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Failaka Island development project moves at high speed

Kuwait: Nineteen years since Kuwait was liberated, following the 1990-91 Iraqi invasion and occupation, the subject of the development of Failaka Island remains an issue of discussion on the government’s agenda. The proposal to turn Failaka Island into a tourism resort is even included in the government’s five-year development plan.

It seems, however, that some serious steps are finally being taken towards the realization of the proposal. Failaka, the only inhabited island in Kuwaiti waters, is to be rehabilitated and developed, with some suggesting that such a site of natural beauty is not being developed in a properly environmentally sensitive way.

The Kuwait Municipality, along with the country’s public authorities, last year decided to develop the island, with the municipality’s Director General forming a team according to Decree No. 1/2009 to prepare a comprehensive plan on how the development is to be carried out. This plan was concluded last month, with the other authority’s roles now coming into play.

The team observed and monitored the present situation on the island, including the private properties there, as well as the repossessed buildings and all farms, lands and blocks with ownership claims. The municipality’s plan includes an in-depth study of Failaka Island’s historic locations, monuments, sites and private properties, concluding that the present uses the island is put to are limited.

Most of the use of Failaka is concentrated around its northwestern areas and the southern beach, a residential area near the main port and the surrounding district in the southwest of the island. A few chalets on the island provide the only current tourism activity, with around 70.4 percent of the island consisting of cemeteries, historical sites, state-owned land and utilities. Much of the rest is marshland, with residential areas only accounting for 1.7 percent of the island’s area.

For the development project and others, a supreme committee answerable to the Ministry of Finance was formed, led by the finance minister and including members representing the Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Public Works, Kuwait Municipality and Environment Public Authority.

This committee went on to form the Partnership Technical Bureau (PTB), which is responsible for various state projects, including the Failaka and Boubyan Island development projects, the Metro project and the project to build accommodation for single expatriate workers.

These projects are executed according to Law No. 7/2008 regarding the BOT (Build, Operate, Transfer) investment projects carried out on state property,” explained Srour Al-Otaibi, the Team Leader with the Ministry of Public Works’ mega-projects’ department. “The executing company or companies win the contract through open bidding.

Thereafter, the PTB formed the Failaka Development Committee, which has been advertising for a ‘transactions advisor,’ with applications for the post set to close on June 15. “After the transactions advisor is appointed, another phase will begin and the role of the Ministry of Public Works will almost be completed,” Al-Otaibi revealed to the Kuwait Times. “After that, the ministry will support the committee and be represented by one member on it.

The Failaka development project is one of Kuwait’s largest mega-projects, the senior official explained: “The PTB is cooperating with the World Bank and this gives clout to this project. Failaka is a virgin island ready for development. The transaction advisor will give solutions to help develop the island. In the second half of 2011 the plan will be clear,” Al-Otaibi explained. “The PTB’s role is to prepare the master plan and the supreme committee will complete the work based on this plan and study.

Nawara Fattahova, Staff Writer

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