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Concrete jungles devour Madinah farms

Madinah, the city of the Prophet (peace be upon him), is also known as the city of date palms. Madinah’s dates enjoy some unique features and their name and fame cross borders of countries and continents.

Realizing this, the Madinah provincial council and other concerned agencies are striving hard to save the shrinking date palm farms by effectively resisting an onslaught of expanding residential areas and construction projects at the hands of builders. There are serious efforts under way to protect the green spots in the city, especially date palm farms that are being swallowed by the ever-expanding concrete jungles.

Apart from builders, owners of many date palm farms are also keen to be rid of their farms and revert them into residential townships in view of the growing demand for residential units in the city. The comparatively huge profit and market value of residential buildings has become the major driving force behind this. As a result, the number of date palm farms has shrunken alarmingly within the periphery of the holy city. The only exception for this is the Quba region, which abounds in date palm farms and gardens. Several precious types of dates, such as Ajwah, Anbarah and Shalbi grow at most of these farms. There are still date palm farms in Al-Nakheel district and Al-Awali region also.

Ahmad Al-Johani, a real estate agent, told Arab News that most of these date palm farms are normally not in a position to withstand the onslaught of the ongoing construction boom being witnessed in the holy city. “These farms are also located at spots that are strategically important for the real estate sector in view of their residential and investment value. However, these farms are owned by rich families which are keen to protect their date palm gardens at any cost and they are not at all inclined to temptations to transform them into concrete jungles,” he said.

Saleh Al-Laheedan, director of the branch of the Ministry of Agriculture in Madinah, reaffirmed that transformation of date palm farms into residential areas or using them for any other purposes will be allowed only after fulfilling certain strict conditions. “For this, we seek clarification from the region’s municipality about all the details such as types of the proposed construction work whether they are agricultural, industrial, residential or commercial, and the sanctions secured for the same and the like. Another letter from the water authority in the region with regard to the availability of water at the farm and the type and productivity of the farm is also required. After getting these, a technical report about the farm would be prepared by the concerned specialist of our office,” he said.

A number of citizens in Madinah noted that the remaining date palm farms in the city are not in a position to withstand the onslaught of the ongoing construction boom. While following up the matter, Arab News has learned that a number of circulars and orders have been issued by the concerned authorities in the region with regard to preserving the farms over the past two years. They included the provincial council, the municipal council, and the urban center for Madinah. All these directives have reemphasized the need for protecting the green spots and date palm farms in the city and not to revert them into residential areas. It was also revealed that nearly 99 percent of applications to transform date palm farms into residential areas are pending approval of the provincial council since two years. It is interesting to note that all these applications have been submitted after securing necessary sanctions from the concerned agencies such as the municipality and the water authority.

Meanwhile, a number of local residents who are keen to protect these green spots and farms have urged urgent intervention of authorities to save these landmarks of their beloved city. They drew attention to the keenness on the part of some other major municipalities to take advantage of the rich heritage of Madinah by making it a role model in the beautification of their respective cities. For example, Jeddah Mayor Hani Abu Ras has signed an agreement with the noted architect of Madinah Sami Abdul Mohsen Anqawi to develop some of the gardens in Jeddah on the pattern of Madinah’s date palm gardens. Many prominent figures, including officials of the municipality as well as business leaders and chamber representatives have underscored the need for preserving the unique features of their city with maintaining its green spots, date palm gardens and farms intact.

Source: Arab News
Published: Aug 2, 2011

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