Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Doubting Dubai

I admit that I remain skeptical about the sustainability of the ambitious projects in Dubai planned by the top United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) developer Nakheel. I ran an earlier post on the development last week commenting that it was difficult to find much information on it. Wouldn't you know it -- National Geographic runs a major story on it in its January 2007 issue ("sudden city"). In fact, that article exposes the dark side behind the glitter of Dubai: "Fewer than one in eight residents are citizens of the U.A.E., and South Asian guest workers make up more than 60 percent of the population. Many educated Indians live a comfortable life in Dubai, and a few have become rich. For others, however, Dubai is a dead end. Listen to their stories and you will learn that many workers are trapped here, mired in debt to unscrupulous agents back home who have charged them exorbitant fees for their work visas."The National Geographic piece ends with the question: "Does Dubai represent a glitzy anomaly or a model to be copied by other Arab nations?"

One may be tempted to applaud the Dubai developers for their commitment to sound marine development as announced below. However, unidentified environmentalists cited in the National Geographic article think that it may be too late for that, pointing out that "Dubai has [already] killed coral, destroyed turtle nesting sites and upset the marine ecology of the Western Persian Gulf". We'll continue to follow this project with great interest. (GW)

Marine environment at top of the agenda as Nakheel signs landmark agreement with UNU

Nakheel, the UAE’s leading real estate developer, has taken another significant step forward in ensuring the long-term sustainability of its offshore developments following the signing of a strategic agreement with the United Nations University (UNU).

The agreement on Marine Ecosystem Management engages a team of leading coastal management experts and includes a review of Nakheel’s existing monitoring activities. The partnership will also see the development of a comprehensive environmental monitoring programme for the waters of the Arabian Gulf that will help maintain sustainable marine ecosystems and mitigate adverse impacts.

Under the four-year agreement, plans will be designed and implemented for sustainable management of the marine environments in and around Nakheel’s major coastal development projects such as The Palm Jumeirah, The Palm Jebel Ali, The World, and Dubai Waterfront.

Senior officials from the UNU’s Canadian-based International Network on Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), and from the Environment department of Nakheel Design Group formally agreed the landmark collaboration - “Strategic Management of Marine Ecosystems in Nakheel Projects” yesterday (14th January, 2007) in Dubai. The agreement was signed by Chris O’Donnell, Nakheel Chief Executive, and Dr. Zafar Adeel – UNU-INWEH Director.

Dr. Zafar Adeel said: “This agreement will not only help manage and protect the marine environment around the Nakheel projects, it offers tangible ways for others in the region – through training opportunities and the triennial conferences – to benefit from insights gained through the Nakheel experience. It is our goal that efforts under this agreement help improve marine management throughout the Middle East while ensuring that the best possible, proactive management systems are in place to protect Dubai’s coastal areas.”

UNU-INWEH brings an extensive experience on environmental studies in assessing coastal marine environments, and it draws on both the leading academic and industrial expertise. UNU-INWEH is a United Nations entity focused on finding ways to address the global water crisis, and serving as a not-for profit organization, it provides unbiased and objective analysis.

The signing ceremony culminates an effort that began with a Memorandum of Understanding on Coastal Zone Management signed by His Excellency, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Nakheel Executive Chairman, and the UNU-INWEH in July 2003. This was followed by UNU-INWEH’s initial report 11 months later to Nakheel: “Building a management Program for an Effective and Sustainable Environment for the Palm Island Project – Dubai.”

Phase II of the partnership with the UNU illustrates Nakheel’s commitment to ensuring environmental best practice, the long-term environmental sustainability of its developments and the transparency of its environmental data.

Chris O’Donnell said: “Nakheel has the largest in-house, dedicated environmental team of its type in the region, and issues of environmental sustainability have been a fundamental focus from the company’s inception. The second phase of our work with UNU is the next step in working towards the long term environmental sustainability of our projects for generations to come. This partnership will ensure that we can develop international best practice, provide independent and comprehensive environmental data, and also benefit the region at large with our research.”

Through research gained and investment in equipment and facilities, the studies will not only benefit Nakheel, but also other companies and agencies with which facilities and information will be shared. The project will also offer training in the latest science and techniques for monitoring and managing marine environments in a sustainable way, complemented by a related international conference every three years.

UNU-INWEH personnel at the signing ceremony include Dr. Zafar Adeel; Dr. Peter F. Sale, Assistant Director and Lead Investigator on the project; and Ms. Hanneke Van Lavieren, Programme Officer, Marine Programme. Joining them are the project’s principal investigators, Drs. K.G. Drouillard, University of Windsor, Canada, C.G. Trick, University of Western Ontario, Canada, and Björn Kjerfve, Texas A&M University, USA, and Dr. Waleed Saleh, MENA Region Coordinator of UNU-INWEH.

Participants from Nakheel include:
Mr. Chris O’ Donnell Nakheel CEO, Mr. Abdulrahman Kalantar – Director Nakheel Design Group, Mr. Shaun Lenehan – Senior Manager of Nakheel Environment Department and Ms. Diane Klaimi – Manager of Nakheel – UNU cooperation project.

Nakheel is the uniquely focused property development company behind a variety of new landmark developments in Dubai. Nakheel aims to redefine the concept of property development whether residential, tourist, commercial or retail. It has therefore placed great importance on examining the requirements of the different sectors of the community and developing its visionary projects around these findings.

Nakheel’s portfolio currently includes The Palm, The World, Jumeirah Islands, Jumeirah Park, The Gardens, Ibn Battuta Mall, Jumeirah Golf Estates, Lost City, International City, Discovery Gardens, Jumeirah Village and Dubai Waterfront. Further information can be found at

About United Nations University:

Established by the U.N. General Assembly in 1973, United Nations University is an international community of scholars engaged in research, advanced training and the dissemination of knowledge related to pressing global problems. Activities focus mainly on peace and conflict resolution, sustainable development and the use of science and technology to advance human welfare. The University operates a worldwide network of research and post-graduate training centres, with headquarters in Tokyo.

UNU-INWEH was created in 1996 to strengthen water management capacity, particularly of developing countries, and to provide on-the-ground project support. With core funding provided by the Government of Canada, it is hosted by McMaster University, Canada.

© 2007 Al Bawaba (


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