts, and the president of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities.


Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 

Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 
Updated 08 December 2022

Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 

Saudi Arabia, ALECSO sign cultural cooperation agreement 

Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan met Director General of the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization Mohamed Ould Amar in Riyadh on Wednesday.

The meeting was part of the Saudi minister’s bilateral discussions on the sidelines of the 23rd session of the Conference of Arab Culture Ministers, which was held in the Saudi capital and organized by the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with ALECSO.

During the meeting, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the ministry and ALECSO to enhance cultural cooperation through a range of items, including registering natural sites and heritage elements in UNESCO lists.
 


Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit

Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit
Updated 07 December 2022

Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit

Saudi FM attends GCC preparatory session ahead of summit

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Wednesday participated in the work of the 154th session of the preparatory ministerial council for the 43rd session of the Supreme Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which was held at the headquarters of the GCC General Secretariat in Riyadh.
The meeting was chaired by Oman’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sayyid Badr Albusaidi, who is also president of the council’s current session, with the participation of Gulf foreign ministers, and GCC Secretary-General Dr. Nayef Al-Hajraf.
During the meeting, the ministers discussed ways of enhancing the process of joint cooperation and coordination between the GCC countries, and the developments of the situation in the region.
They also discussed the latest regional and international developments, and the schedule of the work of the Chinese-Gulf Summit for Cooperation and Development that will be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping and GCC leaders.