Investors of a new cement factory in Hidd have been thrown a lifeline after councillors agreed to reconsider a decision taken nine months ago to reject it.
Its fate now depends on an environment impact assessment report, which the Muharraq Municipal Council has asked the Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife to conduct.
The factory is being built in the Hidd Industrial Area, over which the Industry and Commerce Ministry said in September it has sole authority.
It said at that time, it was acting within its powers and the law when it approved the licence for the factory and that no-one had the authority to override it.
Councillors acknowledged then that the land was under the Industry and Commerce Ministry’s authority.
But they said it had not been officially classified as industrial land, which they said gave them the right to reject the factory, if they felt it would threaten people’s safety and health.
The decision to reject permission for the factory came after area councillor Sameer Khadim submitted a petition signed by hundreds of residents, demanding that a municipal licence for the factory be refused, as they fear more pollution in the area.
Council vice-chairman Abdulnasser Al Mahmeed said that the investors had the lifeline nine months ago, even before the council decided to revote on the issue based on an environment impact assessment report.
"If they have decided to have it relocated to a different place, we would have given them the licence without any hassle nine months ago," he said.
"But, the area they are asking for is too close to homes.
"We know that Bahrain is facing a shortage of cement, but that doesn’t mean that we harm the people in the process."
"The council backs the factory. It is just opposing its location."
Mr Al Mahmeed said that whether the factory is approved by the council or not would mainly depend on the number of votes.
"The assessment report, if it is in favour of the project, will allow the issue to be re-discussed and voted on again, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that councillors will vote in favour of the project.
"In the end, the investors are looking for a second chance and we have decided to give it to them."
The Industry and Commerce Ministry said then that permission for the cement factory in Hidd Industrial Area was only granted when it received all required approvals from other concerned entities, especially the Public Commission for the Protection of Marine Resources, Environment and Wildlife.
It assured the public that environmental cleanliness and public health was of utmost concern to the ministry.
Studies submitted by the investors showed that the factory would utilise advanced technology for production and it would be equipped with environmental pollution protection equipment, said the ministry.
It also said that no-one in Muharraq or elsewhere had the authority to override the ministry’s authority.
It had adhered to all regulations governing granting an industrial licence to the cement factory, it said.