Environmental Concerns Surround Dubai Excess

The eccentric megaprojects keep coming in Dubai, leaving some to question the environmental wisdom of so much development in a notoriously water-poor desert.
December 24, 2008, 5am PST | Nate Berg
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"Of course, in a place like Dubai, this kind of audacious project goes relatively unnoticed, among the many others currently underway. To pick just one other example, 30,000 mature trees are scheduled to be shipped to Dubai to help landscape a new Tiger Woods-designed golf course that will be bordered by "22 palaces and 75 mansions". Even without the twin threats of climate change and a global economic recession, Dubai's grandiose plans might seem short-sighted to some. Is it really wise to be building at all, let alone on this scale, in a place that the United Nations describes as one of the most "water-imperilled" environments on the planet, but where per capita water use is three times the global average?"

"Dubai's ruling elite insists it now places "sustainability" at the heart of its plans for existing and future projects. Last year, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai's ruler, spelled out the "Dubai Strategic Plan 2015" in a speech. He explained that oil now contributes only 3% to Dubai's GDP and that his plan is to "sustain Dubai's environment, ensuring that it is safe and clean". Each new construction project now boasts a paragraph in its brochure about how it will "follow environmental best practice", but even if these new measures do materialise, Dubai is a place built on the ideology and convenience of cheap, free-flowing oil. Its business model, particularly its ever-expanding tourist sector, is based on the premise that people will always be willing and able to fly long distances to get there. (Some airlines now euphemistically describe Dubai as both a "long short-haul" destination and a "long-haul weekend break destination".) A new six-runway mega airport is being built to serve a predicted capacity of 120 million passengers a year."

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Published on Thursday, December 18, 2008 in Guardian
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