CRUNCH talks are being held to allow fishermen evicted from coasts in Muharraq to continue using a corniche until alternative arrangements are made.
Around 300 fishermen have until tomorrow to vacate Al Ghous Corniche peacefully or face being arrested and their equipment seized.
Some of the fishermen moved to the nearby Al Ghous Public Park to store their fishing equipment, causing an uproar among families in the area.
Muharraq Governorate fishermen were ordered by the Muharraq Municipality to leave the corniche and other coastlines used as unofficial jetties across the governorate by April 30.
The GDN reported on April 29 that the municipality considered the fishermen’s occupation of plots of land as trespassing on public property since they set up cabins, stored equipment and docked their boats claiming they had nowhere else to go.
Municipal officials cleared all the coasts of fishermen, their rest areas and furniture on April 30, but decided to give fishermen at Al Ghous more time to vacate the place due to their large numbers.
The Muharraq Municipal Council is currently seeking a deal with the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority (BTEA), which is planning pearl diving investment projects on Al Ghous, to allow the fishermen to remain there until an alternative site is arranged.
“I have been in talks with BTEA officials to reach an agreement on allowing the fishermen to stay,” council chairman Mohammed Al Sinan told the GDN.
“I know eventually they will have to leave, but at least it will buy us time to put alternatives on the table.
“We want the government to provide the fishermen with a proper alternative, such as a new site, and financial compensation so they vacate the site and the pearl diving investment projects can go ahead.
“Despite encouraging investments in Muharraq I fully support the fishermen as their livelihood is of as much importance to me as anything else.”
The governorate has the highest number of fishermen, accounting for 80 per cent of the country’s 2,500 fishing licences.
Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Minister Essam Khalaf told the GDN that the pearl diving investment projects have been delayed long enough for the fishermen to look for alternatives.
“It is my job to implement the law and the fishermen are occupying a site that is not an official jetty,” said Mr Khalaf.
“I have been asked by other government officials to have them leave the area as they are delaying investment projects.
“Over the years people have been evicted from sites marked for development; this is the reality of urbanisation even before I became a minister.”
He said should the government provide coastal property he would turn it into a jetty for the fishermen.
“We have the official Muharraq Jetty but whether it can accommodate 300 fishermen or not is another issue but should I get a government coastal plot I will turn it into an official jetty. Unfortunately, no such land is available,” said Mr Khalaf.
“Even if it was, there has to be a budget, and that only comes every two years, and there are priorities that affect people’s lives; there are much-needed infrastructure projects and I have to put them first.”
Councillors have approached the office of His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa for an urgent solution or else the fishermen could soon lose their sole source of income.
There are three fishing locations in the governorate.
The Muharraq Fishermen’s Jetty became the official jetty and accommodates around 250 professional fishermen and has a huge waiting list of around 100 fishermen, while fishermen were evicted from the Abu Maher jetty in favour a major private development and they joined the others in Al Ghous jetty.
A proposal to set up Al Ghous as an official jetty was passed by councillors on April 29 and referred to the ministry.