The ‘World’ Sinks: Slipping Sands of Time Hit Dubai’s Mega Development

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An aerial view of The World Island in Dubai

According to evidence presented to a property tribunal, the World islands off the coast of Dubai are sinking.

The “Dubai World Tribunal” was set up to hear cases arising out of the multiple problems that the outlandishly ambitious scheme has faced since it started in 2003. Evidence brought by Richard Wilmot-Smith QC, representing Penguin Marine, the company holding the rights to provide transport to and from the islands,  showed “erosion and deterioration of The World islands.” So, in a nutshell, “the islands are gradually falling back into the sea.”  As well as the foundational sands of the islands sinking there is also evidence that the navigational channels between the islands are silting up.

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The development, consisting of 300 islands, was designed to look like the countries of the globe when seen from above (or from the top of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building onshore in the city). The islands were intended to become luxury hotel complexes and private properties, each tailor-made to suit its owners. According to the developer, Nakheel, 70% of the islands have been sold. However, only one of the islands has completed development: ‘Greenland’ is owned by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Emir of Dubai, and is a showpiece for the scheme.

Since the scheme started, Dubai has been hit by plummeting property prices and as a result many investors already involved in the development have proved unable or unwilling to finance further work. Island reclamation, the process used to create the islands, was completed in January 2008 but since then progress has slowed and in December 2010, construction stopped on commercial and residential properties on the islands.

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Despite these signs of ‘global’ stagnation, Graham Lovett, representing Nakheel, said that the project was not dead but “in a coma.” A statement was also released following the hearing by Nakheel which refutes claims that the islands are sinking, citing evidence from an in house survey that did not “observe any substantial erosion that requires sand nourishment.” (Via the Telegraph.)