Dubai leads with a world-class standard in coastal engineering

Dubai has more artificial islands, reefs and breakwaters either under construction or planned than most of the other Middle East countries combined. And yet, strange as it sounds, there is a shortage of beach-quality sand in Dubai. CW reports on the engineering studies that are being undertaken into the future of the emirate’s ever-changing coastline.

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By  Sean Cronin Published  July 2, 2005

Dubai leads with a world-class standard in coastal engineering|~|project200.jpg|~|Under ‘Decree 22’, contractors involved in excavation work along Dubai’s coastal strip are required by law to replace any sand they remove.|~|It may not have the longest or most varied coastline in the world, but Dubai certainly packs a hefty punch when it comes to coastal engineering. There are more structures, artificial islands, reefs and breakwaters either under construction or planned for the emirate, than most of the other Middle East countries combined. Keeping an eye on it all is the coastal management section of Dubai Municipality, which is charged with the responsibility of improving the coastal area of the emirate. And it is in this section of the Municipality that some of the most creative engineering studies into the future of Dubai’s extremely precious coastline are now being undertaken. According to ‘Decree 22’, the coastal zone which extends 1 km onshore and 10 nautical miles offshore, comes under the responsibility of the section. “Our work varies between projects that are in design stage, under construction, monitoring and studies, so we have a very wide remit,” says Khalid Mohammed Al Zahed, head of the coastal management section. The principle ongoing project covers the improvement of the coastal area around Jumeirah where there is a programme of improvement around Jumeirah Open Beach. That includes providing better public amenities as well as making the beach safer for swimmers, while reducing the visual impact of any physical additions. “Phase one of the project covers the construction and widening of Jumeirah Open Beach and breakwater extensions. “The second phase will look at providing attractive amenities, services and landscaping a promenade and jogging track that will eventually extend to Jumeirah Fishing Harbour,” added Al Zahed. The coastal management team at the Municipality considered more than 50 options for coastal improvements in this area alone. It has also commissioned physical scale modelling studies from UK-based consultant HR Wallingford, while numerical modelling was carried out in-house and in co-ordination with the Danish Hydraulics Institute. “We have done several in-depth studies over time in terms of looking at waves, currents and coastal changes,” says Al Zahed. “On this project there has been applied a very extensive decision matrix approach, which considers the engineering, environmental, amenity and economic attributes of every option.” “In some sections up to 25 different options were run through the matrix,” explains marine expert Dr Gary Mocke, who works alongside Al Zahed and is head of the coastal design and monitoring unit in this section. Several parts of Dubai’s coastline are being eroded, so the Municipality has taken steps to ensure that erosion and accretion levels are monitored constantly. In fact, a coastal zone monitoring programme has been in operation since 1997, which captures real-time topographic and bathymetric data up and down the coast. Follow-up surveys were performed regularly over the following years, and a directional wave recorder was installed to provide information on wave conditions near the coast. The programme was expanded in 2002 to include the whole extent of the Dubai coast, from Al Mamzar Lagoon in the north to the Jebel Ali coast in the south. The Dubai Creek has also been included. The programme includes a system of elevated video cameras for monitoring coastal changes. These cameras are located on the outside of the Burj Al Arab hotel and provide a unique view of the beaches from the sea. It also measures tidal movements, currents and wave heights — all of which is vital information for planning new coastal structures. This information is also made available to the public through www.dubaicoast.org. It may come as a surprise to some, but there is a shortage of sand in Dubai — or to be more specific, beach-quality sand. As a result, contractors involved in excavation work along Dubai’s coastal strip are required by law to replace any sand they remove. “Whatever beach-quality sand comes out of any construction within 1 km of the beach landward, we use to nourish the eroded beaches in Dubai. “According to Decree 22, they have to deliver it to us because there is a lack of beach-quality sand in Dubai,” explains Al Zahed. “The sand on the beaches is in very short supply and previously the sand on those beaches would have been used by the construction industry or sold at a premium because it’s very good quality,” he said. In addition to the ongoing monitoring initiative and the programme of improvements around Jumeirah, the coastal section of Dubai Municipality is also exploring several other projects aimed at improving the emirate’s coastal belt and extending into the Creek. Many are still at feasibility stage, but it may not be too long before the ever-changing coastal belt will have some additional features which not only have commercial gain as their main driver, but good science, too.||**||

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