14 March 2005

Marine life groans under weight of ocean city

An incredible building development, founded on man-made islands, has begun off the coast of Dubai. It could transform the state into one of the world's leading trade and leisure centres. But, as the boulders and sand go down, marine life suffers.

The ambitious, $14 billion plan involves the world's largest-ever land reclamation effort. It will create hundreds of artificial islands, linked to the mainland by causeways.

There will be three archipelagos, shaped like date palms when viewed from the air. Another group of islands, spread over 24 square miles and called The World, will be arranged so that they resemble the globe's main land masses.

Foundations for the first of the archipelagos, the 12-square-mile The Palm Jumeirah, are finished and the construction of buildings has begun.

For three years barges have dropped giant boulders, and sand extracted from the seabed elsewhere, in water depths of up to 20m. The mish-mash of rubble has been bound together by high-strength plastic sheeting.

In the process, marine life is reported to have suffered greatly. Local divers say a coral reef has been buried, and numbers of fish and turtles are down by a large margin. Currents have changed and, in some places, coastal beaches have been eroded.

Other areas of seabed have been left barren by sludge from dredging, they say. And in the silt-laden water, life has practically disappeared from a number of wrecks.

More of the same can be expected as building gathers pace. But a marine environmental advisor to the project has defended the work. Damage done by construction will be offset by the creation of new corals through growth nurseries, he said.

Further, with hundreds of thousands of people expected to inhabit the area, and thousands more expected to visit as tourists, scuba-diving is viewed as an important recreational activity. The developers should, therefore, have an interest in helping the marine environment to recover in the long-term.

Plans for diving tourism include the sinking of ships and planes, and the construction of mock ancient ruins for divers to swim through.

Some 30 islands in The World are reported to have been sold for more than $30 million each. Luxury apartments, on islands that have yet even to rise from the sea, have also gone for figures in the millions.

According to the Independent newspaper, footballers David Beckham and Michael Owen are believed to have bought apartments in one of the archipelagos. And singer Rod Stewart is thought to have bought the island designed to represent Britain in The World complex.


Post a Comment

<< Home