BAHRAIN's efforts to save important heritage sites could prove futile, since much of the land has already been snapped up for development, according to a senior municipal councillor. Authorities are seeking World Heritage Site status for 11 burial mound locations, but Northern Municipal Council chairman Yousif Al Boori said he feared it was already too late.
An application to recognise the burial mounds, stretching 25km from the centre of the country to the northern coast, as World Heritage Sites was submitted to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in May last year.
However, Mr Al Boori is worried there will be nothing left to protect by the time a decision is taken.
He claimed 90 per cent of the land on which the mounds were located was either privately owned, or owned by government bodies not affiliated with the Culture and Information Ministry - which is spearheading the Unesco application.
Mr Al Boori said there was nothing stopping landowners from developing their plots while World Heritage Site status was pending.
"Day and night cranes and bulldozers are removing mounds in A'ali and Saar, among other sites, to pave way for luxurious villas and multi-storey buildings," he told the GDN yesterday.
"Claims that people are stealing these plots of land are not true.
"The Culture and Information Ministry doesn't own 90pc of this land and the owners are exercising their right to remove what's there and build."
The Culture and Information Ministry is not only hoping to preserve burial mounds, but also ancient relics and remains of temples and buildings.
Mr Al Boori has already persuaded people in his constituency to wait for new projects until after historic sites on public land can be excavated. However, he added any attempts to preserve the country's history were futile while private landowners were allowed to continue construction work.
"It is saddening to see our rich history vaporise at the hands of VIPs and unless the ministry takes real action, then I can clearly say that unfortunately we can kiss (World Heritage Site) recognition goodbye," he said.
"Numerous infrastructure projects have been halted in an area in Buri because it has mounds, while our neighbours in A'ali have mounds removed on a daily basis to pave way for VIPs to have their projects.
"We are not against the removal of mounds that have no significance, but preventing people getting urgently needed projects while allowing others the privilege of removing mounds whether they are significant or not is the problem."
However, Mr Al Boori also said he was prepared to appear before Unesco or the World Heritage Council to argue for World Heritage Site status.
"The first thing I will say when I go there is: 'We need you, save us'," he said.
The Culture and Information Ministry's application for World Heritage Site recognition covers locations in A'ali, Buri, Abu Janadal, Wadi Al Sail, Hamad Town, Janabiya, Saar, Al Qadam, Shakhura and Janusan.
Ministry officials were unavailable for comment yesterday.