Beaches, coastal areas ‘should be open to public’

BAHRAIN’S beaches and coastal areas should be open and free to the public, councillors have insisted.

The Muharraq Municipal Council and the Southern Municipal Council, in their separate final meetings of the term, unanimously approved a parliamentary proposal to protect, develop and provide all the necessary basic services at seafronts across the country.

The original proposal by five MPs led by Muneer Suroor is currently under study by Parliament’s public utilities and environment affairs committee.

It has been referred by Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Minister Ghanim Al Buainain to Bahrain’s three municipal councils and the Capital Trustees Board through Municipalities Affairs and Agriculture Minister Wael Al Mubarak.

The documents will also be reviewed by the Northern Municipal Council on Monday during their final meeting of the term.

“Beaches and coasts are either taken by the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA), the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (Baca) or private investors – be it for seafront hotels, business centres, cafés or as pay-for-use,” said Muharraq Municipal Council chairman Abdulaziz Al Naar.

“So what is left for the public to enjoy for free?

“A Bahraini family of five, with a limited income, can’t afford BD15 on weekdays or BD25 on weekends to go to Marasi, for example; it remains an option for those who can pay.

“Also, not every family can dine or drink coffee or go shopping daily just to get a glimpse of the sea.”

Mr Al Naar added that local families want to go swimming or fishing, but are denied access unless authorised by the responsible government bodies or unless they can pay.

“Muharraq is an island within the archipelago of Bahrain with no public coasts or beaches and this is wrong,” he said.

“People have to be allowed to swim and fish in designated beaches that are open for free to them not just in Muharraq but across the entire country.

“The government can supervise but not dictate who can access beaches or coasts.”

He urged the government to prepare a list of designated free beaches and Coastguards with lifeguards immediately as the summer season approaches and people look to other countries to escape the heat.

Meanwhile, the council’s services and public utilities committee chairman Ahmed Al Meghawi said providing free beaches and coasts immediately was difficult since many of them need proper intensive rehabilitation.

“The government needs to level beaches and coasts with soft sand, provide portable cabins for showers and toilets, amongst other facilities; so, immediately, to me is unattainable,” he said.

“However, another option would be arrange opening beaches and coasts under BTEA and Baca and even Edamah (the government real estate arm) for free, and between specific timings so people can enjoy the sea.

“The same applies for private investors who can at least slash fees by half as a community gesture.”

Mr Al Meghawi said several Bahrainis and expatriates are forced to stay in Bahrain during the summer and want to enjoy sea-oriented activities and programmes.

“This issue needs to be settled quickly to avoid people visiting neighbouring countries to escape the heat.”

Meanwhile, Southern Municipal Council chairman Abdulla Abdullatif said the idea of an archipelago of islands with no free beaches or coasts is irritating.

“Why do people need to pay to enjoy something that is originally their property?

“By the way, there is such a thing as local tourism, and people are entitled to have it.”

He urged the government to open up Aljazayer beach to the public.”

Currently, visitors are asked to pay BD2 as entry fee which can be redeemed at any outlet there.




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