Middle East's Marine & Coastal Projects Take Centre Stage

Jun 16, 2010, 01:31 ET from IQPC Middle East

DUBAI, UAE, June 16, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Why are marine and coastal developments in the Middle East increasingly attracting global attention? Industry leaders Dr. Benno Boer Ecological Sciences Advisor Arab Region at UNESCO, Craig Thackray Head of Marine at Scott Wilson and Magdy Youssef Director of the Lusail Complex at Qatari Diar were approached to provide input from the NGO, consultant and developer perspective.



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Dr. Benno Boer UNESCO commented on why regional projects are attracting such interest:

"The Arab States in the Gulf have established themselves as important oil and gas producers and exporters. This caused a lot of social and economic transformation. Very important international airports and airlines have been established, and destinations such as Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi and others are now very well known in the world. The leaders and the people have wisely developed their countries as peaceful locations that are highly attractive for business. Massive coastal and marine development projects have been developed more recently, and this has generated even more visibility."

Magdy Youssef, Director- Lusail Administration Complex, Qatari Diar agreed adding "Elsewhere global markets are not keeping pace with expected growth in the Middle East so there is an interest in the global community to take a hard look at coastal development opportunities within the region. Coastal developments are relatively new to the region and interest is expanding into integrating the use of land and sea."

Commenting on the changes achieved in the last ten years Dr. Benno Boer said that "In the past, large-scale coastal construction was mainly based on gas and oil facilities, harbors, and desalination plants, but now it includes massive man-made islands for human living, as well as airports, hotels, etc. In addition much of the coastline has been used to establish week-end recreational housing. There is a huge change that took place in the last fifteen years. When I first came to the Gulf in the late 1980s, there were plenty of beautiful remote beaches, and undisturbed coastal habitats. A lot of this has now been converted into man-made structures."

Thackray said there has been significant change in the Kingdom of Bahrain in the last 10 years. "The Kingdom has seen a transformation of the original coastline with the provision of reclaimed land for future housing, industrial and infrastructural development."

The international construction community are looking to draw on the experiences from the Middle East mega construction projects, Magdy commented. His perspective of the essential elements to marine project success are: "A clearly defined master plan is the key element that controls the types and sizes of building to ensure maximum exposure to the sea. The transition areas between land use and sea use must be clearly integrated into the master plan, such as roads, parking, public facilities, safety, and security and most importantly the water front land use to create appropriate activities along the waterfront."

Thackray added that an integrated project team approach under a standard form of contract with good client coordination to enable professional delivery is also key. Dr. Benno gave a perspective of project success focused around water security and environment,

"We have to be aware that desalination plants are absolutely essential for human living in the Gulf, and not only in coastal communities. Therefore marine pollution, especially oil pollution, has to be kept at an absolute minimum. We see the danger of oil pollution these days on TV, discussing the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. We should at the same time not forget the massive oil spill of the 1991 Gulf War, which caused over a million tonnes of oil to be released in the shallow waters of the Gulf.

In addition, we need to understand that the Gulf is a highly productive ecosystem, unlike the terrestrial deserts. The Gulf has a diversity of sea grass beds, macro-algal reefs, coral reefs, mangroves and salt marshes, all of which are primary producers in the food-chain. Coastal and marine construction should always involve a dialogue between decision makers, engineers and environmental professionals, such as ecologists and biologists. This is very important in order to avoid or minimize damage to important ecosystems. Good environmental technology should be applied, and there is an increasing will and economic reality to do so. Some of the Governments around the Gulf are highly supportive of this development."

When asked to select examples of best practice in marine and coastal projects Diyar Al Muharraq was mentioned due to an excellent design that considers all critical aspects such as durability, flushing, impacts on surroundings, constructability and value engineering and the Pearl Qatar as a good example of what a water front development can offer to residents and visitors.

Dr. Benno would like to wait for the impact of developments to be assessed for environmental impact before passing judgment. He commented that "Until now, regretfully, I have seen quite a lot coastal projects with a lack of environmental consideration, even though, many of them claim they have excellent designs. However, the good news is environmental awareness in the Gulf exists at a good level - it now depends on the good performance of all sectors of society to make the best out of the knowledge that we have.

UNESCO Biosphere Reserves can most certainly play a leading role, as long as they receive good support by the concerned authorities. The public and private sector show very good support, and I laud them for that, and I call on others to join this important process. Some of the environment agencies in the Gulf are already performing very well, whereas others could show a lot more interest, and they could do a lot more and much faster. UNESCO is ready to assist."

Dr. Benno Boer, Craig Thackray and Magdy Youssef will all be speaking at IQPC's Marine & Coastal Engineering Middle East taking place at the Millennium Hotel Doha, Qatar on 21-22 June 2010. This industry leading conference will provide the opportunity to gain insight into regional marine and coastal project case studies. To register email enquiry@iqpc.ae

For more information, visit http://www.coastalengineeringme.com

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