Interview: Essam bin Abdulla Khalaf

What efforts are under way to enhance Bahrain’s transport infrastructure and ease congestion?

ESSAM BIN ABDULLA KHALAF: The implementation of major transport infrastructure projects has proceeded according to the Highway Master plan, is on schedule and it will even be expedited, following the influx of GCC stimulus funding. The BD98m ($247.9m) North Manama Causeway for example, is now expected to be completed by July 2013, which is earlier than planned. The BD24.1m ($63.4m) Mina Salman Interchange is scheduled for completion by the end of 2013. The ministry has now taken on a consultant to upgrade to the Al Fateh Highway from a three-lane arterial road to a four-lane highway. This project has been put to tender and upon completion it will form a motorway ring around Manama, which will reduce traffic congestion in the city.

Outside of Manama, most of the recommendations are finalised. A tender is about to be released for the Sitra highway junction upgrade. Apart from highways, the ministry is continuing with rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads in villages and other areas. So far 29 villages have been rehabilitated, and GCC funds will continue to be focused on social infrastructure development. The Roads Master Plan 2021, currently being updated with the kingdom’s Economic Vision 2030, envisions that Bahrain will have two major motorways. One will be the King Fahd Causeway entry point to the Hidd Industrial area, and the second will be the upcoming Bahrain-Qatar Causeway entry point to the King Fahd Causeway, connecting two major economies in the region through Bahrain and enhancing the island’s role as a geostrategic business hub.

How has the ministry upgraded Bahrain’s sanitation infrastructure over the last few years?

KHALAF: The ministry is continuing with the implementation of the strategic sanitation master plan, which was initiated in 2010. The primary goal remains the decentralisation of sewage treatment plants (STPs) to the country’s periphery, and to expand and upgrade the existing network. Primary projects of the ongoing public-private partnership (PPP) initiative for the Muharraq STP include the development of a 15-metre-deep gravity trunk sewer around the island – a regional first – and the upgrade and expansion of the major STPs at Tubli. One of the greatest challenges we face is that of surface water infiltration – as much as 50% in some places – which negatively affects the performance of the network. According to the sanitation sector plan, infiltration will be lowered to 35% by 2015, reducing levels of flow to pumping stations and lower pressure on the STPs. These developments will also reduce overflow to the sea in emergency situations.

Towards the end of 2012, work commenced on sewerage network rehabilitation projects in Arad, Hidd and Gudaibiya. Work is expected to be completed by the end of 2013 and includes the upgrade of 15,059 metres of pipelines of varying diameters. The total length of pipelines planned for rehabilitation over the duration of the entire project is 64,550 metres.

To what extent will GCC funding facilitate infrastructure development across the island?

KHALAF: GCC funding will have an immediate impact on a variety of infrastructure projects. In the social infrastructure projects arena, projects include schools, hospitals and electricity and water which are being handled by other ministries. In the traditional infrastructure area, these injections will enable the Tubli STP to increase wastewater treatment capacity from 200,000 to 400,000 cu metres per day.

Affordable housing projects will receive continued funding, and the Ministry of Works has partnered with the Ministry of Housing to rehabilitate road and sewage networks for areas in need. Future projects in Bahrain financed by GCC funding will be open to joint venture projects between foreign and GCC firms. This will generate a variety of international tenders and investment opportunities, which is important for the kingdom, as it needs foreign expertise for major building projects.