Sand-dredging bill is hit by funding row
Manama, March 11, 2014
A new law regulating sand-dredging in Bahrain has been shelved.
The decision follows the failure of Shura Council and parliament to reach agreement on two specific articles contained in the draft bill, despite 12 months of negotiations, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
One involves giving municipal councils authority to approve or reject dredging permits to companies and the other setting up a fund to help fishermen.
MPs initially agreed to scrap both articles in line with Shura Council recommendations, but opted to keep them after learning the government had no plans to launch a national fund for fishermen and the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry had no intention of consulting councils on the process.
The Shura Council public utilities and environment affairs committee recommended that the bill be passed, but members rejected it after listening to Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Minister Dr Juma Al Ka'abi.
The law has now been listed for discussion in a joint National Assembly session - the first time a disputed bill has gone to the legislative authority since it was reinstated in 2002. Companies were previously required to obtain a licence to carry out dredging, but there were no limits on how much sand they could scoop up.
"There are eight local dredging companies and four international ones operating in Bahrain," Dr Al Ka'abi told Shura Council members. "We don't want to extract sand from the sea, but we are forced to do so due to the high urbanisation rate the country is currently seeing. We want the law, but the two articles are impossible and conflict with other existing legislation."
He added dredging licences had been frozen for the past year after responsibility for offshore activity was handed to his ministry from the dissolved Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife. - TradeArabia News Service