First Published: 2011-11-28

 

Land reclamation: How Abu Dhabi has grown

 

Development is just starting in Abu Dhabi, meaning it can avoid mistakes made in coastal cities that have been urbanising for decades or even centuries.

 

Middle East Online

By Vesela Todorova - ABU DHABI

In past two decades, up to 40 islands have been created

The Palm Jumeirah, with its sun-soaked mansions above the rushing waters of the Arabian Gulf, is among the country's most visible examples of land reclamation.

But Abu Dhabi has also relied extensively on dragging land back from the sea.

The Al Raha Beach development, Yas Island and Reem Island are among the latest examples in the capital. Lulu Island was completed in the 1990s.

Even Sir Bani Yas Island, the capital's nature getaway, has undergone dredging and reclamation work.

How much of the capital's territory has grown through reclamation is unclear, but experts agree it has been extensive.

"The scale is enormous," says Richard Hornby, an associate partner at Nautica Environmental Associates. "I suppose what has been done is quite impressive. You can admire the engineering and vision perhaps.

"We hope environmental issues have been taken into account in the planning of these operations."

Creating new land from the sea is not unique to Abu Dhabi. Cities such as Hong Kong and New York City are growing in the same way.

"If you look at Manhattan Island, for example, there is virtually nothing along the coastline that is left that is natural," says Dr John Burt, the assistant professor of biology at New York University Abu Dhabi.

While stopping development is not possible, Dr Burt says: "We need to balance the needs of humanity for infrastructure and resources and those of the environment."

Development is just starting in Abu Dhabi, meaning it can avoid some of the mistakes made in coastal cities that have been urbanising for decades or even centuries, he says.

One reclamation method is filling in sabkhas, low-lying coastal salt flats along the western shores.

The Mussafah Industrial Area and the new Industrial City of Abu Dhabi have been built on sabkha flats.

While they may not appear beautiful at first, Abu Dhabi's sabkhas are the largest in the world and well-known to global geologists.

The habitat is still extensive but it is being "chopped out into concrete units", says Mr Hornby. "It is not such a good example of a habitat as it was 20 years ago."

There are also many projects that enlarge existing islands or create man-made ones from scratch. In the past two decades, up to 40 islands have been created, says Mr Hornby.

Examples include Hudayriat, which is half as big as Abu Dhabi Island and has been growing for the past 10 years.

Some of the islands are built by oil companies and used instead of rigs. While they have an effect on the environment, they are cheaper and safer than building rigs, and their impact is smaller, Mr Hornby says.

Yet other island developments are for personal use.

"A lot of these small islands not too far from Abu Dhabi have got magnificent buildings on them now," Mr Hornby says.

Maintaining the buildings from the sea requires vast amounts of rock, quarried from local mountains with significant effects.

And as well as creating the islands, huge amounts of sand are dredged from the sea bed, harming fisheries. The offshore developments are also affecting rare sea birds such as the Socotra cormorant.

Dr Thabit Al Abdessalaam, the director of marine biodiversity management at the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, says the agency is concerned about the balance between development and conservation.

"We are hoping to introduce strategic environmental measures," Dr Al Abdessalaam says.

The National

 

Serious challenges for Arab leaders in Amman

US, allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Tributes flood in for anti-apartheid hero Ahmed Kathrada

Tunisians demand Muslim marriage decree revoked

Historic Casablanca buildings crumbling in silence

UN says over 300 civilians killed since start of west Mosul offensive

Disputed Iraqi province votes to fly Kurdish flag

Germany laments Turkey's 'unacceptable' spying

Syria opposition says no peace deal without US role

Turkey sends delegation to UK over electronics ban

UN chief urges Arab leaders to confront Syria war

Carlos the Jackal sentenced to life for Paris bombing

Arab League set to oppose Trump Israel embassy shift

US vows to never allow 'Israel-bashing' at UN

Netanyahu ban on MP visits to flashpoint holy site challenged

IS launches counter-attack to defend north Syria town

Saudi intercepts four ‘smuggled’ Yemen rebel missiles

Saudi to set up investment fund to help Jordan

Iran slams Bahrain terror cell claims as ‘delusional’

UN says 30 million unsure of next meal in MENA region

Putin to meet Iran President in Moscow

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

Germany’s Turks cast early ballots for Erdogan referendum

German court convicts Pakistani of spying for Iran

Qatar to invest £5bn in UK within five years

'Kill Erdogan' banner probed in Switzerland, Turkey

Arab League chief urges resolution to Syria conflict

Israel arrests 22 ultra-Orthodox sex offenders

Syrian forces pause offensive on IS-held dam for repairs

Dubai's Emaar Malls offers $800m to buy Souq.com

Iraq launches fresh Mosul Old City advance

US-backed fighters battle IS near north Syria town

Hamas partially reopens Beit Hanoun crossing

Iraq investigates Mosul civilian deaths

In Algeria, everyone wants to be MP, few likely to vote

Yemeni rebel supporters flood streets on conflict’s anniversary

Syria fighting damages IS-held dam posing rising water risk

Iran to symbolically sanction 15 US companies

Iran to appeal seizure of 9/11 compensation money

Hamas shuts Gaza crossing after assassination of official

Deep concern as Israeli laws entrench the occupation

Turkey’s Kurds could sway tight referendum vote

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

US and allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Israel’s air strike on Syria spooks Middle East