Japanese garden in Bahrain faces demolition
Manama, August 29, 2014
A Bahrain resident, who has spent tens of thousands of dinars from his own pocket to build a Japanese garden, claims he is being forced by authorities to demolish it.
Steve Vlajic created the traditional garden three decades ago on land in Hajjiyat, East Riffa, that he alleged was granted to him by the Central Municipality after he proposed the project to officials, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The 63-year-old Briton has spent 30 years working on the carefully composed landscape, which is known worldwide for being a meditation zone with stroll gardens where white sand replaces water.
He told the GDN that he received a warning letter from the municipality to vacate the grounds because there were no documents proving he owned the plot.
“I didn't sign any ownership papers when I was granted the land,” he said.
“I spoke to the head of the municipality who was in charge at that time and told him about my idea of planting a unique Japanese garden and he gave me this piece of land to implement my idea.
“I then carried out the project at my own expense, paying almost BD200 every month to cover the garden's cost.
“However, it is not the money that I am worrying about. I just don't want my garden to be demolished.
“If they want to plant another garden then they can plant it around mine as I have space for that.”
Vlajic said he feared the municipality's 'unfair' decision would destroy hundreds of trees planted in the garden.
“How can you remove your valuable places? And where have you been for the past three decades?” he asked.
“My lawyer wrote a letter to the municipality after I received the warning (two months ago) but they didn't get back to me until now.
“This garden has been used by the public since 1984. It has bonsai trees, as well as swings, tables and chairs.
“They want to kill hundreds of trees when, in fact, the people in Bahrain are trying their best to keep their country green.
“I have been living in Bahrain for 33 years and I don't understand how someone can come from England and build a garden without a green light,” Vlajic said.
However, Central Municipal Council technical committee chairman Yousif Al Sabbagh said the land was earmarked for a public park.
“The Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry chose this land for a park and it therefore sent a warning to Vlajic to remove any valuable plants or gifts before they carry out the project,” he said.
“He spoke to me about the problem but I explained to him that by law, he must have a legal document to prove that he was granted the land.
“I am also not able to help him because I haven't heard about the people who he says allowed him to build the garden 30 years ago, including the chairman of the municipality and other officials.
“He asked if the new park can be built around his garden but I don't think it is possible because the design was decided during the project's tendering and it is hard to change it for a garden that only occupies no more than 20 per cent of the land.
“However, it is up to the ministry if they want to leave his garden as it is, but from my point of view, I believe it is difficult to prioritise one man's benefit over the public benefit.” - TradeArabia News Service