KaleidoKleio

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Tragedy(ies)

Look at what they're doing to Failaka Island.

You can read more about the project here.

They're going to cut a man-made lagoon right through it. Does anybody else object to these money-grubbing ignorants cutting one of Kuwait's most beautiful and historic sites right in half? Does anybody else object to the fact that they are turning the island that Alexander the Great himself named Icarus into a Disney-style nightmare?

The planners' site shows the client as "confidential". It might be the actual government but if it's not then I have a pretty good idea who the client is. Either way I'm just so sick of these people pretending that Kuwait belongs to them alone and doing whatever they want to destroy our history and natural environment. This is sick. And the worst part is, why is everyone so complacent? Nobody is saying anything about this.

This is Failaka! This island used to be one of the most significant and unique sites in the Persian Gulf, and it's ours. We should be treasuring it, not trashing it. It was sad enough that the government never supported the inhabitants of Failaka after the Iraqi invasion to help them return to the island and restore their life in the town that has existed for centuries. The last time I went to Failaka was in early 2004, right before all these new projects began, and the town was still standing. But it was completely bombed out - houses were burned and covered with bullet holes (remember, the Iraqis used the island as a military base and did a lot of target practice there). It felt like mainland Kuwait back in 1991; it felt fresh. It was 13 years later! How come nobody bothered to restore their life and town after the war was over?

But coming back to now. I'm so sick of these projects. In mainland Kuwait, we no longer have a visible coastline. This is what it used to look like in the 1970s. You all know what it looks like now. As one example out of hundreds, that ridiculous Marina Waves was pointless. Have you ever stood there in the centre of it and looked across the water back onto Salmiya? Do you notice that the current has totally changed direction in that little inlet the site has created? I'm no geologist, but what I did learn from geology in high school plus common sense tells me that this is a disaster for our ecosystem. Shorelines are supposed to move naturally, slowly. So what happens to the ecosystem when you suddenly reclaim land from the sea and push the shoreline back a couple hundred meters? You get thousands of tonnes of fish washing up on shore like we did back in 2001.


But nobody cares. Have you guys noticed the water near the Marina area? It's disgusting. It's thick and murky. But as long as there's Maki, who cares? As long as some big-wigs are making bucketloads of money by the second they don't care that they are completely destroying our environment. And I'm not even going to get started on the illegal fishing that takes place during the seasons when everybody else is restricted from catching certain types of fish for commercial use. (There is a reason this law exists - it's to let the shrimp or fish reproduce and replenish its population so that the species doesn't go extinct before the eggs have had time to hatch!)

Anyway, one more rant and I'll let you go. I'm sure most of you know that they're going to be continuing the "ring" of First Ring Road to cut right through the city centre. Does anybody else object to the idea of having a highway running through the old city centre? Do you realize that to build this, part of the highway is going to run right through or over the Behbehani Complex and Catholic Church (near the Sheraton)? Look at the plans.

Yet another disastrous project. Do you guys know that everytime they dig to build a foundation in Kuwait City (and of course when they build the trenches for this highway) they come across archaeological remains of an old town? Do they know it's there? Yes. Have they seen it when they dig? Certainly. Do they excavate? Of course not. You know that Al-Babtain Library for Arabic Poetry? Huge site under there. And they built right on top of it. You know that new "Heritage Village" they're building near the Dickson House? You know that in order to make way for this new reconstruction village, they tore down some old Kuwaiti houses (i.e. to build new fake ones in their place)? Does anybody else find it hard to reconcile the fact that we try to promote "culture" and "heritage" by building over and/or tearing down the real deal?

They want to turn Failaka into a "resort" and "entertainment" island to promote tourism. Tourists from where? It's going to turn into a hailag island. But hey, as long it brings them money, that's all that matters to them. It just breaks my heart.

24 Comments:

  • You ended your post by saying "It just breaks my heart" Well you just broke mine too.. I don't mean you but the info that you presented...
    You know culture and traditions may change over the years but history remains to be history and there is no room for change.. Unfortunately we are not restoring our history... instead we're destroying it by our own hands... so sad to hear that we're "trying" to become another artificial country :(

    And what's a nation with no history??

    By Anonymous NTT, at 5/06/2007 11:10 pm  

  • From your post, I can see that there are 2 major problems caused by development in Kuwait:

    1) destruction to marine life and ecological system.

    2) destruction of the country's historical sites and remains.

    The first problem is very important in my opinion and more imminent because it will affect our present and future. But, I am not saying history is not important. It is important and if we can preserve some of it it is more than good.

    Most people in Kuwait are complaining about the unauthorised fishing but do you know who owns these huge fishing boats that troll our coasts?

    And why don't MPs talk about this problem in the parliment, I am realy sick of those incompetent representatives of the people!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/07/2007 9:59 am  

  • Yeah Illi mala awal mala tali :(

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/07/2007 1:28 pm  

  • NTT: It is sad that we're actually trying to become more artificial! You know, so many people in Kuwait will say that Dubai is so artificial and plastic and has no culture and no soul, etc - and that Kuwait is so different and at least our people have a say in what happens to the country, blah blah blah. Really? I mean, Kuwait is becoming just as plastic and artificial as Dubai, but without the social reforms that places like Dubai and Qatar are doing. Our biggest problem: no concept of long-term planning. We have too much money. Money breeds corruption and greed. Ugh.

    Anonymous: You're right that the environmental destruction is more critical because it can have such imminent and detrimental effects on us...the people, as well as our sea life. Kuwait ranks third among the world's most polluted countries. That is just insane. Our carbon emissions are extremely high per capita, as is our garbage production per household. You know why? Because there are zero efforts being taken to educate people about these issues. The concept of carpooling doesn't exist in Kuwait. And why should the people make any effort to save our environment, when they see the government allowing the total destruction of our shoreline for the building of McDonald's and shopping malls (and their own new Seif Palace!), allowing chemical dumping in Subbiya, allowing illegal fishing, allowing the slicing of Failaka into two, etc. It's sick. It really is.

    And yes, I certainly do know who's doing the illegal fishing! And some people might complain about it, but you know what? They will always be outnumbered by the ignorant people who think: "I'm in the mood for ribyan bas mako bil souq. Let me order some from company X." Do you think those idiots think about the consequences? No, as long as they get their mrabyan for lunch, who cares!

    As for Parliament...you know the saddest part? Those idiots really are starting to represent the majority of our population! People like us, who are discussing these issues here and really care, we've become the minority. We really have. It is that thought alone that scares me most and makes me think maybe there is no longer hope for Kuwait. I know that sounds very pessimistic but the light at the end of the tunnel has very nearly switched off for me. Kuwait shouldn't have a Parliament right now. It should be dissolved until they improve the education system in Kuwait. Because the number one ingredient for "democracy" (which we Kuwaitis are so proud that our country supposedly is) is education, and we just don't have it.

    Anon2: I'm not sure I get that phrase?

    By Blogger Kleio, at 5/07/2007 2:03 pm  

  • Kleio,

    your answer is very long and that shows the pain and digust u r feeling towards this issue and I do not blame you. I think I have said it before in a response to a previous blog you wrote, the government is responsible. When and if it decides to enforce the laws and bring forward new laws that govern all the sh!t that's going on in our country, nothing will improve.

    When are the rulers gonna realize that this country is going to be nonexistent one day if this chaos and careless mentality continues!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/07/2007 2:18 pm  

  • Amen.

    I'm glad you care too. I wish there could be more people who think like we do in Kuwait! There are a few, but not enough.

    By Blogger Kleio, at 5/07/2007 2:36 pm  

  • Illi mala awal mala tali (who doesnt have a past doesnt have a future) kinda thing (a kuwaiti saying)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/08/2007 12:47 am  

  • Although i do agree with much of what you said, i have to correct a few facts since I'm on the inside of some of these projects.

    The Failaka scheme shown is one of many competition entries and not the winning one because it was not chosen yet. Hopefully our scheme wins, which we believe to be an environmentally-sound and archaeologically-friendly approach which respects the island's great history, a history i researched myself and made sure it was collaborated with the rest of the team.

    As for the first ring road, i believe all of the inner city ring runs through existing streets and never found its path crossing with existing sites. I can be sure of that between the seef roundabout and dasman roundabout as that area affected another project we were involved with and we have to integrate the ministry of public work plans with ours.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/08/2007 12:55 am  

  • Anon2: I figured that's what the saying meant, but I was a bit confused by its use here because Kuwait does have a past - a very rich and interesting one too. But I guess maybe what you mean here is that he who destroys his past doesn't have a future.

    Anon3: I'm glad you commented because I'm relieved to hear that this is not the final approved plan for Failaka. I too hope that the scheme that does get chosen is one that is both environmentally and archaeologically friendly. However, experience has shown me that that is rarely the case. Besides, to me the whole "project" itself - to turn Failaka into a resort island - is sad, regardless of whether or not they slice a lagoon through it. Because you and I both know what projects like these turn into in Kuwait (no matter what original ideals the planners had in mind): Disney/Vegas style fiascos. And the evidence of that is all around us. But I REALLY hope I'm wrong on this one!

    As for the First Ring Road, even if they are using the paths of existing roads, obviously they're going to have to significantly widen them - because otherwise, what's the point? And that widening of streets right smack in the city centre is going to cause destruction. As for not crossing with existing sites, I'm not so sure about that. I'm looking at the map now and I see plenty of sites being crossed. And even if they don't tear things down to make way for the highway (perish the thought!), they are still building a highway through the city! Even if they don't slice through Behbehani Complex, it's going to be flanked by a highway! You mentioned Dasman roundabout - just looking at the map I can already identify a historic building that will need to be torn down (the one behind the gas station there). And speaking of Dasman, just a couple of months ago a beautiful old villa that was built in the 1950s right off the roundabout was demolished. It was one of my favourite buildings in Kuwait City and suddenly it's gone.

    I appreciate and admire the fact that architects/planners such as yourself are taking the time to do historical research and are taking the environment and existing sites into consideration in your plans. But the sad truth is...well...take a look around!

    By Blogger Kleio, at 5/08/2007 1:32 am  

  • Since there are lotsa annonymous people turning up, I thought it's better to join with this account.

    Anyways, your comment about the household waste got me excited because my MSc thesis was concerned with "Energy from Municipal waste in Kuwait". I'll just show some numbers for the benefit of everybody.

    The production of municipal(household) solid waste in Kuwait increased from about 1.37 kg per capita per day to 1.55 kg/capita/day in 2000. I thought with more young people being educated by the years waste should actually be reduced not increased!

    1.55 kg/person/day translates into 566 kg/person for the year 2000. It is only:
    516 for France
    509 for Italy
    578 for the UK (disappointing Kleio huh?)

    Anyways, according to my humble calculations, Kuwait can save around 4.5 million dollars per year of OIL cost at a barrel price of 16 dollars IF we simply BURN that waste to generate electricity instead of oil. Imagine the savings at the prices of today.

    sorry for all the numbers guys. I hope they did not make u fel dizzy and sleepy and bored

    By Blogger Traveleer, at 5/08/2007 9:20 am  

  • Traveleer: Thank you for actually using a name instead of anonymous! It helps keep track of who each commentator is.

    Fascinating stats. I'm surprised actually - I thought Kuwait would be well ahead of France and the UK. Since I'm not an expert I'm not quite sure what these numbers actually "mean". Where does Kuwait rank amongst the other countries?

    But 566kg per person per year! That's so much! My goodness, I can't imagine what that consists of. How do they calculate that? I mean, how do you separate out business/commercial waste from household waste when coming up with such statistics?

    Also, how does Kuwait currently get rid of its waste? And is there a recycling plant in Kuwait? Interesting study you did there. Will you publish your findings or at least share them with the powers that be?

    Sorry for all the questions! I'm a curious person. Anyway thanks a lot for commenting! :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 5/08/2007 10:25 am  

  • Kleio,
    you ask questions like a true environmental management expert. Unfortunetly my speciality is ENERGY not environment but I will try to answer your questions here.

    I dont think there is a ranking really but you can take data from different countries and make a comparison which is not always fair because waste generation depends primarily on education and income. But, you can say that Kuwait is one of the worst offenders when it comes to household waste production.

    Calculations of these numbers for Kuwait in my study are based on population figures and income. Separation fo commercial and household waste is done by field work, meaning checking out the rubbish and separating it to list the different waste components (e.g. organic, paper, plastics..etc). and guess what, organic waste is the largest component found, which is mostly FOOD. we throw tons of uneaten food everday.

    The answer to your last question is Kuwait gets rid of its waste by simply dumping it in landfill sites (4 of them existed in Kuwait until 2001). The waste is sually put in big quarries that resulted from excavation.

    and I have no idea if we have a recycling or waste treatment lan now, until 2001 we did not have any.
    By the way, did you know that waste disposal is at the BOTTOM of the modern waste management hierarchy.

    *pheww*

    By Blogger Traveleer, at 5/08/2007 11:33 am  

  • Traveleer: You flatter me ("environmental management expert"!). :) This is all really interesting.

    I can see how Kuwait would be one of the worst offenders. We have a lousy education system and a high average household income. I am not surprised to hear that most of the waste is organic. We waste TONS of food! I've never seen as much food get thrown out as you see in Kuwait. If only they would stop cooking so much unnecessary food that ends up in the bin, and take that extra food and donate it to the poor South Asian labourers who get paid pennies per month, if at all.

    Don't you love how one issue leads directly to the next here? We went from the destruction of historic sites and the shoreline to waste production to the lack of human rights!

    Thanks for your insight. One thing you didn't answer: what will you do with your findings? :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 5/08/2007 12:30 pm  

  • hello

    I actually was thinking, this is the first time I discuss scientific findings on a blog, which is really cool. and one subject leads to another because our problems in Kuwait are never ending

    and my findings are on hold until I finish my PhD, which is in the field of energy and has nothing to do with waste. Then when I go back to the place I work for I will write a proposal to start a project on the topic of energy from waste.

    By Blogger Traveleer, at 5/08/2007 1:02 pm  

  • The first ring road does follow the route/path of existing roads in the city. The only building that will be demolished for this project is the coptic church as far as I know. You are right though, the road itself will be expanded an extra lane for each direction, but that shouldnt be a problem because the path it takes has plenty of unbuilt land. The Question is, what would they do if as they dig they find ruins? demolish the ruins the same way they did with the poetry library?
    There are paper and glass recycling plants in Kuwait, not so sure if one for aluminium exists. Waste water is being recycled.

    By Anonymous Jibla, at 5/08/2007 1:38 pm  

  • Traveleer: Yes, our problems in Kuwait are endless! It's nice discussing these issues with people of different professional backgrounds because you think about things in new ways. And a blog can be a good venue because you can get all sorts joining in. Anyway, good luck in your work. Where are you doing your PhD, by the way?

    Jibla: Is the Coptic church the one across from the Catholic church near the Sheraton? Either way, that's sad. The problem is, even if they don't build new roads, I just can't wrap my head around a four lane highway cutting through downtown Kuwait City! Also, I'm pretty certain they will destroy any archaeological findings they come across - and believe me, they will find some!

    As for the recycling - how does it work in Kuwait? I mean, what do I do if I want to recycle my stuff? I've never seen anyone with recycling bins or anything.

    And finally, I'm a Jibla girl myself! :)

    By Blogger Kleio, at 5/08/2007 10:24 pm  

  • They should have recycling bins in coops so people can go and deposit bottles and paper. Then again, people are too lazy to sort out their trash.

    By Anonymous Jibla, at 5/08/2007 10:35 pm  

  • Recycling plants are usually advertised about and people are encouraged to know about them/where they are. Why are they shy about it in Kuwait?. I mean In England now we have 2 rubbish bins next to each house, green top and black top ones. the green one is for plastic bags, papers and small cartons and the black for others. If you want to dispose of your glass you have to go to the nearest supermarket(Tescos Kleio :P). Also, if you do not put the right stuff in the right bin! your garbage will not be collected for that week! tough luck!

    So, this is the way it should be in Kuwait, the government taking the initiative and FORCING people to do something, you think only Kuwaitis are lazy, most people are but they get scared of hefty fines.

    Kleio, I do my PhD in England, not very far from London and thank you for wishing me good luck..same to you.

    By Blogger Traveleer, at 5/09/2007 7:24 am  

  • Jibla: I've never seen them in the co-ops before. Next time I'm in Kuwait I should look closer.

    Traveleer: It would be amazing if our government forced people to recycle, but unfortunately our government should act by example and I think we've already established that they're even worse!

    I live in central London so I don't have bins of any kind! I use the commercial skip down the street to throw out my rubbish. I live alone so I usually fill a kitcken bin bag about once a week. I throw bottles and newspapers into the public recycle bins that are scattered throughout the city. There's one about a block away from me. So yeah, there's a bit of an effort involved, which is why most people don't do it. I'll admit, I sometimes throw my bottles out with the trash if I'm in a hurry. But at least we have the option to recycle here. And I do feel guilty when I don't!

    By Blogger Kleio, at 5/09/2007 8:23 pm  

  • Sad that they are "developing" the island "this way".
    What would you suggest as development or work to be done over there?

    By Anonymous P, at 5/09/2007 9:27 pm  

  • I said they should have them in coops. I dont know if they do. I mean how hard is it to have big bins outside coops for paper, glass, and cans?

    By Anonymous Jibla, at 5/10/2007 1:32 am  

  • P: It really is sad. Your question is an interesting one, and I have been trying to think about that myself since I posted this. What would I prefer instead?

    I guess, to put it simply, I would like Failaka to remain a treasured secret. Failaka is one of those sites that most people seem to forget about. Remember this last trip when I was home and we mentioned to people that we were planning on taking the ferry over with our bikes for the day? People were so surprised, like they'd forgotten that Failaka existed. (Unfortunately the weather was disastrous that whole week and we couldn't go!) In a way, I'd like for the majority of people to forget that Failaka exists, because it is that same majority that I know are going to totally ruin it. The silent minority - we are the ones who would know how to thoroughly enjoy and cherish it.

    Now what that means for the island, I'm not quite sure. I just know that turning it into a "resort"/"entertainment" island is not the answer. See, this is a perfect case privileging quality over quantity. I know that with the new planning schemes they will get quantity: hundreds of visitors will visit Failaka every year. But personally, I would prefer that only 10 people visit the island each year, if those 10 people truly understand and appreciate the experience and value of the visit.

    The article you linked to actually made me tear ever so slightly, as pathetic as I know that sounds. At first I actually thought it was Art who wrote it - since he came with us the last time I went in spring 2004. But other facts in the piece let me know it wasn't him.

    Jibla: Ooops, my mistake! I thought you meant that they DO have them at the co-ops! Yes, they certainly should, but do they? I'm going to say "NO".

    Wow, I sound so negative and pessimistic, don't I? This is so sad. I swear, I didn't used to be like this...

    By Blogger Kleio, at 5/10/2007 2:55 am  

  • I care! And it breaks my heart too! Kleio plz keep on updating us wayward ignoramus citizens and keeping us abreast of things like this. We've talked about the 'ju77a' urban planning in the past, but this....this is heart-breaking. Speaking up is the key....I think I'm now going to do an official last name change to Bandali too- what a priceless tidbit that was.

    I love you, I do, I do :-)

    By Blogger Harmonie22, at 5/15/2007 2:45 am  

  • Harmonie: I love you too, I love you too!! :) I will certainly do my part to keep you all abreast of all the ju77a decisions and planning schemes our stellar government and fellow first-rate citizens come up with.

    As for the Bendaly family video, credit must go to Q from kuwaitism.com for posting about it a few months ago. It's amazing, isn't it? Reminds me of a better Kuwait. A much better Kuwait...

    By Blogger Kleio, at 5/15/2007 2:54 am  

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