Alwaght- There is many small and big islands in Persian Gulf that give it unique ecosystem features. Nowadays, in addition to fishing industry, islands have an important role in imports and exports, navigation, and tourism economy.
In this regard, Bahrain is one of the countries with the largest number of islands in the Persian Gulf. It is known as an ‘archipelago country’ with 33 Island forming it.
Despite enjoying high economic capacities, the country has fallen behind other countries in terms of economic growth due to lack of developmental vision and security and political agenda outweighing the economic one in the government's policies, as well as personal abuses of the ruling family.
Al-Lulu news website recently revealed that the government has secretly taken decisions for Nabih Saleh Island through the country's Urban Planning and Development Authority that would be detrimental to local people under the cover of development programs.
Nabih Saleh the plundered Island
Nabih Saleh Island is located in Tubli Bay west of the country and is linked to Sitrah through a route. Its area is 10 square kilometers and it has a population of about 3,000 people. Like other villages and islands in Bahrain, this island is full of fields and dates groves, and its residents are Baharneh Shiites.
Many years ago, due to the neglect of the government and the policy of building luxurious complexes and villas overlooking the sea, which were mainly built for the use of the royals, a large part of dates groves of the island were destroyed, and even the access of the native people to the sea was limited.
For about twenty years, the government has not allowed anyone in Nabih Saleh to open a shop or initiate a commercial project, under the pretext that in this area, there will be a commercial street later. Also, despite the repeated construction of villas for the princes of the ruling family, most of the status of lands belonging to the residents remain undecided, and the government does not permit construction under the pretext of the town not zoned and planned.
This policy responds negatively to some demands by the residents for service projects and school development plans. This makes people live a difficult life or be forced to move to other regions.
There is no harbor for fishermen in the island. Also, the islanders have always complained about the lack of schools in educational levels above primary school.
Access to the local health departments, parks, and game courts is a demand made by the local people over the past 30 years. But the government has left them unanswered.
This continued for decades until recently the government approved a development plan for the island. But soon it became clear to the public that the plan was unfair and against the interests of the locals.
Among the examples of injustice to the people of the island is that the project planners have mainly resorted to expropriating the houses and lands of the poor citizens and indigenous people of the island for construction works without harming the properties of the owners of luxurious villas and complexes who are non-natives.
According to this plan, some house are expropriated without any legal justification and only as a compensation for other houses. For example, a house is fully expropriated just for conflict with street, school, and garden plans and projects. To compensate the owner of the property, a one-third or half of another private land is taken without the owner's consent and under duress.
One of other signs of systemic cruelty to the people of the island is that although the Urban Planning and Development Authority is committed to compensate citizens whose lands and houses are expropriated, the compensation amount is much less than the real value of the property. For example, it gives them a raw land without any construction facilitation and loan.
The big concern in the island is about the ruling family’s possible usurpation of quality endowed properties under the cover of development plans.
This situation has caused the local people to liken the development plan, which is formulated against the Shiite interests, to the occupying policies of the Israeli regime against the people of the West Bank and Al-Quds (Jerusalem) to displace the Palestinians. Some see the plan as a step towards changing the majorly-Shiite demographic composition of the island, especially since this island houses one of the important religious places of Shiites, and it is named after the shrine of a religious figure named Sheikh Nabih Saleh, who was one of the prominent Shiite scholars of Bahrain.
Despite the fact that shrines are historical heritage, the government makes no spending to repair and maintain this shrine and the maintenance relies on popular funds.
The island has been home to the longest popular protest movements since the 2011 revolution.
Record of Al Khalifa giving away islands
Al Khalifa’s irresponsible and profiteering policies towards the islands are not limited to expropriation of unique lands and construction of luxurious villas for the royal family members, and it gives away the properties of the people and their resources to boost its foreign relations. In January, Bahrain Mirror reported that Israeli firm Himnota, which is owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), a "charitable" organisation that has long been used by the apartheid state for expropriating Palestinian lands and obfuscating Israel's war crimes, acquired the private island for $21.5 million in an auction.
Channel 7 of the Israeli regime reported that the area of the island is 9,554 square meters. It is for residential and special investment use, the channel added.
The channel, which deleted the report from its website shortly later, cited a member of board of managers of the company as saying that the island can host a 50-store skyscraper and be used for transfer of Israeli citizens in case of a war or disaster.
This Al Khalifa approach to the islands has triggered criticism of the lawmakers against the development plan. In a parliament session, Jalileh al-Sayed, the representative of Sitrah and Nabih Saleh islands, in reaction to the remarks of the minister of housing who had said that the government will transform Nabih Saleh Island into “a paradise on the earth” held that “you should have said that you will transform it into a hell on the earth.”