Dredging underway on Al Raha Beach

With Abu Dhabi unveiling a host of mega projects, the emirate is fast becoming a new focus for the UAE construction industry. Zoe Naylor reports on the latest offshore offering — the Al Raha Beach development by Aldar Properties.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  April 15, 2006

|~|Al-Raha-Beach200.jpg|~|Dredging underway on the Al Raha project |~|Following in the steps of regional reclamation projects such as the Pearl-Qatar, the three Palms and the World, Abu Dhabi is now forging ahead with its own ambitious reclamation project — the Al Raha Beach development. Spread over 500 ha, the US $15 billion (AED55 billion) mega project is being developed by Aldar on the beach side of the main highway leading into the city of Abu Dhabi, from Dubai. The project site is 10km long and lies along a channel of water known as the ‘airport channel’. When completed, the new city will accommodate over 120,000 residents and feature around 70 high-rise towers. It will consist of eight ‘precincts’ incorporating hotels, marinas, parks, business facilities and restaurants linked together by a network of canals, bridges and water transportation. To realise this ambitious beachfront development first requires the reclamation of the land itself from the channel. And this means removing over 40 million m3 of material from the water. But before the dredging work could begin in earnest, the project team was faced with the tricky task of removing existing stone groyne structures from the channel. “The groynes were put in about 20 years ago to move the current offshore and help make the beach safer,” explains Andrew Burgess, marine engineering manager, Parsons Brinckerhoff, the project manager. These need to be removed to prevent any difficulties with driving in piles later on for the new structures that will eventually be built upon the reclaimed land. Contractor Al Jaber started work on removing the groynes in October last year and the process is expected to take another two months to complete. “It’s not an easy job and is one that proved more difficult to do than was initially expected,” says Burgess. To overcome this, Al Jaber is using two of the biggest excavators in the region to remove the rocks that form the groynes. The smaller material that is removed will be used later to help form the sea walls. “Some of the structures jut out around 150m into the water, which makes removing them very difficult — it’s not easy to get a six-tonne rock out of the sea from that length,” adds Burgess. With the groyne removal almost completed, dredging work is now underway. Dredging International won the dredging contract for the project and began work on site about three weeks’ ago. The dredging process is expected to take around 18 months to complete and will eventually create an average of 400m of land out into the channel. “There is loose material on the bottom of the channel so we are using a small dredger to put a couple of light layers over the top of it before we bring in the big dredger and really start moving a large amount of cubic metres per day,” says Jim Delker, project director. There is currently one cutter suction dredger in operation that is capable of removing around 100,000m3 of material per month. As it dredges the channel — which has an average depth of 8m — material is sucked down a pipe about 600m long to a spreader barge. As the barge moves location, the pipe length will eventually increase to between 1500m and 1800m. According to Delker, the bigger dredger is likely to be brought into action in May, and will be able to remove around 900,000m3 per month. Once the dredging work is finished late next year the ground improvements can begin. But the immediate next stage of the project will be the marine walls. “We have over 30km of marine walls,” says Delker. Since the project covers such a massive area, the development is divided up into ‘precincts’ — A through to G (precinct A is at the far eastern end, with G at the western end). “We have two tenders for the marine walls that will go out simultaneously: one tender for precinct B and C; and a separate tender for precinct A.” According to Delker, these are due to go out in the next few weeks. As with all land reclamation projects, water quality is a key element. HR Wallingford, a hydraulic research and consultancy specialist from the UK, was brought into the project to look at potential issues and ascertain what measures need to be taken. “The Al Raha development will feature lots of waterways so it is important to assess the water quality,” explains Burgess. As the layout of the development is quite a complicated shape, it is important to make sure that the water moves in and out freely. To achieve this, pumps are likely to be installed to assist the water flow and prevent stagnation. “It has to be sea water, as fresh water will evaporate,” adds Burgess. “There will also be a beach so we have to make sure that the currents aren’t too strong for swimmers.” The team is also looking closely at the nearby Sorouh development that is planned upstream from Al Raha, which may also create future water quality issues. Road design is another integral part of the project given the size of the overall development — it’s all well and good creating a city that will house over 120,000 residents but people need to be able to get in and out efficiently. This means designing a road system that will be able to cope with a heavy amount of traffic. “There are some fairly sizeable interchange structures — there’s a central interchange right near to the Raha Beach hotel, then there are two large interchanges on the west and two on the east,” says Delker. “We’re looking at late 2009 just to complete the infrastructure,” he adds. The detailed infrastructure design should start within the next 30 days, with Maunsell as the infrastructure designer. As the quest for prime beachfront land continues, the region’s developers are coming up with bigger and more elaborate projects. Aldar’s Al Raha Beach is not only impressive because of its concept and size, but also because of the sheer infrastructure that is needed to support it. The idea is that residents of Al Raha Beach will be able to catch a jet cat from their waterfront villa to the Corniche in minutes, or even moor their private boat in a marina and take the high-speed rail to their office in the Al Raha Beach business precinct. As projects go, it’s certainly an ambitious one. But as the emirate of Abu Dhabi continues to launch more and more headline-grabbing projects, this could be just the tip of the iceberg.||**||

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