(MENAFN - Arab News) Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal stressed the need for all departments and agencies serving the Haj pilgrims to review and update their plans continuously in a meeting of the Central Haj Committee in Makkah on Saturday.
"The committee meets every year at this time to review the reports on the conduct of the Haj. The positive aspects are reinforced and further developed while the negative aspects are corrected and prevented to occur in future," said the prince, who is also chairman of the Central Haj Committee.
The meeting also wanted to review the high cost of domestic Haj service.
The prince said the committee would hold periodic meetings through out the year to monitor the preparations for the next Haj season.
A few of the positive aspects registered in the season were the absence of contagious diseases and accidents, uninterrupted availability of services and utilities to pilgrims in Makkah and the holy sites, the smooth arrival and departure of pilgrims at the Kingdom's entry points especially at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah.
The report also noted that the new tunnels in the holy sites helped a lot in thinning crowds and averting stampedes at the Jamarat, where pilgrims throw stones at pillars. The inspection of buildings that needed to accommodate more than two million pilgrims was completed well ahead of time, the report said. Other achievements of the Haj this year included the reduced traffic congestion in Makkah because of permitting only buses at locations close to the Haram area. Another achievement was the partial opening of the Haram Mosque Expansion Project for worshippers.
Most notable unpleasant development during the Haj, according to the report, was the increase in the number of unregistered pilgrims who slept on pavements leading to the holy sites and at empty spaces close to the Grand Mosque. They resorted to various ploys to enter the locations of Haj.
Their sheer number was an obstacle to offer the highest level of services to the legitimate pilgrims, the committee noted.
Although the illegal pilgrims caused a challenge to keep the holy sites clean at the desired level, the environment was kept cleaner than the past seasons, the report said.
The illegal pilgrims caused crowding at toilets and obstructed a smooth flow of traffic. There was a notable increase in the number of beggars and street vendors who sold unhygienic meals. The number of motorcyclists, who smuggled illegal pilgrims to the holy sites, was also on the rise during the season.
Undersecretary at the Ministry of Haj Eisa Rowas said in a statistical report presented to the prince that 938,000 pilgrims left the country until Friday. He added that while 655,000 pilgrims left from King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, the rest boarded their planes from Prince Muhammad International Airport in Madinah.
The meeting recommended further raising of the level of pilgrim service, increasing facilities to check pilgrims at the entry points to Makkah and the holy sites, implementation of the fourth phase of the chain bus service to the Grand Mosque, improvements in Muzdalifa and commissioning the first phase of a toilet project in the holy sites. The committee also stressed the need to make more land available to accommodate more pilgrim tents in Mina.