Palm Island

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THE DUBAI PALMS: CONSTRUCTION AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES ETHAN POLIE

In the late twentieth century, the Middle Eastern nation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) began to make plans to distance itself from the petroleum industry that dominates most of the Persia. Driven by the fact that internal experts believe the country’s oil reserves will be depleted by the year 2012, the UAE is attempting to transition to a service industry, with a major focus on tourism, retail, and entertainment. In order to transform its economy, the UAE is first focusing of the already advanced city of Dubai, which is the first tax free, centrally-planned, freemarket capitalist society in the Middle East (1). With an economy valued at over forty six billion dollars, the city of Dubai is, by far, the most economically powerful city in that part of the world. Yet it has virtually no ties to the commanding petroleum industry (2). The UAE is in the process of spending trillions of dollars transforming Dubai into an engineering marvel. Of all of the structures that the emirate has recently created, including the tallest structure in the world and a revolving skyscraper, this report will focus on the largest land reclamation project to date, the manmade island formed in the shape of a date palm. The island, which Dubai has already termed “the eighth wonder of the world,” adds almost 1,600 km (1,000 mi) of additional coastline to Dubai, and is formally called the Palm Jumeirah (3). While it is an engineering marvel, without extensive research and planning, the creation of such an island chain could have severely affected the local environment and coastal eco-system. Unfortunately, the UAE did not have time or patience for such research and planning, and therefore, the repercussions of such a large scale project have been devastating. This report will first give the reader some background on the Palm Jumeirah project and will then discuss some of the environmental repercussions of this large land reclamation project. Palm Jumeirah Background The Palm Jumeirah was designed and created by the state owned development company, The Nakheel Corporation. Formed in the shape of a Date Palm, Jumeirah consists of a trunk measuring 457 m (1500 ft) wide, 2.5 km (1.6 miles) long, and surrounded by an expansive canopy of seventeen fronds. Once complete, the palm will support over sixty luxury hotels, over 5,000 residential villas and apartments, several marinas, and various forms of entertainment (4). Engineering Information The engineering of this island was done in four major steps, first the breakwater was raised from the gulf. Next the center crescent was created, followed by the fronds. Currently, the newly formed dry land is being populated with amazing structures. Preliminary plans did not call for the large protective breakwater, but fortunately the executives realized the palm island must be protected by such a structure in order to abate the flow of the gulf. Constructing the Breakwater The breakwater was constructed where the water had a depth greater than 10 m (33 ft). It is 11 km (6.8 mi) long and 200 m (656 ft) wide, and rises 4 m (13 ft) out of the water. The barrier was made up of reclaimed sand from the bed of the surrounding area. In order to stop erosion, a cap structure was added. Engineers topped the breakwaters with two separate layers of massive rocks on the top, and three layers for the subsurface sections. Each rock was precisely sanded, shaped, and individually placed to form a wall-type structure that would remain sturdy (5).

Creating the Actual Palm The island itself was created in a similar fashion. In order to provide support for the immense weight that will be added upon completion, the ground layer consists of enormous rocks blasted from far away mountains. Next, layers of soft sea sand that was covered with an erosive-preventing water-permeable geo-textile formed the bulk of the structure (6). This sand was, for the most part,...
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