Whose beach is it, anyway?
By Captain Mahmood Al Mahmood
This summer something major has changed in Bahrain. I am talking about the efforts to nurture private-public partnerships to clean up beaches and make them hubs for water sport activities.
The transformation of Bilaj Al Jazayr from a raggedy and grubby public beach strip to a clean, colourful and modern beach is a fine example.
Today, the beach offers visitors safe and varied water sports at a nominal price. You may argue that a beach that charges for its facilities is no longer ‘public’ but then we have to face reality.
As an archipelago, Bahrain has been bound by its beaches, many of them enjoyed by people and others serving as valuable access points to people who are making a living out of the sea – fisher men, trained seamen and increasingly, a class of leisure service providers.
This means that the beaches and sea surrounding us face increasing interaction with humans and we are not the cleanest of species! The biggest culprit is plastic waste, glass and cans and food wrappers – the detritus of our enjoyment of our coastline.
Naturally, there is a price to be paid for our carelessness and I believe that a BD3 or BD6 redeemable against surfboarding and jet-ski rides is more a reminder of our responsibility than a price we are paying for enjoyment.
As a former sea-captain and coming from a traditional sea-faring and coastal family myself, there is one problem that is far more serious: the blocking of access to the sea across beaches because of new urban developments and the cordoning off of small landing sites because big realty developers are taking over stretches of beach as private recreational areas.
Not only does this mean our fishermen and marine economy workers are denied a workplace, it destroys the rich maritime heritage that is the backbone of our nation. Our links to the sea have shaped our character and national outlook for centuries – let us preserve it for the present generation and future centuries with better planning and care.
Captain Mahmood Al Mahmood is the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Tribune and the President of the Arab-African Unity Organisation for Relief, Human Rights and Counterterrorism.