New islands are being built at sea – but they won’t help millions made homeless by sea-level rise – the Conversation

The Palm Jumeirah, December 31, 2011 (by Armin Rodler CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED via Flickr).
The Palm Jumeirah, December 31, 2011 (by Armin Rodler CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED via Flickr).

Dubai’s famous Palm Jumeirah is not the only man-made island to have emerged from the sea this century. Over the past 20 years, many islands have been built to accommodate both tourists and well-heeled residents – especially in the Arabian Gulf states and China.

In an era of sea-level rise and increased storm activity, new islands may seem a risky venture. Yet the desire for a sea view and to put blue water between yourself and the noise, traffic and crime of the mainland is keeping the market buoyant.

Residential artificial islands cater for the rich and have serious environmental consequences. But they ride high on big promises. How else to explain the continuing expansion of Eko Atlantic, a complex of islands sprouting off coastal Lagos in Nigeria?

Construction firms broke ground on Eko Atlantic’s boulevards and high-rise apartments in 2009. The city government has recently announced five more artificial islands “to open up the city”, and claims that the new islands generate and attract wealth and have already created “30,000 direct new jobs”, mostly in construction and maintenance.

The fashion for island-building shows no signs of abating. But instead of an answer to the desperate need for new housing among people who are set to be displaced by rising seas, new islands are offering yet another distraction for the wealthy…

Critics of new islands point to the havoc they cause to coastal and river systems, changing patterns of sediment deposition and erosion and creating silty, warm lagoons that turn living marine environments into dead zones.

This is one of the reasons the Chinese government intervened to halt island-building around Hainan. From its shores you can see 11 projects, some in full swing, most paused…


Latest Posts + Popular Topics