Bid to revive sea park plan

Investors look set to be invited to bid to create a sea park and maritime museum complex which, despite achieving widespread acclaim, has languished on the pile of stalled projects.

The Northern Municipal Council approved the award-winning proposal through the Northern Municipality’s IDEAS scheme in May, 2016.

The annual scheme sees the public present ideas that could be adopted by the municipality and turned into reality. However, after remaining under study by the Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Ministry, with multiple options being considered for the five proposed locations, the plug has been pulled.

The ministry has now come back with a rejection on the basis that, although impressive on paper, such a project would require huge financing and is not possible at a time when belts are being tightened following the global pandemic.

Parliament’s public utilities and environment committee admitted that Covid-19 had hugely affected municipal revenues and priority should be directed towards essential infrastructure investments.

The sea park plan included tanks containing local fish species, a fishing history gallery, a coastal animals and birds sanctuary, fishing equipment and traditional boats exhibition, a library and theatre, aqua rides, plus a swimming, diving and snorkelling training centre.

Mr Buhamood

Committee chairman MP Mohammed Buhamood, who is also the council’s former chairman, said government spending priorities were clear, but he believes the project was ‘never intended’ to come solely from the public purse.

“We understand the financial challenges the country is going through, but if the project is offered to investors it could help contribute to developing Bahrain’s coastal tourism, which is an attractive and profitable proposition,” he said.

Five locations were originally presented for the project with five different artists’ impressions. The shortlisted sites were on the coastlines of Salman Town, Budaiya, Jasra, Malkiya and Barbar.

“The most favoured location in mind has been always Salman Town, considering that the site has probably the richest reserve of fish and marine animals,” added Mr Buhamood.

“The concept presented years ago could also be modified by investors as they present their bids. Amongst the new suggestions is having all local fish protected within their own natural habitats in confined areas.

“We have also come up with new ideas to have the place resemble an actual beach with people moving inside an aquarium-style building travelling on boats, up elevators, as well as places to swim.”

In the past, the Southern Municipal Council started negotiating to bring Australian-based Reef HQ Aquarium, one of the world’s largest living coral reef aquariums, to open a new branch in Sakhir, but no deal materialised.

Mr Buhamood said its project could be both interesting and unique and a huge eco-tourism attraction under the right operators.

“The proposed project takes the best ideas from the maritime operations in Indonesia, Oman and the UAE, besides some concepts suggested by the Australians,” he added.

“I have no doubt that whenever it is tendered out it will attract great interest from investors home and abroad. They will want to jump on board. Bahrain should be ready to see the project revived.”

Money has already been splashed out on water projects in the kingdom. ELSS Group, for example, which specialises in the construction of aquariums and marine parks, announced a $1m investment in its regional operational base at the Bahrain Aquarium at the Mall of Dilmunia.

The largest cylindrical aquarium in the Middle East has a depth of 17 metres and is spread over four floors. ELSS will operate and maintain the aquarium until at least mid-2025.

This is in addition to other aquarium projects the company plans to undertake in the kingdom and neighbouring countries including Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the UAE.



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