Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Traffic Fines Exclude use of Bluetooth, Hands-Free Devices

Tuesday, 29 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Jeddah - Starting in April drivers will no longer be allowed to use their mobile phones while on the road in an attempt by the Ministry of Interior to decrease the 5,000 annual traffic related deaths. Violating this new law would result in a fine of up to SR150.

Captain Abdullah Al-Qahtani, director of Jeddah Traffic and safety specialist, said the fines would help make the streets of Jeddah safer.

"The new fines would reduce (excess mistakes) that contribute to an increase in traffic accidents and would then increase safety on the road." Al-Qahtani said.

He added that fines were a solution but not the panacea, as we need to assess community response instead of dealing with the same treatment. "Unfortunately, every day we hear about incidents." Al-Qahtani emphasized that most fatal accidents occur when drivers text message while they drive.

Drivers who use hands-free devices such as Bluetooth technology and wired headsets would not be subjected to fines.

"The drivers we are concerned about are the ones who have their mobile phones in their hands while they drive. We are attempting to increase awareness with a new campaign for the next 180 days." Al-Qahtani said.

The new fines will not only be limited to mobile phone usage. Reading newspapers and holding infants in drivers laps will be embodied in the new fines.

Maj. Gen. Fahd Al-Bishr, director general of the Traffic Department said the new traffic law passed by the Council of Ministers last Monday would help reduce road accidents in the country.
The Interior Ministry will form a Supreme Traffic Council, which would oversee the formation of traffic policies throughout the Kingdom.

"The council will help make decisions to resolve traffic problems as well as enact new rules and regulations to cut down accidents saving lives every day," Al-Bishr said.

The new law had given the interior minister more powers to enact regulations in order to deal with modern developments. Under this provision new traffic courts will be set up where traffic violations can be contested. These courts will have the authority to review and cancel fines on a case by case basis.

Over the last five years, 1.36 million registered accidents occurred in the Kingdom, killing 21,900 people and injuring 122,600 others. Every minute at least 11 traffic violations take place in the Kingdom. Annual material losses from road accidents are estimated at SR21 billion.

According to the www.cnn.com web site over 43 countries around the world have already banned mobile phone use while driving

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jeddah Dump Blaze Anew

Tuesday, 22 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Even as the hue and cry continued over massive atmospheric pollution caused earlier this month by a week-long fire in the city's main garbage dump, another fire broke out in the same place Sunday around 6 P.M.

The city's fleet of 200 water supply tankers was diverted to help 10 Civil Defense firefighting units still battling the blaze at press-time Monday.

Brigadier Mohammad Al-Ghamdi, director of Civil Defense in Jeddah, said investigations suggest that the fire was caused when pressurized containers - even a cigarette lighter- in the garbage exploded under pressure from bulldozers clearing up the dump which is being transferred to a new site further away from the city.

"The firefighters have remained at the site since the earlier fires and there are many Civil Defense units ready for any emergency," Al-Ghamdi said.

Khaled Aqeel, deputy mayor for Services, was seen at the location of the blaze stopping garbage trucks from dumping more waste into the old garbage yard.

"Nobody started this fire intentionally," Aqeel said. The earlier blaze was allegedly caused by copper scavengers in the area.

"The dump will be moved to the new location in the next few days." Aqeel said.
Brigadier Mohammed Al-Asmari said security forces were keeping a watch for people - mostly illegal residents - trying to transporting things away from the garbage yard.

After the inferno in early January, Jeddah municipality pledged to close down the site and move the garbage yard.

"We only hear promises but we don't see action," said Nashi Al-Harbi , resident of Al-Smair neighborhood.

He said only a small part of the old garbage yard has been moved to the new location.
About the municipality's pledge to build a fence around the site, he said as he pointed a finger all round the site, "The municipality didn't build anything.

Other residents said they would take their complaints to Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal to end the problem once and for all.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Bid to Save Jeddah’s Dying Coast

Sunday, 20 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

The municipality here has identified as many as 90 major sources of coastal pollution, including the towering Jeddah Desalination Plant that's a landmark along the Corniche.
"The Municipality used the GPS system to identify the sites," said Faisal Shawli, director of the Jeddah Municipality's Environmental Sanitation Department. "The process covered all parts of the city such as the Corniche, the main garbage dump (in the northeast) and the sewage dump (further northeast)," he said.

Along the Corniche area, as many as 19 channels from storm-water drainage networks, government quarries and cement factories pour polluting effluents into the sea.

Additionally, there is the smoke emitted from Saudi Electricity Company and Jeddah Desalination Plant, Shawli said.

The Municipality also identified more recent sources of atmospheric pollution from as-yet unidentified places along Jeddah's eastern fringe where tire-fires have been fouling up the air of late.

Shawli said a municipality team is out investigating why people are setting fire to tires and how the problem can be solved.
The northern Corniche is one of the focal points of the municipality's anti-pollution drive.
"We are working to account for all pollutants in the northern Cornish and stop the sources," Shawli said.

The anti-pollution drive is the latest of the municipality's efforts to improve the quality of life in the Red Sea coastal city. Last week, it announced completion of a three-phase city cleaning operation.

The municipality's stress on hygiene and anti-pollution measures is in keeping with the spurt of gigantic real estate development projects under way in the city.

These include five-star hotels, top-class resorts and high-end residential units such as the 40-story Al-Jawharah residential tower along the Corniche (near Hilton) and the luxury residence project in the same area by Saudi Economic and Development Co. Ltd. (SEDCO) and Singapore-based Keppel Land Ltd. Another landmark coming up along the Corniche is the Business Headquarters Park.

One research study that recently won funding from King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) revealed alarming environmental pollution in Jeddah.

The study by Ahmad Bin Hassan Al-Ghamdi of King Abdulaziz University pinpointed the three main environmental hazards in Jeddah as follows: sanitary drainage 90.7 percent, air pollutants 62.1 percent and solid home-waste 21.4 percent. He estimated pollution from the three sources at 25, 36 and 12 percent respectively.

The study put the monetary cost of environmental and health hazards from sanitary drainage water as high (between SR50 million and 200 million a year), air pollutants as average (between SR5 million and SR50 million a year) and solid home waste low as average to low (less than SR5 million a year).

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission has drawn up a draft report on how badly the recent inferno at the city's garbage dump affected public health.

The report about the blaze, which raged for nearly a week, is to be submitted to the Custodian of the Holy Mosques soon, reports said.

Sewage pollution of Jeddah's coastline has been a long-standing problem.
In 1997, a published study by the Department of Marine Biology at King Abdul Aziz University said the mangrove stand of Avicennia marina in the South Corniche receives about 100,000 cubic meters of sewage per day.

The sewage has high values of COD (chemical oxygen demand), BOD (biochemical oxygen demand), nutrient concentrations, heavy metals and faecal coliform counts, the study said.

Consequently, as early as the mid-1990s. the mangrove stand occupying an area of about less than half a square kilometer, was dying or getting retarded. The study attributed the cause to the sewage discharge in the area.

South Africa, JCCI to hold Tourist Activities

Friday, 18 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

JEDDAH - The South African Consulate in cooperation with Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry next month will hold workshops on potential tourism investments in South Africa.

Mahdi Basdeen, South Africa's Consul General, also said that up to 125 Saudi companies have been invited to invest in his country's thriving tourism sector.

"The Consulate will organize workshops in various provinces of the Kingdom like Jazan, Najran and Madina to discuss possible trade and investment cooperation," Mahdi said.

The proposed visit of Saudi businessmen in South Africa, which will run for a couple of days, is expected to be concluded with an investment and economic cooperation agreement to be signed between the two countries, he said.

About 20 South Africa representatives, from the government and private sectors, under the chairmanship of Ibrahim Rasul, who is premier of the Western Cape in South Africa will participate in the Jeddah Economy Forum 2008.

"The delegation will talk about the investment environment and economic cooperation relations between the Kingdom and South Africa, where they will also talk about a number of successful investment experiences in various sectors (in South Africa)," the consul commented.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

JCCI Invited to invest in Sri Lanka

Thursday, 17 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

The Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry has received an official invitation from the Sri Lankan government to visit a number of cities and consider the South Asian country's tourism potential.

Abdull-Lateef Dhafer, the Sri Lankan Consul, recently discussed with JCCI Secretary Generel Mustafa Sabri possible avenues to improve bilateral trade, tourism and labor relations between the two countries on Thursday.

"The meeting was fruitful... we discussed ways of increasing tourism and labor exchanges. My Sri Lankan counterpart wanted to extend bridges of cooperation with the hotel sector in the Kingdom... and expressed his desire on a possible of employment and experience between the two countries," Sabri said.

Sabri said Dhafeer expressed his country's desire to receive a delegation of Saudi businessmen through the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce.

"Sri Lank has a beautiful climate ideal for tourism business... which we hope that Saudi businessmen will invest in Sri Lanka's thriving tourist section," Abdull-Lateef said.

Greenspan to Grace JEF 2008

Wednesday, 16 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Former US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will be one of several eminent speakers in the Jeddah Economic Forum (JEF) 2008 to be held between Feb. 23-26.

The JEF 2008 is under the patronage of Khaled Al-Faisal, the Emir of Makkah region. The theme this year is "Value Creation through Alliances and Partnerships."

However, for the first time since its inception in 1999, the forum, the premium business event on the Gulf conference calendar, will not be held at the Jeddah Hilton.

Instead, JEF will be held at the Jeddah Center for Exhibitions and Conferences (JIEC), the venue of expos such as annual motor shows and household appliances showcase. Preparations at the 8,000 sq. m. JIEC will start 23 days prior to the event.

"The open space and the many facilities in the venue are more conducive in terms of organization," said Sami Bahrawi, President of JEF 2008.

He added that keynote speeches will be followed by discussion and debate to encourage interaction among the delegates. Six main issues and 18 working papers will be studied.

"We carefully chose the politicians, economists and Saudi businesswomen we invited so they would effectively contribute to, and at the same time, benefit from each other's expertise and experience," said Bahrawi.

Greenspan was the leading authority on American domestic economic and monetary policy during his nearly 20-year tenure. He was lauded for his handling of the Black Monday stock market crash and the Internet-driven, "dot-com" economic boom in the 90s.

The other well-known speakers in the forum are Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Emir of Makkah; Prince Charles, Prince of Wales; Dr. Hashim Bin Abdullah, Saudi Minister of Commerce and Industry; Dr. Ghazi Abdul Rahman Al-Gosaibi, Minister of Labor; George Soros, global financier and philanthropist; Dr. Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority; Lee Kuan Yew, Minister Mentor Singapore; Eric Stark Maskin, economist and co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences; Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Noble Laureate and founder of Grameen Bank; Dr. Abdallah E. Dabbagh, president and chief executive officer of Ma'aden, Muhammad Al-Jasser, Vice Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA); Dr. Khalid Al-Anqari, Minister of Higher Education; Jim O'Neill, head of Global Economic Research; Goldman Sachs, Silajdžic, The Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency member; Suresh Vaswani, president of Global IT Service Lines Wipro Technologies and president of Wipro Infotech; Gen. Barry McCaffrey, Atif Abdulmalik, CEO Arcapita; Mark Morial, president and chief executive officer National Urban League; Sheppard, Chair of the Duke CE board of directors and the Dean of the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University; and Peter Lange, The Provost, chief academic officer of Duke University .

Select university students will also attend the forum.

Bahrawi said that past participants of JEF laud its contribution to the development of economic thought, commercial, industrial, and tourism industry and trade sectors.

"They said that the forum brought information for business development, and deepened economic opportunity in response to the practical reality with the new regulations of free
market economics," he said.

Jeddah is now Clean, Claims Municipality

Wednesday, 16 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Jeddah - The municipality here on Tuesday announced completion of a three-stage city cleaning operation. New cleaning contracts totaling approximately SR900 million were recently awarded to three contractors - Dallah, Sadaqah and Alwan cleaning company - to keep the Red Sea port city and Gateway to the Two Holy Mosques spic and span over the next five years.

The contracts are for three zones - south, north and central Jeddah. Previously, only one cleaning company, Dallah, handled the operation.

Ahmad Al-Ghamdi, the municipality's PR director said the three contractors efficiently met the deadlines set in timetable, and the specifications of their contracts.

"The municipality deployed some 2,073 cleaning workers and 64 trucks for the three-stage operation," Al-Ghamdi said.

The first phase, completed in December, included putting in place a mechanism to regularly wash pavements, clean beaches, canals, bridges, tunnels and graveyards, collect bodies of dead birds and animals and clear or prevent water and sewage leaking on to the streets.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Unlicensed Insurance Firms in KSA to Close?

Tuesday, 15 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Many unlicensed insurance companies operating in the Kingdom will have to close their doors and stop their activities beginning Tuesday. This after the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) issued a deadline for insurance businesses to amend their operations, relative to the monetary authority's issuance of the draft market code of conduct regulation for insurance companies and insurance service providers in Saudi Arabia.

A SAMA source told Saudi Gazette that insurance documents of unlicensed firms will be canceled by March 11, in which case policyholders must be informed by letters and their money refunded as well.

Insurance companies which want to stop activities must provide SAMA a withdrawal plan and should include a comprehensive report of all existing obligations, the source added.

SAMA's director of insurance supervision Mohammad A. Al-Shayea on Jan. 5 requested all insurance companies, insurance service providers and the public to provide a written response or comments to the draft code within 60 days of its publication.

The draft code, among others, aims to institutionalize "the general principles and minimum standards that should be met by insurance companies, including branches of foreign insurance companies, and insurance service providers licensed by SAMA in their dealings with their existing and potential customers."

Monday, January 14, 2008

Jeddah goes on Flood Alert

Sunday, 13 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

The Municipality here put emergency teams on standby after the Met office warned of the likelihood of heavy rain in the Western Province and other parts of the Kingdom over the next few days.

Emmad Bukhari, member of a municipality committee formed to tackle rain-related problems, said a well-thought-out plan is in place to make sure that water is quickly pumped out of flooded streets.

When it rains in Jeddah, generally once or twice a year, the streets get flooded quickly, traffic gets bogged down and trees, traffic lights and electricity posts get blown down by accompanying winds.

Municipality officials have in the past attributed street-flooding to pipes in the city's storm water drainage network being clogged with caked waste and mud from the hot, dry and long summer months.

Besides, the drainage network does not cover the older and more densely populated parts of the city, like Safa, Rehab, Bani Malik, Sharfiyah, Kilo 3, etc. where life usually comes to a standstill in the rain because people are trapped indoors or refuse to venture out into the inundated streets.

Bukhari said that this time around, the Municipality has six emergency teams of 100 workers in total to clear open the drainage holes along roadsides.

"Some 220 tankers will be available to clear the water pumped out from the streets," he said.
Bukhari said that the plan "will minimize rain-related problems since it is based on past experiences and includes every possibility to increase efficiency."

The Presidency of Meteorology and Environment has warned of a chance of rain in the next few days in the southwestern and western highlands, the east and north.

"After this report the municipality formed the emergency teams," said Bukhari. "The plan is to remove rain water from the main streets within 24 hours, the service and side street within 48 hours and the parks within 72 hours.

Government bodies participating in the plan include the Ministry of Water and Electricity, General Directorate of Roads and Transport, Civil Defense, Security Patrols, Traffic Police Department and Saudi Electricity Company.

"The Ministry of Water will take charge of the drainage system and the Directorate of Roads and Transport will deal with the flooded roads, using pumps and tankers if necessary," Bukhari said.

Knowledge Economy Conference starts in Jeddah

Sunday, 13 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, the Emir of Makkah, on Saturday launched the first regional conference on the knowledge economy under the slogan "Towards A Knowledge Economy" at the Hilton Hotel. The event runs until Monday.

"Selected economic experts will highlight ways to maximize the Kingdom's stock of intellectual capital that can be utilized to diversify and develop the economy," Abdullah Al-Subyani, founder and president of the Arabian Knowledge Economy Association (AKEA) said.

The conference particularly intends to introduce, promote and apply the appropriate policies and strategies for building a viable knowledge-based economy.

"The conference will focus on creating awareness on the knowledge-based economy, learning from the experience of other countries in preparing their individuals and enterprises for the knowledge economy era," Al-Subyani said.

The two-day event will also network entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts to discover new practical approaches for improving and shaping innovation and entrepreneurship in several industries including education, hydrocarbon, power and water, environment, health-care and life sciences, information and communication technologies and real estate and tourism.

The conference keynote speakers for the opening ceremony include Prime Minister Bertie Ahern of Ireland and Dr. Amr Moussa, Arab League Secretary General. The conference is expected to attract between 700 and 1000 delegates from the region and globally.

German Envoy visits JCCI

Sunday, 13 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Germany consul Mikhail Tskerik recently visited Jeddah Chamber for Commerce and Industry (JCCI) to promote economic and political relations between the two countries.

Saleh Al-Turki, JCCI head, said the visit aimed at strengthening economic relations and investment between the two countries, Germany is ranked third in the list of exporters to the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has a new plan that aims to attract international investments estimated at $620 billion in the coming years. "Joint investments between the two countries now amount tosSR4.1 billion, spread over 115 projects in various sectors," Al-Turki said.

Meanwhile, Tskerik praised the diverse investment opportunities that the Kingdom is witnessing as a result of good plans that depend on specialized searches.

Jobs training for Saudi

Friday, 11 January 2008
By: Adel Al-Malki

Jeddah- Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) has signed a cooperation agreement with Gulf Company for Training (GCT) to prepare young Saudis for the labor market.

Under the agreement signed Wednesday, GCT will find ways to overcome hurdles in the way of the private sector hiring Saudis.

"The agreement is in line with the Jeddah Chamber's efforts to implement the true concept of Saudization by meeting the needs of business seeking qualified young people to work in all sectors" said JCCI Chairman Saleh Al-Turki.

Saudization is the government's job localization program to address the problem of unemployment among Saudis and to reduce dependence on foreign workers.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

No Summer Cut in Power supply, says SEC

Friday, 11 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Saudi Electricity Company has a plan to ensure no breakdown in electricity supply during summer.

Ali Al-Barak, SEC executive chairman, gave industrialists, traders and shopping center owners this assurance Wednesat the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) in view of the growing number of factories in the country.

Olfat Qabani, head of Social Responsibility at JCCI, appealed to the private sector to set up electric power stations, especially in industrial zones.

" The need is urgent given the steady growth of the manufacturing sector and the many challenges facing the Kingdom, especially since its entry into the WTO (World Trade Organization)," Qabani said.

There were some of 3,986 factories in operation in the country by the end of the first half of 2007, with investments totaling SR306 billion.

Small- and medium-scale industries accounted for up to 80 percent of the factories. Last December, SEC signed three contracts worth SR3.8 billion for the expansion of its Rabigh power plant.

The expansion will increase the plant's capacity by 960 megawatt to reach a total capacity to 2,684 megawatt, which is sufficient for the growing electricity requirements in the Makkah and Madinah regions.

SEC has also signed an agreement with the National Contracting Company to establish 16 gas turbine units at the plant.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Google CEO to address Knowledge event in Jeddah

Wednesday, 09 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Keynote speakers for the opening ceremony of the first regional conference on the knowledge economy, January 12- 13 at the Jeddah Hilton Hotel, include Ireland's Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, Google CEO Larry Page and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, organizing officials said.

Madina's new Knowledge Economic City is co-sponsoring the event being organized by the Arab Society for Knowledge Economy. Makkah Emir Prince Khaled Al-Faisal will grace the conference.

The event will feature as many as 1,000 knowledge economy experts from around the world.
"This select group of experts will highlight ways to optimize utilization of science, knowledge and creativity -intellectual capital - in sustainable economic diversification, development and modernization," said Abdullah Al-Subyani, founder and president of the Arabian Knowledge Economy Association (AKEA).

The Economic Knowledge City being developed in Madina is set to become the first smart city in the world.

CISCO has already signed up to establish a network-link academy there. The City has also signed MoUs with Intel International and with TCI organization.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

In Jeddah today, Students to show Good Civic Sense

Tuesday, 08 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Some 1,500 Saudi students will fan out across Jeddah on Tuesday for a public demonstration against irresponsible behavior such as littering, writing graffiti on walls and unhygienic use of washrooms at mosques.

Jeddah Municipality is organizing the campaign which has the slogan "We are all Responsible." "It is partnership program between the municipality and the Directorate of Jeddah Education to raise awareness about wrong practices," said Mohammad Abu-Emarah, assistant secretary of Central Services at Jeddah Municipality.

The students will be on watch for people who do not show good civic sense, and anybody caught acting irresponsibly will be given a piece of advice.

"This campaign will enhance the contribution of students in the fight against wrong practices and for preservation of public property through a spirit of collective responsibility towards their city." Abu-Emarah said.

As part of the campaign, the students will also remove graffiti from public property and clean up the city's parks and coastline.

Raja Allah Al-Sualmi, spokesman of Jeddah Education Directorate, cited Abdul Kareem Al-Heqail, director general of Education as saying that the campaign aims to draw national attention to the importance of environmental awareness and social unity in nation building.
The crucial role of families in complementing the initiative by the educational system is also emphasized.

Mohammad Abu-Emarah said: "They should know the importance of proper garbage disposal, and that vandalism and defacing of public facilities are crimes punishable by law."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

French to help overcome Flaws in Jeddah’s Flyovers

Sunday, 06 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

Jeddah Municipality is adopting tapping into French expertise to improve its efficiency and accuracy in bridge inspections and maintenance. French experts at a workshop held here over the past three days demonstrated to municipality's technical staff an inspection-and-monitoring software program that is the first of its kind.

The program, called Scanprint, was developed by Advitam, a division of French construction giant The Vinci Group.

Today, most countries in North America, Asia, and Europe use Scanprint to inspect their flyovers and bridges.

The program, by accurately determining the status of a bridge or flyover, helps in preventive maintenance so as to avoid a fault or collapse. It allows for quick decision-making on whether to change a bridge's parts also facilitates accurate monitoring of work on it. In addition, it helps in precisely determining maintenance schedules and costs.

The title of the workshop was "The system of development and maintenance bridges."
The workshop was held to develop the municipality's technical cadres overseeing new projects in the city.

"Through this workshop, the municipality seeks to keep pace with modern techniques to improve supervision of its projects," said Ahmad Ba-Nafe'e, director of Projects Management.

The municipality had recently run into a technical problem that saw construction work suspended at the finishing stages of a major flyover network across Palestine Road at the intersection of King Fahd Road (Sitteen Street).

"The new system will help in surveying flaws of bridges and allow for building a database on the status of all bridges," Ba-Nafe'e said.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Health Threat from Raging Garbage Blaze

Thursday, 03 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

As firefighters continued for the second full day to battle a huge blaze at the main garbage dump here, the General Presidency of Meteorology and Environmental Protection warned about the environmental and health risks stemming from the billowing toxic smoke that have enveloped the sky over the coastal city of some 3.5 million people. Parents in many districts did not send their children to school on Wednesday in order to prevent exposing them to the toxic smoke.

Hussien Al-Qahtani, spokesman of the General Presidency, said said the smoke cloud constitutes an imminent danger to public health and called upon the Mayoralty to speed up procedures to move the dump to a new site far from the city.

He said that strong wind in the evening caused the smoke cloud to cover most of Jeddah and that toxic emissions from the dump are directly responsible for chest and upper respiratory diseases spreading in Jeddah.

The blaze was sparked on Monday night reportedly by copper scavengers in the area. Since then, the Municipality has deployed 1,700 water-supply tankers to help Civil Defense firefighters trying to put out the fire. Strong winds are compounding the fire-fighting operations.

Adel Faqeeh, the Mayor of Jeddah, said the municipality did not use sewage water in the dousing operations. The water was channeled from the city's supply for domestic use.

The mayoralty, seeking to end the menace of scavengers once and for all, moved quickly to build a three-meter-high wall around the sprawling dump some 35 kilometers east of Jeddah from the Briman Bridge on Makkah Road.

Khaled Ugail, the Deputy Mayor of Jeddah said it would take 10 days to build the SR10- million wall, work on which will begin on Jan. 7. He said that Prince Me'teb Bin Abdul Aziz, the Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs, has signed a contract for temporary operation of the dump for three months more until the new dump is readied.

Al-Qahtani said the new dump area has been constructed according to the latest international environmental specifications and standards.

Mayor Faqeeh said every precaution is being taken to prevent the fire from spreading.
"The municipality is using leftover waste from construction work to control the fire," he said. "We are also enclosing the area with barbed wire so as to prevent the African people (the suspected scavengers in the area) from entering the dump."

Civil Defense teams on Wednesday tried to open up roads inside the dump and allow firefighters better access to the blaze.

"Civil Defense tractors are also clearing garbage so as to make sure that there is no fire underneath," said Brigadier Mohammad Al-Ghamdi, director of Civil Defense in Jeddah.

"Eight Civil Defense teams used up some 900 water-supply tankers, but the firemen still face a lot of problems," he said. "The biggest problem is the huge quantities of waste that makes movement of firefighting teams difficult.

"Also the fire area is big and strong winds are carrying fire from one location to another."
Last December the Civil Defense' operation room received 120 reports of fire in the dump, prompting deployment of security units inside the location to arrest those sparking the fires.

"The security units arrested more than 157 illegal people and seized 24 cars in the dump," said Major General Ali Saadi, Director of Jeddah Police Department. "The cars were being used by people going to the dump to buy the metals from scavengers."

The scavengers make a living by extracting valuable metals like copper or reusable goods.
As the firefighting operations continued Wednesday, the smog made visibility poor in most parts of northern Jeddah.

Mohammad Al-Mutairi, a teacher in Hamzah Bin Abdullmutalib school in Al-Nuzha district said he was surprised when he went out of his house in Briman District in the morning.

"I thought that was over the city but when I smelled smoke I knew that the fire was still raging in the dump" Al-Mutairi said.

"When I moved on the way to school, I couldn't see Briman Bridge because of the smoke."

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Jeddah under Huge Garbage-Fire Cloud

Wednesday, 02 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

The city's fleet of 1,500 water supply tankers was diverted Tuesday to help 10 Civil Defense firefighting units battling a huge overnight blaze in the main garbage yard.
The fire broke out at 4. A.M. and the dump, some 35 km east of Briman Bridge on Makkah Road, was still ablaze by nightfall.

Black smoke billowing from the conflagration turned the sky gray over the coastal city. Worst hit were the northeastern Al-Samer, Al-Mannar, Briman and Al-Rabea districts near the dump where residents reported breathing difficulty.

Hampering firefighting efforts were strong winds that saw the flames spreading from a 300 square-meter area to engulf at least 500 sq.m of the garbage dump by afternoon, said said Khaled Aqeel, the deputy mayor for Services.

Suspicion is on copper scavengers in the area, said Aqeel. He said the scavengers were mainly African nationals who make a living off the dump.

Smoke from the blaze cast a gray haze over the city, causing daytime temperature to plunge from 33°C on Monday. Residents as far away as Al-Hamra in the east, near King Fahd Hospital, said they could smell the smoke.

The smoke compounded breathing problems for many in nearby areas who were already down with a pulmonary infection from a virus that surfaced after Haj pilgrims began flocking to the city.

Khaled Aqeel, the deputy mayor for Services, said strong winds were hampering firefighting efforts. He said he suspected African nationals who have previously targeted the garbage dump for what has become a lucrative business in scavenging for copper wire.

Global copper prices, as with other metal commodities, have sharply increased over the past year with rising demand from booming construction activity in such large developing countries as China and India.

Scavengers find it convenient to set the garbage dump on fire so that the insulation of the copper wire melts and metal gleams, allowing for easy detection from the charred debris.
Tuesday's fire was the biggest yet sparked in the dump and it threatens to disrupt electricity supply to the city.

A source in the electricity company said the flames were scorching high-tension wires from a line power pylons cutting across the dump. If the blaze aggravates, power supply to Jeddah, Makkah and Rabigh could be cut off, the source said.

The electricity company has long warned the municipality against dumping garbage under high-pressure cables.

The municipality is said to be working on a plan to relocate the garbage yard within three years to a site some 25 km away from Jeddah. The plan is to turn the current site into a park.
Many residents in the nearby districts of Al-Samer, Al-Mannar, Briman and Al-Rabea, who have time and again had to suffer the smoke from fires in the garbage dump, said they've had enough.

Sa'ad Al-Sayali said his kids were admitted to a clinic two nights in a row because smoke from the garbage yard worsened their asthmatic condition.

There were many children with Sayali's kids at Al-Salaam Clinic, elderly people too were choking from the smoke."The smoke just keeps following us," Al-Sayali said, noting that there was a smaller fire at the garbage dump on Monday."It's only the second day but we can't stand it anymore," said Ahmad Al-Sheikh who lives in the Al-Marwah neighborhood. "I had to take my family to my brother's house," he said.

Salem Al-Harbi of Al-Rabea district said the smoke has driven his family away. He had invited his cousin to stay in his house but they have left because of the smoke, he said.

Residents in the vicinity have been urging the municipality to relocate the garbage yard further away from populated areas fringing the city, as in other countries.

Tuesday's firefighting operation disrupted water supply to the city as most of the city's fleet of 1,500 water tankers were diverted to the garbage yard.

9 Bridges for SR470m

Wednesday, 02 January 2008
By Adel Al-Malki

The municipality here launched a SR470 million project to build nine new bridges and a tunnel in the city.

"The project aims to ease traffic jams by giving motorists alternatives which in turn will decongest the streets," said Ahmad Ba-Nafe'e , projects supervisor of Jeddah Municipality.

He said the new bridges will be built on the following intersections: Prince Majed Street - Grenada Street, Al-Tahlia Street-Umm-Al-Qura Street, Makkah Road-Al-Eskan Street, Sari Street-Prince Sultan Street, Al Makkarouna Street - Hera Street, Al-Tahlia Street - Prince Met'eb Street, King Fahd Street - Quraish Street, and Prince Majeed Street - Palestine Street.

A tunnel will be built at the King Abdullah Road - King Abdulaziz Road intersection. Ba-Nafe'e said work on the project will begin next month to be done in two years.

On December, the municipality suspended a near-finished project of multiple flyovers to ease traffic congestion at the busy intersection of King Fahd Street and Palestine Road due to a technical defect that necessitated a change in design.