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2022-09-14 19:58:25

Artificial islands of the UAE: why is this a failure of construction, and not a success?

Artificial islands of the UAE: why is this a failure of construction, and not a success?

Dubai is considered a place where a huge number of structures are concentrated that amaze the human imagination. In the Arab city there is the tallest building in the world - the Burj Khalifa, and the largest shopping center on the planet, and many other wonders of architecture. In the city, located among the hot desert, there are even ski resorts, and giant water parks and fountains complete the impression. One of the most unique and large-scale architectural phenomena of the city are artificial archipelagos, which have become the hallmarks of the emirate. In the mid-2000s, the country's authorities decided to create huge islands in the bay, the view of which resembles bizarre figures from above. For several years, the archipelagos "Universe", "World", "Palm Jumeirah", Jabal Ali, Deira appeared in the emirate.


Despite the scale and uniqueness of the project, the islands were the biggest disappointment of the city and the local government. The construction of the islands has not been completed even now, and work on many islands has been frozen indefinitely or completely canceled.

Huge ambitions


Over the past 50 years, the United Arab Emirates has begun to develop at a rapid pace, as oil has been found on the territory of the country. Mind-blowing money began to come to the country, and the government began to work to ensure that the UAE continued to be the richest country in the world even after the oil ran out. Sheikhs began to implement projects to create fabulous cities of the future, the cost of which was estimated at billions of dollars. Creating unique, modern and stylish buildings and architectural monuments, the country's authorities planned to attract tourists and investors from all over the world. For rich residents, chic skyscrapers were built, for tourists - shopping centers, fountains and buildings that became world attractions.

The plan to create artificial islands was first a project to expand the useful territory in Dubai: the coastline of the emirate did not exceed 75 kilometers, but numerous visitors to the city and potential buyers of real estate want to live on the shores of the bay. The ideal option was the construction of islands, where hotels and houses will be built with a view of the sea and the rest of the city. The sheikh approved the project and began to finance the construction of islands, which would increase the length of the coastline several times and allow the city to expand. Planners created the shape of the islands, which would attract tourists, and be convenient for the construction of houses. From 72 kilometers, the coastline of the emirate was to increase to 1500 kilometers.

3 of the 5 archipelagos were planned in the form of palm trees, they were to have a land route to the mainland (such as cuttings). The other 2 island systems simulated a map of the world and the contours of the solar system and the Milky Way. After construction, the islands were to be divided into land plots and sold to private companies for the development of land by hotels, inns, amusement parks, shopping centers and parking lots.

What obstacles did the builders face?

The first serious problem faced by the sheikh and his subordinates was the structure of the sand. The sand from the local desert was too fine and crumbly to stay in one place – the water washed it away, which prevented the creation of islands. To solve the problem, engineers developed ships that extracted soil from the bottom of the bay and threw it to the surface. So that fresh areas of the islands are not eroded by sea water, the authorities ordered to put stone breakwaters around the archipelagos, the height of which exceeded 2 meters.

Because of the breakwaters, the circulation of water masses deteriorated, which led to stagnation of water. To avoid an environmental catastrophe, designers began to come up with ways to artificially improve water circulation. The water began to bloom between the "branches of palm trees", and the designers managed to correct the situation only halfway. At the moment, the work on the Palm Jumeirah is fully completed, and travelers and locals who are there constantly say that an unpleasant smell comes from the water.

On the territory of the islands, communal issues were well thought out, and it was planned that residents and guests of these wonders of the world would not experience inconvenience. However, so far only the Palm Jumeirah has managed to realize the idea, and the inhabitants of the Mir archipelago have to use gasoline electricity generators and temporary toilets on the street.

As soon as it became known about the intention of the sheikh of the emirate to create large-scale artificial islands, environmentalists rebelled against the project. They were concerned that man had made such a serious interference with nature. Eco-activists warned that the creation of islands could destroy several species of local flora and fauna, as the bottom of the bay, its relief, and water temperature have changed. In addition, the nature of the currents of the Persian Gulf has changed.

Experts conducted calculations and said that in a couple of decades all the islands built in Dubai will go under water. Every year they sink under water by 5 millimeters, as the level of the World Ocean gradually rises. Developers in response to the statement said that the calculations of the analytical company are incorrect, and the islands of Dubai are not threatened by this problem, as, for example, the Maldives.

Economic aspect

When work on the Palm Jumeirah was completed in 2006, almost all of its territory was put under use, and the archipelago was inhabited by about 3 thousand people. This project is the smallest of the five in size, but it also brings the most money to the country's budget, since only it was completed. The authorities of the emirate were sure that the construction of the remaining archipelagos would be completed in a couple of years, but in 2008 there was a global economic crisis that destroyed all plans. Oil-exporting countries suffered the most from the crisis. One of them was the UAE – at the time of the crisis, the cost of oil fell from $ 140 to only $ 40 per barrel. The state had to start reducing staff, investors began to leave the country, which dropped the demand for real estate in Dubai. Housing and land prices fell, and no one began to buy plots on expensive archipelagos.

Those owners who invested in the development of artificial islands and bought a plot there actually lost their money. Work on the objects was far from the final, and the Emirates did not have money for its completion. The company that built the islands was preparing to declare bankruptcy, but the state handed it $10 billion to prevent a collapse.

It is not known whether work on the islands will be completed so that they look like on the project plan. On some islands of the archipelagos there are now houses, shopping centers, but they do not pay off even a small fraction of the money invested in the construction of an ambitious project that was supposed to surprise the world once again.

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Egor Eremeev
Current material has been prepared by Egor Eremeev
Education: Westminster University (Business & Management), London.
Egor studied and lived in the UK for 8 years and graduated from the university of Westminster. He is currently the co-founder and the director of business development at Smapse Education and personally visits foreign schools and universities, interviews students studying in those institutions.
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