Dubai beaches need 3000 lorry loads of sand a year

Questions remain over links between offshore dredging and onshore erosion

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By  Sean Cronin Published  May 14, 2005

Dubai’s beaches need up to 3000 lorry loads of sand every year to stop them from being washed away. Dubai Municipality has revealed that erosion is occurring at several public beaches in the emirate. A total of 60 000 m3 of sand has already been delivered to vulnerable sites in the last year alone. These include the Jumeirah Open Beach, Al Mamzar Park and Al Mamzar Lagoon, where a significant amount of erosion has been discovered. Dubai Muncipality operates an innovative scheme that requires contractors who are engaged in work that involves the removal of sand from the Dubai Coastal Zone, to replace it for use on beach nourishment projects. The requirement is part of ‘Decree 22’, issued in 2001. “Although sand has been supplied to the beaches free of cost, the coastal management section has deployed its term contractor for coastal protection works to carry out nourishment works in a professional manner at [these] beaches, as and when beach sand is delivered from the construction sites,” said Khalid Mohammed Al Zahed,head of coastal management at Dubai Municipality. However, while onshore contractors working on sites within the Dubai Coastal Zone are required to supply sand to replenish erosion-hit beaches, there is no corresponding requirement for offshore contractors involved in the suction dredging of millions of tonnes of sand for the construction of artificial islands. It is not yet understood whether the extensive ongoing offshore reclamation work in Dubai has exacerbated erosion problems on particular stretches of the coastline that are now in need of replenishment. Officials at Dubai Municipality refuse to comment on the impact of the offshore dredging work on the beaches of the emirate currently being undertaken by Nakheel and its sub-contractors. But independent experts have warned that the use of suction dredging techniques in the construction of large offshore islands can increase wave height, and so increase erosion in adjoining stretches of coastline. International coastal erosion expert, Professor Bill Ritchie, praised Dubai Municipality’s beach nourishment project. He told Construction Week: “The received wisdom is that you try to replicate nature as much as possible by trying not to build huge coastal walls and concrete structures, and instead use ‘soft’ solutions.” But he warned: “The danger where you have suction dredging is that you artificially deepen the water, which can increase the size of waves.”

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