What follows the rain?


THE last time heavy rain briefly lashed our city, it created enough problems and inconvenience to warrant public complaints being aired on TV and in the press. Days and weeks after that rain, neighborhoods remained flooded with standing pools of water, a breeding ground for a host of pesky creatures whose only aim in life is to infect you with some disease or the other.

As I write these words, will this recent rain paralyze major portions of Jeddah and leave thousands stranded giving credibility to charges of corruption against those in the civil sectors and ministries responsible for rainwater and sewage disbursement? If the situation has not improved one bit, what other conclusion is one expected to draw?

What is even more painful is that many of the recent road re-surfacing works that have taken place all over the city have crumbled because of the rain, with pits and craters large enough to swallow half an automobile scattered lethally across the city. These repair works were carried out following the massive public outcry several years ago when over 130 people lost their lives in a senseless tragedy, and the government promised severe action against those who failed to deliver. Well, guess what? More severe and transparent action is needed this time.

To put things in perspective, in the capital city of Dhaka in Bangladesh, in a 12-hour span more than 13 inches of rain hosed down the city. Six people lost their lives due to some electric poles being uprooted and causing personal injury. Only a few inches here but lacking proper rainwater displacement and drainage, in some areas the flooding seemed to appear more than ten times that amount.

But it’s not only those of us who frequently put pen to paper that have an axe to grind with those responsible in the public sector who have consistently been failing in providing adequate basic services. Such failures do not escape a wary public. Our expectation of our officials is so low that it leaves all of them in their comfort zone, all they need to do is be honest or act honest and this should be more than enough!

I heard in a Friday sermon a beautiful interpretation of the story of “Ahl Al-Kahf.” It explains that the young men who spent around 300 years in the cave, asked for the best food when they woke up. They were fugitives and being prosecuted. They did not want to settle for any kind of food. They wanted the “best” available food. In their condition, anything would have sufficed. However, the Holy Qur’an is encouraging us to always strive for the best, to be the best. To ask for the best.

I believe that until we the people make it a daily habit to be the best at whatever we are doing, our officials will always remain in their comfort zone and the next rain in Jeddah will again drown our dreams!

If I can notice such violations during one trip, could others not see them? Or have we become so desensitized to this increasing number of transgressions on our civic sense that we have simply given up?

Should not the Municipality have more patrols after the rains, ensuring that rainwater is properly and expeditiously dispensed with? Dumping it on quiet streets or undeveloped lots is not the answer. Dysentery and malaria are an immediate by-product of such activities. And pity the lot owner who is unaware of the toxicity being leached into the soils on which his home may sit one day.

Pompous press releases glorifying the state of success with our sewage system ring on deaf ears. It took less than eight years after a bold statement by a US president to send a man to the moon. Our Municipality on the other hand has been working on our sewage system almost four times as long and on a far larger budget!

— The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena