It used to be at least a few years ago that one could avoid the traffic and congestion on the streets, in malls, supermarkets and other consumer outlets by simply going to places during the day instead of at night. However, Jeddah residents say this has all changed with a noticeable increase in the city’s population.
“Since the summer months last year, it has increasingly become hard at any time of the day to venture out to shop or to run some other errands due to the increase in traffic on the streets and in stores,” Sami Al-Muminah, a Saudi father of four, who belongs to an old Jeddah family, said.
He explained that the situation had become so unbearable that he had not been able to take his kids out as much as in the past.
Rami Al-Madani, a Saudi who has lived in Jeddah since his childhood, agrees with Al-Muminah’s views. He said: “The population increase is apparent from a look on Jeddah streets, but the most significant problem is the strain it has been putting on the network and health services of the city. For example, I have had to take my wife to Taif to get treatment at a hospital, because the earliest appointment at the government hospitals in Jeddah was in six months, and we simply could not wait.”
According to data from the Ministry of Haj, which cooperates with other ministries in monitoring population growth, the population in the Bride of the Red Sea has steadily been increasing for the past four decades, rising from 1 million in 1970 to 1.4 million in 1986, passing the 2 million mark in 1993 and dramatically increasing, according to the last census in 2010, to 3.2 million. Still, many say that this number has been well surpassed, expecting the current population in Jeddah to be at least at 4 million.
“I agree that there has been a significant rise in the population in Jeddah recently, and believe that the issue is being fueled primarily by rural to urban migration, as people leave smaller towns and villages in search of jobs and a better standard of living in the large cities of the Kingdom,” Arvinder Ansari, an associate professor of sociology at King Abdulaziz University, confirmed.
She pointed out that this is being driven by massive governmental projects that are under way to improve the major cities, without similar projects in place to improve smaller areas.
“To curb the migration of people to large cities, there must also be infrastructure projects under way to improve the living conditions of smaller towns. If this does not happen, there could be dangerous and detrimental effects to the Kingdom’s major cities,” she warned.
Some of these effects have already been felt in Jeddah in the form of shortages on certain food items. The most recent example is the increase in prices of chicken during the third quarter of last year, when a carton of chickens rose to SR 145. The dilemma, manufacturers said in a previous Arab News article, was due to the market dynamics of increased demand versus a lack of supply.
Other effects have also been felt in the form of a housing crisis in the city, with rapid population growth being blamed for the need for at least 100,000 housing units annually, amounting to a required 1 million residential units by 2020.
According to a 2009 report issued by Jones Lang LaSalle, Jeddah residents should get used to the inconveniences of a population increase, with the real estate services and investment management firm forecasting an additional increase of 2.25 million people in the city’s population by 2029.