AUTHORITIES have been ordered to compensate a private developer after reneging on a planned multi-million dinar theme park project.
A deal was agreed in 2012 that paved the way for a Bahraini investor to establish a tourist attraction at the long-neglected Muharraq Grand Garden.
The BD20 million project was supposed to incorporate the country’s first indoor ski slope, an ice rink, indoor sports arena, aquatic museum, karting track and three-storey shopping centre.
However, the Muharraq Municipal Council ordered the Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Ministry to cancel the contract after three years without any work.
The developer blamed delays on the government’s alleged failure to relocate key sewage and water infrastructure from beneath the site, despite spending more than BD5m.
The ministry has been ordered to compensate the investor and is now planning its own BD5m development at the site.
Details of the arbitration
decision emerged during a meeting of the Muharraq Municipal Council, which this week discussed a letter from Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Minister Essam Khalaf explaining developments.
The minister revealed the site contained infrastructure that couldn’t be removed without massive expenditure, such as main sewage and rain networks and two pumping stations for sewage and rain.
He added the ongoing expansion of Bahrain International Airport and major revamps to Airport Highway made it difficult to honour the original deal, which is why the Cabinet referred the matter to the Bahrain Chamber for Dispute Resolution (BCDR).
However, during their first meeting after the summer recess councillors complained about the ministry’s plan to erect a BD1m wall around the garden.
They also demanded the ministry start construction of the theme park immediately, saying the wall should be completed last.
“Why spend BD1m on a wall when work on one-fifth of the new park could be done?” asked area councillor Najem Al Sinan.
“The new designs are being delayed because the municipality has set the wall as its target, which I believe is unnecessary and could be replaced with a steel fence when all new buildings and rides are complete.”
However, Muharraq Municipality acting director-general Assem Abdullatif said the wall was given priority due to available funding this year.
“We received the project’s funding from the delayed 2017-
2018 national budget just a few days back and it fits the boundary wall, so we opted to begin with that first – by the end of the year,” he said.
“The new designs are in progress for the actual project, so whenever they are ready we will do work at the beginning of next year in parallel with the wall.
“We just regained our grip on the location three months ago and are still cleaning it up after a dispute with the Bahraini investor was settled and he got compensated.
“Restoring the garden after years of failed attempts to revive it is a priority for us.”
It is not the first time an ambitious project for the garden has stalled.
Plans to turn it into a “miniature Disneyland” were announced in 2007, but that project was scrapped after the Kuwaiti investor pulled out cit
ing losses incurred during the global financial crisis.
The ministry could not be reached for comment.