Palm Islands

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Palm Islands from the air
2010 map of developments, including Palm Jebel Ali, Palm Jumeirah, Palm Deira, The World, The Universe (not shown here) and Dubai Waterfront

The Palm Islands are three man made artificial islands, Palm Jumeirah, Deira Island and Palm Jebel Ali, on the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The Palm Islands are a major tourist destination within Dubai. Creation of the islands started in 2001 ending in 2006 to 2007. The construction of the islands has had a significant impact on ocean sediments and wildlife in the area.


The Palm Jumeirah seen from the International Space Station.

Palm Jumeirah (25°07′00″N 55°08′00″E / 25.11667°N 55.13333°E / 25.11667; 55.13333) is the site of numerous private residences and hotels. From the air, the archipelago resembles a stylized palm tree within a circle. Construction began in 2001 and was largely financed from Dubai's income from petroleum. By 2009, 28 hotels were opened on the site.

Palm Jebel Ali (25°00′N 54°59′E / 25.000°N 54.983°E / 25.000; 54.983) is a similar archipelago with a larger palm tree, a larger crescent around it and space between the crescent and the tree to dredge island boardwalks that circle the "fronds" of the "palm" and spell out an Arabic poem by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Construction began in 2006, and as of 2018 had been put on hold due to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

The Deira Islands (25°20′00″N 55°16′05″E / 25.3333°N 55.2681°E / 25.3333; 55.2681) are four undeveloped artificial islands off the coast of Deira, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. As of today, little development has taken place on the islands due to the financial crisis of 2007–2008.

Environmental concerns[edit]

The construction of The Palm Islands has had a significant impact on the surrounding environment, resulting in changes to area wildlife, coastal erosion, alongshore sediment transport and wave patterns. Sediment stirred up by construction has suffocated and injured local marine fauna and reduced the amount of sunlight which filters down to seashore vegetation. Variations in alongshore sediment transport have resulted in changes in erosion patterns along the UAE coast, which has also been exacerbated by altered wave patterns as the waters of the Persian Gulf attempt to move around the new obstruction of the islands.[1][2] For example, according to a study published in the journal Water in 2022, the construction of Palm Jumeirah Island has had an effect on increasing water-soluble materials, changing the spectral profile of water and also increasing the temperature of the water surface around the island.[3]

Greenpeace has criticized The Palm Islands for lack of sustainability, and non-profit environmental news service Mongabay has reported on Dubai's artificial islands, stating that:

Significant changes in the maritime environment [of Dubai] [... ] As a result of the dredging and redepositing of sand for the construction of the islands, the typically crystalline waters of the Persian Gulf at Dubai have become severely clouded with silt. Construction activity is damaging the marine habitat, burying coral reefs, oyster beds and subterranean fields of sea grass, threatening local marine species as well as other species dependent on them for food. Oyster beds have been covered in as much as two inches of sediment, while above the water, beaches are eroding with the disruption of natural currents.[4]

Structural importance[edit]

Palm Jumeirah was built entirely from sand and rocks (no concrete or steel was used to build the island). This was done in accordance with the order of the Ruler of Dubai, who came up with the idea for the Palm Islands, as well as their design.[5]

Construction resources involved[edit]

  • 5.5 million cubic meters of rock brought from over 16 quarries in Dubai.
  • 94 million cubic meters of sand brought from deep sea beds 6 nautical miles from the coast of Dubai.[1]
  • 700 tons of limestone

Project risks and threats[edit]

  • Sinking
  • Waves 2 meters high.
  • Annual or biennial storm frequency.
  • Weak soil due to constant exposure to rising sea water.[6]
  • Water pollution.

Hidden problems[edit]

  • Erosion (caused by winds and water currents) is one of the biggest problems present, as it strips away the sand which forms the majority of the island.
  • Damage to the marine ecology (e.g. the loss of reefs and fish), including disturbances in the reproductive cycles of the species of fish that were close to the shores of Dubai. Research conducted by marine biologists on this phenomenon showed that the newly born fish were not able to survive in conditions along the shores of Dubai due to constant construction and environmental alterations (e.g. shifting of sand, moving boulders and the effects of the vibrations).
  • Due to the shape of the island right outside the coast of Dubai, there is loss of coastal shape along the seashore of Dubai.[7]

Obstacles after the island construction[edit]

Installation of utilities and pipelines was very difficult and laborious.[8]

Risk mitigation[edit]

To counteract with the waves and the constant motion of the sea, breakwaters were built all around the island. They were 3 meters high and 160 kilometers in total length. Expanded over a length of about 11.5 kilometers, the base of these breakwaters and the island itself were constantly monitored during construction process with the help of deep sea divers. The divers checked the alignment and placement of the rocks beneath the surface to ensure its stability. Shape of the island was monitored using the global positioning system.

The sand on top of the island was sprayed by a technique called rainbowing.[9] Here the sand from the dredging ships was sprayed on to the land. The whole island was planned such that there was no stagnant water between the island and the breakwaters. In order to achieve this, small structural modifications were made to the breakwaters that surrounded the island, allowing the sea water to move through the breakers without causing any damage to the island.[10] To prevent erosion of the sand from the island, maintenance systems spray material along the coast of the island and also along the Dubai coast.

Coastal ecology was recovered with the help of nature itself. These changes began attracting newer species of fishes and also reef formations. Every 6 weeks sea divers go down under water to check the marine life as part of their monitoring process. Precautions were also taken to prevent the process of liquifaction of the sand on the island (below the upper surface). This process of liquifaction was caused by the movement of the rocks and sand and also underwater erosion before and after construction. A Vibro-compaction technique was used to prevent the process of liquifaction.[11] This was carried out in order to hold the island's base together and also to make a strong foundation for further construction.[12]

Construction effects and repercussions[edit]

The construction of the Palm islands along the coast of Dubai has caused several large environmental changes: a reduction in the area's aquatic life, erosion of the coastal soil, and irregular sediment transport along the shore. There is also a dramatic change in wave patterns along the coast of Dubai due to the rock walls constructed around the palm islands: instead of hitting the shores directly, the waves move in an unusual manner around the new obstruction. This has led to the weakening of the shores of Dubai.[13]

The origin of most of the environmental damage stems from disturbed sediment from construction of the Palm islands. The sediment decreased the amount of sunlight filtering down to the sea vegetation and injured the surrounding marine fauna.[14] Environmental disturbances caused by changes in sediment and coastal erosion have attracted the attention of environmental groups such as Greenpeace.[1]

The World Wildlife Fund announced in 2006, "[The] UAE's human pressure on global ecosystems (its ecological footprint) [is] the highest in the world. The country is supposedly at present five times more unsustainable than any other country" (Samarai 2007). It also mentioned that the construction from the start up to date had caused many visible ecological and environmental changes that were a threat to the future.

Remedial measure to protect the coast[edit]

To properly manage their shorelines and effects, Dubai relies on its coastal monitoring program. Established in 1997, the Dubai coastal monitoring program began studying the baseline bathymetric (measurement of depth of water in oceans or seas) and topographic survey of the Jumeirah (Dubai) coastline.

Additional data were collected with technological improvements including remote video monitoring of Dubai beaches, sediment sampling and analysis, near shore directional wave and current recordings and intensive measurement exercises at selected locations using Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) equipment. This way they were able to do a constant monitor and check on the continuously changing environmental conditions along the coast of Dubai.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Environmental Impacts of Palm Islands". Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  2. ^ "Dubai's Artificial World Islands Are Killing Corals and Pushing Nature Out of the Sea". 10 June 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  3. ^ Mansourmoghaddam, Mohammad (January 2022). "Mansourmoghaddam M, Ghafarian Malamiri HR, Rousta I, Olafsson H, Zhang H. Assessment of Palm Jumeirah Island's Construction Effects on the Surrounding Water Quality and Surface Temperatures during 2001–2020. Water. 2022; 14(4):634.". Water. 14 (4): 634. doi:10.3390/w14040634.
  4. ^ "Dubai's artificial islands have high environmental cost". Mongabay. 23 August 2005. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  5. ^ "Dubai Palm Island | HQ Travel Guide". Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  6. ^ "HowStuffWorks "Palm Island Construction"". 8 November 2007. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  7. ^ "The World is sinking: Dubai islands 'falling into the sea' - Telegraph". Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  8. ^ "Palm Island Dubai – Palm Tree Island Megastructure Construction". Enggpedia. Archived from the original on 2014-06-28. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  9. ^ "Palm Islands, Dubai — 8th Wonder Of The World | Prime Arena". Archived from the original on 2013-07-22. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  10. ^ "Palm Islands, Dubai - Compression of the Soil". Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  11. ^ "The Palm - Design Build Network". Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  12. ^ "Engineering Challenges: Palm Island". Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  13. ^ "Will the Gulf's manmade islands sink into the sea? - Your Middle East". 23 October 2012. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
  14. ^ Bayyinah Salahuddin. "The Marine Environmental Impacts of Artificial Island Construction Dubai, UAE" (PDF). Retrieved 4 October 2017.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 25°7′1″N 55°7′55″E / 25.11694°N 55.13194°E / 25.11694; 55.13194