Call to lift Bahrain heritage sites ban
Manama, October 4, 2009
A ban on developments on archaeological sites must be lifted to allow urbanisation to go ahead, say councillors.
Northern Municipal Council members say while they don't want archaeological sites to be destroyed, land surrounding these areas must be opened for development.
Many necessary projects needed to develop surrounding areas have been put on hold or cancelled altogether because of the restriction, say councillors.
Now they are demanding that the Culture and Information Ministry draw clear boundaries, separating areas it is seeking to be listed as a World Heritage Site from those where development should be allowed.
Bahrain announced in May that 11 historic locations were being considered as a possible single World Heritage site.
They include burial mounds and historic relics, such as temples in Abu Janadal and Wadi Al Sail in the Southern Governorate, three in Hamad Town and one each in Janabiya, Saar, Al Qadam, Shakoora and Janusan.
The A'ali section of the chain would include the Royal Burial Mounds and burial mounds in Buri, in addition to the A'ali pottery area, along with ancient palace remains in A'ali.
The 11 protected sites would each have their own information centres and museums.
An agreement has been already reached with the ministry to bulldoze historic burial mounds in Buri village, to make way for a new road, houses and a public park.
Councillors successfully argued that the 62 burial mounds nominated as a World Heritage Site, which date back as far as 4,000 years, were standing in the way of development. However, heritage chiefs will first excavate the area, near Hamad Town, before allowing the bulldozers in.
Any burial mounds found to be of particular historical significance will be fenced off, but the rest will be flattened.
Eight-and-a-half of the 11 heritage sites being touted for World Heritage Site status are in the Northern Governorate, said council chairman Yousif Al Boori.
'We are very happy that the government is keen on protecting history, especially in our governorate, although it is too late considering that many have already been destroyed,' he said.
'However, this shouldn't be at the expense of development.
'Let's take into consideration A'ali and Buri burial mounds, which have been destroyed as development swiped through them in just around nine years.
'We don't want more to be destroyed, we just want to strike a balance between history and urbanisation.'
Al Boori said that Shakoora was the biggest example of the blend between history and modernity.
'The new housing project surrounds the historical site, which is fenced and instead of hiring security to protect the place, it is protected by residents,' he said.
'We don't want to see any relics being stolen again, with the theft of an ancient artefact from Barbar Temple in February, last year, still in mind.'
It is thought that the 3,500-year-old artefact was hauled away by a gang of hired thieves, commissioned to take it to a third party. 'The same could be achieved in all areas, if the development ban is lifted and there will be a blend that everyone will be happy with - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) and the people,' said Al Boori.
Bahrain already has one World Heritage site, Bahrain Fort, which was listed in 2006 as Qalat Al Bahrain.-TradeArabia News Service