Palm Jumeirah, located in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has the claim of being the world’s largest reclaimed island. The island represents a giant palm tree and is vast. Claimed to be the “eighth wonder of the world” it was the dream of the Prince of Dubai. During construction from 2001 2,234,000 cubic meters of sand were dredged from the sea bed to form the island, whilst the crescent was constructed with 4,888,000 cubic meters of rock. It stands roughly 4 metres above sea level and has roughly doubled Dubai’s 42 mile (67.5 kilometre) coastline. The island has taken around ten years to build and had to incorporate some design changes to ensure that the water around it would not stagnate.
The island is aimed at wealthy foreign investors and thousands of tourists who can stay in some of the many hotels that have been constructed on the island. The size of the island is vast: there is an eight lane motorway along the “trunk” or golden mile of the island for example. The island has a monorail system linking it to the mainland.
In contrast to the foreign investors and tourists were the thousands of migrants needed to construct the 5 kilometre by 5 kilometre island. Around 30,000 construction workers, some from the South Asia region, were used to construct the island. The wages were typically very low and workers have ended up in debt to agents who found them work. Loans to the workers could be up to 120%.
The environment here is harsh: temperatures can rise to 48 degrees Celsius and it can be very humid too. Most properties typically require some form of air conditioning. The island was shown as a lush palm tree but in reality it is a desert colour palm tree with sand and rock materials dominating the artificial landscape. The islands have affected the tidal patterns and have altered the natural flow of water around them. The construction has had a negative impact on the local marine species as well as other species dependent on them for food. Oyster beds have been covered in as much as two inches (5cm) of sediment, while above the water, beaches are eroding with the disruption of natural currents according to Mongabay. There will also be some natural settlement to any man-made earthworks over time as the land has time to bed down: just how much remains to be seen and whether this will cause any problems to the many buildings also remains to be seen.
Whether or not the Palm Jumeirah island is sustainable in the longer term remains subject to conjecture. The settlement of the land may cause future problems although this is speculation. The huge investment in the island of many billions of dollars is an interesting experiment. Whether or not the island is sustainable in attracting the tourists or the international investors to buy homes remains to be seen. Currently many investors and tourists are visiting there.