KUWAIT: Residents of Rawda, MPs and several environment activists gathered peacefully at Jamal Abdul Nasser Park for a candlelight vigil yesterday evening against the destruction of roughly 1,500 sq m of the park for the construction of a Quran House and a bank branch.
MP Mohammad Al-Dallal blamed the “negative direction” of the Public Authority for Agricultural Affairs and Fish Resources and Awqaf and Municipality Minister Mohammed Al-Jabri. “This is legally and ecologically incorrect. Plus, it didn’t gain popular acceptance by the people of Rawda. We will use our legislative tools if we have to do so, unless the problem is resolved. In addition, we will try to enact legislation that will fill legal gaps to ensure that this does not happen again in the future,” he vowed.
MP Ahmad Al-Fadhl recalled he had previously submitted a petition along with MP Yousef Al-Fadhalah saying that no green area can be cleared without approval from the Environmental Public Authority. “I spoke to Minister Al-Jabri recently and he affirmed that the decision to prevent encroachment on public parks is valid and promised that violators will be held responsible for this, whether from the agriculture authority or the municipality,” he said.
The issue goes back to 2010 when a group of residents asked the PAAAFR for the development of the park. A list of 25 items was created, of which only four were approved – refurbishment of the lighting, a sunshade over the playground, new outdoor games and rehabilitation of pedestrian paths for disabled people who frequent the park and mothers with strollers. But development works were not initiated until 2015.
Also in 2015, the park’s visitors discovered a plan close to the park’s mosque for a new project, and palm trees were cut on the grounds that they were diseased. Environmental activist and spokeswoman of the protestors Heba Al-Aali said she has photographic evidence that proves these trees weren’t sick. “We worked hard to launch an appeal through the press, which we hoped would block the project, and it received a great response. Construction was temporarily suspended, but we thought it would be permanent. Therefore, we renovated the park and it reopened in early 2016,” she told Kuwait Times.
But the nightmare returned after a video by an official declaring “good news” for the residents of Rawda, saying that the construction of the Quran House was finally approved. “Despite the existence of multiple alternate locations within the area, they insist to use this green land,” Aali denounced.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the head of the tourism department of the information ministry, the late Saleh Shihab, launched the idea of touristic recreation in Kuwait. Several cultural and musical festivals were held at the park, in addition to national celebrations. Jamal Abdul Nasser Park is the second oldest park in Kuwait after the Green Belt Park (currently known as Al-Shaheed Park). Besides its vital historical importance, the park is considered a safe meeting place for people and a green lung for surrounding areas.
By Athoob Al-Shuaibi