Gulf’s offshore islands could create an ‘unwanted legacy’

While the Gulf’s offshore islands may herald a new era in urban development, experts warn that they must be planned carefully to avoid creating an unwanted legacy.

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By  Colin Foreman Published  May 21, 2005

Top urban development experts have warned that comprehensive long term planning is needed if the raft of waterfront schemes planned for Dubai are to avoid ending up in disaster. Planners also need to take account of climatic change, sustainability and urban infrastructure requirements. That was the stern message delivered by academics, engineers and architects attending last week’s Waterfront 2005 show in Dubai. Professor Han Meyer of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands said that the future maintenance of the offshore projects currently under construction off the coast of Dubai, could become a severe financial burden. He said: “The islands are very much based on the idea that money is no problem at the moment, but suppose the economic situation changes, and there is a dip in Dubai’s economy in 30 or 40 years’ time. “What will happen to the islands then? That will be a big question, and it has not been very well considered until now.” Developer Nakheel has already acknowledged that its ‘World’ mega-project will need constant dredging, but it maintains that this will only be needed every five years. Meyer called for a more co-ordinated analysis of the long-term effects of large-scale offshore development. He said: “The main idea that you get here is that everything seems to be possible. But the effect of all these developments should also be taken into consideration.” Meyer also pointed to the long-term consequences of climate change, which he said could impact on low lying land and reclaimed islands. He said: “When the water is calm, it is not such a problem, but the height of the sea level has an enormous effect on the power of storms. “If you have a very [shallow] sea before your coast, the power of the storm will be broken kilometres before it reaches the coast. “When the depth of the sea increases just before the coast you get bigger waves with more power hitting the coast, and this increases logarithmically.” Nakheel engineering director Saeed Ahmed Saeed delivered a keynote speech on sustainability at the show and referred to the development of artificial reefs and other initiatives aimed at protecting local ecosystems. But some delegates who attended the show were less than impressed with the offshore projects that are currently under construction. Architect Luis Ajamil, one of the partners at Bermello Ajamil & Partners, commented: “To me, the predominant thing is to make it look like a palm, and there is only one value to that: To create an impact worldwide. “To the person that is going to live there it won’t. At ground level you won’t be able to see whether it is a palm, a straight road or a circle. “What the Palm does is create something that is very monotonous, it will be a straight road with things on either side.”

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