KUWAIT: Picnic tents and equipment set up on the beach. - Photos by Yasser Al-Zayyat

By Nawara Fattahova

Picnicking has become popular these days, especially since camping was banned this year due to the coronavirus pandemic by a ministry decree. Also, travelling is difficult due to many restrictions, and now even impossible after the closure of the borders. Moreover, all entertainment spots are closed or have been demolished, so a picnic is the best outdoor activity.

A desert picnic with tents may look the same as a camp, but it should be temporary. But many people are turning picnic spots into permanent camps, which is a violation of the law. This has led to raids by the Municipality, which has removed dozens of violating tents from various areas, both in the desert and residential areas too.

Municipal inspectors recognize the difference between picnic and camping equipment. "As a picnic is temporary for a few hours, it won't have a full set of furniture, fixed tents and so on. The inspectors are experienced and can figure out if it is a camp or a picnic. Also, after picnicking, the tent and all other things should be removed and cannot be left in place for another day," Mohammed from the hotline of the Municipality told Kuwait Times.

Inspectors go on daily random inspections, in addition to responding to specific reports. "We receive around five or six reports daily about illegal camping. Most reports are from Subiya, Julaia and Sulaibiya. There are also reports from other camping areas. We also receive two or three reports daily about tents pitched in residential areas," he said.

Setting up a tent in front of a house, even if it is inside the house's perimeter or garden, is forbidden by the ministry decree. "There are no specifications for the size of the tent - all tents are banned if they are visible from the outside. Inspectors will stick a warning letter on the tent and will give the violator a grace period depending on the size of the tent, which may vary between three days and a week. If the violation isn't removed, the Municipality's demolition teams will remove it and the violator will pay a fine," explained Mohammed.

But a municipal inspector from Hawally governorate, who wished to remain anonymous, said tents in most residential areas are not being removed. "This ministry decree is not being executed in most residential areas. For instance in South Surra, all houses that have space in front of them are occupying these areas and are setting up tents and diwaniyas on them," he said.

"I have faced many problems when I took the initiative and wanted to apply the law by removing these violations. The order should come from the general director. It's true that we respond to reports submitted by the public, but in fact we haven't removed any tent. There are no campaigns to demolish these encroachments, so people are brazenly violating the law," the inspector rued.