Saudi Gazette – OVER the past few years, dozens of residents, both citizens and expatriates, have lost their lives or have been injured in floods that followed rainfall in almost all regions of the Kingdom.

Heavy rain laid bare how negligent practices can bring about catastrophic results. Al-Riyadh daily reports on how poor urban planning has strained infrastructure as rescue workers struggle to cope whenever natural disasters strike.

Experts say poor planning and mismanagement are the main reasons for the devastation that follows every rain. They said foolproof urban plans and strategies that anticipate severe weather conditions are needed to minimize any negative impact. Good planning takes all potential future factors into consideration and does not leave anything to chance or improvisation.

Unfortunately, most cities in the Kingdom lack strong infrastructure that can withstand severe weather conditions, which is why floods caused by rain continue to bring about disastrous results.

Issa Al-Tamimi, architect and engineering consultant, said successful urban planning takes topography into consideration and studies all heights, mountains and valleys of a city.

“The flood pathways should be identified on the plan before implementing the plan itself. It is important that these pathways remain free of any obstacles which mean no buildings should be constructed there because doing so will prevent rainwater from reaching the canal where it is supposed to go,” he explained.

Al-Tamimi said the problem is that many real estate owners have demolished mountains to make way for buildings and commercial projects.

“These places were not supposed to be obstructed in the first place because they were pathways for rainwater. The concerned authorities failed to stop them. The problem of poor planning and mismanagement cropped up when major cities were unable to cope with rainwater,” he added.

Al-Tamimi said the concerned authorities should adopt a comprehensive urban planning policy that identifies residential areas, roads, pedestrian paths and floodwater routes and then ensure that land developers abide by it.

“So often the environmental aspects of an urban plan are overlooked. This exacerbates the problem. Concerned authorities should make it clear to a land developer that all the standards and criteria related to valleys and flood paths must be strictly complied with,” he said.

Drainage system

In the past three decades, the amount of rain cities in the Kingdom received was minimal but a poor, and in some cases nonexistent, drainage system meant even a few inches of water often lead to flooding.

As the cities grew in size in recent years, the flooding problem has only gotten worse. This means the current drainage systems in most cities need to be addressed.

In coastal cities, experts say streets need to be rebuilt so they slope toward the sea to facilitate better drainage of rainwater.

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