Who is responsible for Jeddah’s floods?

Who is responsible for Jeddah’s floods?


We were taught to celebrate rainfall, to get out in the rain and get wet and enjoy its smell, which was enough to make us feel energetic again. Those raindrops falling from the sky ushered in a new life on earth. When we were young, we would get together at my grandmother’s house and make rice and lentils using rainwater. It was a ritual for us to celebrate the rain.

Today, how can we get together again to celebrate the rain when all the streets are flooded with water? What used to be a celebration has become today something similar to a funeral, a sad event, when we fear losing the people we love and the things we have.

Since 2009, we have been searching for solutions to the floods caused by rain. The same story takes place every year; rain falls torrentially, followed by floods. You can add to all of this the poor condition of our streets and the countless detours because of the faltering projects that are never completed.

We Jeddawis are fed up and tired of hearing pointless talk. Jeddah sinks in rainwater every year, and who is to blame? Is it the Jeddah Municipality? Saudi Aramco? The office of Makkah’s Emir? If the responsibility of this issue was assigned to one of these agencies instead of the three together, it would be better for Jeddah. We would know who we should blame for not giving the issue the care and attention it so desperately needs.

During the recent rain, the Crisis Management Center warned the general public against going out, except for urgent reasons, despite flood levels this year that have been lower than previous years. Yet, tunnels and roads were still closed, houses were filled with water, and people’s property was washed away by the floods. Every time rain falls, we face a catastrophe. Everyone is asking the same question: why can’t we walk freely in the rain without feeling scared? Other countries have disasters and earthquakes, but they strengthen their facilities and infrastructure and make their cities more beautiful than before.

What is the answer to the frequent question: “Who is responsible?” People with good conscience and people who have a sense of responsibly get things accomplished and exert great efforts to make things better and avoid mistakes. But the truth is that the rain has shown how false some of the promises are that have been made to us.

We do not want the authorities to plant trees on streets and decorate squares with pieces of art. We want them to pay attention to sewage infrastructure. Should we not reconsider the type of lids used for manholes and change them? Should we not reconsider the manholes themselves? We want the authorities to use any technology at hand. They could install sensors that alert people, or install surveillance cameras at places where flooding happens early and quickly.

The West has come up with a new way to protect women wearing high heels from getting stuck in manhole covers, while we still leave the lids of our manholes open, causing people to fall in them and die. They invest for the sake of human beings, while we justify our negligence by saying it is an act of God.

No matter how many articles we write, nothing can alleviate our suffering. But let me ask every official to do this: “Ask yourself, is your conscience relieved after this latest catastrophe?”

Abeer Al-Harbi