For Earth Day, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights requested a report from the Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project (GTHR), a part of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), out of serious concern for the environmental changes happening in Bahrain since 1983; this report is the first of its kind with a focus on Bahrain. The BCHR has observed changes impacting access to clean water and the coastline by non-affluent citizens; massive, urbanization, including land reclamation projects; and changes to the vegetation of the island. The report has observed “major changes in the land use and land cover of Bahrain that will impact the environment in as yet unknown ways.”
Using satellite imagery from the last several decades, AAAS found substantial changes in vegetation patterns, including the loss of vegetation and conversion of land into agriculture and landscaped vegetation. The island itself has been expanded by 12.5 percent, from approximately 650 km2 to 730 km2.
The BCHR has expressed concern that land reclamation and development projects are not benefitting all Bahraini citizens, but rather fueling government corruption. Instead of using the reclaimed land to provide affordable housing, the projects cater exclusively to wealthy Bahrainis and foreigners . A 2007 BBC article stated that, “a leaked government report revealed that the public has access to less than 3% of the coastline of this small island nation. Ownership of the coast allows access to reclaimed land. It is sold on to the highest bidder to build business complexes or tourist resorts. For the ruling family, land has become the new oil” .
The BCHR has documented the arrests of environmental activists and whistleblowers about the drawbacks of land reclamation such as Ghazi Al-Mirbati and Najiya Abdul-Ghaffar . Excessive police force has also been used to disperse peaceful protests staged by fisherman whose harbor was lost to land reclamation .
Link to the full report:
AAAS Report, Land Cover and Land Use Change in Bahrain, 1987-2013
For more information on environmental rights in Bahrain, see:
BCHR video, Land of Victims
BCHR video, Land of Deaths