Bahrain to start work on new town this year
Manama, March 5, 2010
Work on the first homes in the BD1 billion ($2.65 billion) Northern Town in Bahrain is expected to begin within the fourth quarter of this year, Housing Minister Shaikh Ibrahim bin Khalifa Al Khalifa told MPs.
The first phase will involve 1,500 houses, which will be completed in 2012, he said.
It was also revealed that 15,000 Northern Governorate residents on the ministry's housing waiting list would be given homes in the town within 10 years.
The information was given to parliament's Northern Town probe committee, led by MP Hassan Al Dossary, as they met Shaikh Ibrahim in his office, in the Diplomatic Area.
The committee is expected to finish its report on delays and other complaints about the project, which will then be discussed at a full parliamentary session.
Shaikh Ibrahim faces a possible "no-confidence" vote by MPs, if the probe cites flaws in his handling of the massive project.
Investigations are focusing on delays by the ministry to start work on the town, despite the foundation stone being laid out in 2002 by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Economic Development Board (EDB) chairman.
It is also investigating rumours that reclaimed land earmarked for the town has been sold to private investors, shrinking the government project.
"We have been told that 10 out of 14 islands within the town have been completely reclaimed," said Al Dossary. But the islands so far reclaimed and readied for development account for less than a quarter of the area of the town, he said.
The first 1,500 houses, measuring 400 sqm, will be built on two islands (numbers 13 and 14) and completed in 2012, but no actual date for completion had been given, said Al Dossary.
He said only 7.4 sq km of the total project area of 27 sq km was ready for development. "There are still concerns about infrastructure in the town and when bridges and roads will be built and water and electricity supplies provided, or whether there would be any delay in having families moved there," he said.
Al Dossary said that the committee was still waiting for the exact plans for the town. "The minister and other officials said in 10 years, the town would be completely built," he said. "But no one knows today what will be in the town besides homes and unless we get that in detail, the committee can't submit a comprehensive report."
Officials announced in 2002 that the town would provide between 75,000 and 100,000 people with government homes.
Northern Municipal Council chairman Yousif Al Boori claimed in August 2008 that some plots in the town had already been allocated to investors and only a few were left for the people, who were originally the main beneficiaries.
He claimed that the government's intention for the project had been for investment purposes from the beginning. The government denied this, pledging that the town was being built for the people.
It was announced in 2002 that the town, which is at least five times the size of the Seef District, would also include various facilities. They include a hospital, an interactive museum and aquarium, a university, health centres, schools, mosques, shopping malls, hotels, libraries, post offices and petrol stations.
It will also include the Civic Plaza, which will house the offices of the Northern Municipality, Governorate and Municipal Council. Other plans include three lagoons and state-of-the-art transportation facilities such as a train network and ferries.
It will also include nine youth centres, a modern sports club and a huge stadium, centres for children, the disabled and elderly as well as women's societies. There will also be 20 kindergartens, 12 primary schools, six intermediate schools, five secondary schools, four libraries and a large multi-purpose community hall. -TradeArabia News Service