Palm Islands

Palm Islands

For the islands in Lebanon see Palm Islands Nature Reserve

Palm Jumeirah (left) and Palm Deira (right) with The World and The Universe archipelagos, design view
Palm Jumeirah early evening March 2015

Palm Islands are two artificial islands, Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali, on the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. As of November 2014, only Palm Jumeirah has been completed. This island takes the form of a palm tree, topped by a crescent. When complete, Palm Jebel Ali will take a similar shape; both islands will be host to a large number of residential, leisure and entertainment centres and will add a total of 520 kilometres of non-public beaches to the city of Dubai. The creation of the Palm Jumeirah began in June 2001. Shortly after, the Palm Jebel Ali was announced and reclamation work began. A third island was planned and construction started, but this project was later remodelled and renamed to Deira Island.


  • Construction 1
  • Palm Jumeirah 2
  • Palm Jebel Ali 3
  • Environmental concerns 4
  • Structural importance 5
  • Key people involved in the construction process 6
  • Construction resources involved 7
  • Main constraints 8
  • Project risks and threats 9
  • Hidden problems 10
  • Obstacles after the island construction 11
  • Risk mitigation 12
  • Construction effects and repercussions 13
    • Remedial measure to protect the coast 13.1
  • References 14
  • Gallery 15
  • Geo Links 16
  • See also 17
  • References 18
  • External links 19


Palm Jumeirah, Burj Khalifa and city of Dubai at night. Astronaut photo, 2012

The Palm Islands are artificial islands constructed from sand dredged from the bottom of the Persian Gulf by the Belgian company, Jan De Nul and the Dutch company, Van Oord. The sand is sprayed from dredging ships, guided by a Global Positioning System, onto the required area. The spraying process is known as rainbowing because of the rainbow-like arcs produced in the air when the sand is sprayed. The outer edge of each palm's encircling crescent is a large rock breakwater. The breakwater of the Palm Jumeirah contains over seven million tons of rock; each rock was placed individually by a crane, its position signed off by a diver, and given a Global Positioning System coordinate.

The Jan De Nul Group started working on the Palm Jebel Ali in 2001 and had finished by the end of 2006. The reclamation project for the Palm Jebel Ali includes the creation of a four-kilometer-long peninsula, protected by a 200-meter-wide, seventeen-kilometer long circular breakwater. There are 210,000,000 cubic meters of rock, sand and limestone that were reclaimed (partly originating from the Jebel Ali entrance channel dredging work). There are approximately 10,000,000 cubic meters of rocks in the Slope Protection Works.

Palm Jumeirah

The Palm Jumeirah seen from the International Space Station.

The Palm Jumeirah ( Coordinates: ) consists of a tree trunk, a crown with 16 fronds, and a surrounding crescent island that forms an 11 kilometer-long breakwater. The island itself is five kilometers by five kilometers. It adds 78 kilometers to the Dubai coastline.

Residents began moving into Palm Jumeirah properties at the end of 2006, five years after land reclamation began.The Palm Island address is considered a status symbol in Dubai.

A Monorail opened in 2009, but is not connected to other public transport.

Palm Jebel Ali

Palm Jebel Ali

The Palm Jebel Ali began construction in October 2002 and was expected to be completed in mid-2015.[1][2]

Environmental concerns

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 Gulf attempt to move around the new obstruction of the islands. [3][4]

Dubai's megaprojects have become a favorite cause of environmentalists. Greenpeace has criticized the Palm Islands for lack of sustainability, and, a site dedicated to rain forest conservation, has attacked Dubai's artificial islands aggressively, stating that:

significant changes in the maritime environment [of Dubai] are leaving a visual scar [... ] As a result of the dredging and redepositing of sand for the construction of the islands, the typically crystalline waters of the gulf of 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.[5]

Structural importance

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 Prince of Dubai, who came up with the idea for the Palm Islands, as well as their design.[6]

The primary objective for the construction of the Palm Islands was to create a major tourist destination in Dubai to compensate for a decrease in revenue from oil as oil reserves in the Gulf depleted. Palm Jumeirah is host to a hotel, Atlantis.[7]

Key people involved in the construction process

  • Robert Berger (Project manager : 2000–2004)
  • Mounir Hevar (Chief of planning)
  • Scott Hutchinson (Apartment Construction engineer from Turner Construction International)
  • Samuel O'Carroll (Civil engineer 2000-2004)


Construction resources involved

  • 5.5 million cubic metres of rock brought from over 16 quarries in Dubai.
  • 94 million cubic metres of sand brought from deep sea beds 6 nautical miles from the coast of Dubai.[9]

Main constraints

  • The 9/11 event in the year 2001 resulted in fewer tourists to Dubai, hitting their economy hard. This significantly slowed down the project.
  • Another important constraint was that the time estimated for completion of the project (4 years) was too long.
  • To make the construction process on top of the island faster; 40,000 workers were hired working at 2 different shifts per day (Each shift was 12 hours).

Project risks and threats

  • Waves 2 meters high.
  • Storm frequency of 1 in 100 years.
  • Earthquakes from 6 to 7 on the Richter scale. (The Gulf area between Dubai and Iran is prone to earthquakes.)
  • Weak soil due to constant exposure to rising sea water.[10]

Hidden problems

  • 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 vibrators used to compact the sand and soil).
  • Due to the shape of the island right outside the coast of Dubai, there is loss of coastal shape along the seashore of Dubai.[11]

Obstacles after the island construction

  • Installation of utilities and pipelines were very difficult and laborious.[12]

Risk mitigation

To counteract with the waves and the constant motion of the sea, wave blockers were built all around the palm 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 stoppers and the island as such were constantly monitored during construction process with the help of deep sea divers. They check for the proper alignment and placement of the rocks beneath the surface to ensure its stability. Shape of the island as it got developed in the middle of the sea was constantly monitored using the global positioning system (the satellite was placed about 676 kilometres from sea level into space). The sand on top of the island was sprayed by a technique called rainbowing.[13] Here the sand from the dredging ships was sprayed on to the land. The whole island was set such that there was no stagnant water between the island and the water breakers. So in order to achieve this, there were small structural modifications done on the breakers that outlined the island. Hence making the sea water to move through in and out of the breakers without causing any damage to the island.[14] To prevent erosion of the soil from the island, there were constant maintenance setups to spray soil 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 due to movement of the rocks and sand and also under water erosions before and after construction. Vibro-compaction technique was the method that was employed to prevent the process of liquifaction.[15] This was carried out in order to hold the composition of the island's base together and also to make a strong foundation for further constructions.[16]

Construction effects and repercussions

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.[17]

Most of the environmental damage was caused by the sediments stirred up by the construction; it suffocated and injured the surrounding marine fauna and decreased the amount of sunlight filtering down to the sea vegetation.[18] Such environmental disturbances have turned the heads of many environmental activists. Greenpeace and (Rain forest conservation organization) have expressed very strong opinions against the building of the Dubai Palm islands.

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

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.[19]


  1. ^ "The Palm Jebel Ali (Palm Islands, Dubai) - Property Development". The Emirates Network: Ten Real Estate. 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  2. ^ "Dubai's Palm and World Islands - progress update".  
  3. ^ "Environmental Impacts of Palm Islands". 
  4. ^ "Dubai's Artificial World Islands Are Killing Corals and Pushing Nature Out of the Sea". 
  5. ^ "Dubai's artificial islands have high environmental cost".  
  6. ^ "Dubai Palm Island | HQ Travel Guide". Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  7. ^ "YouTube - The Palm Island, Dubai UAE - Megastructure Development". Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Construction of the Islands - The Impact of the Palm Islands, United Arab Emirates". Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  10. ^ """HowStuffWorks "Palm Island Construction. Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  11. ^ "The World is sinking: Dubai islands 'falling into the sea' - Telegraph". Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  12. ^ "Palm Island Dubai - Palm Tree Island Megastructure Construction". Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  13. ^ "Palm Islands , Dubai — 8th Wonder Of The World | Prime Arena". Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  14. ^ "Palm Islands, Dubai - Compression of the Soil". Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  15. ^ "The Palm - Design Build Network". Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  16. ^ "Engineering Challenges: Palm Island". Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  17. ^ "Will the Gulf’s manmade islands sink into the sea? - Your Middle East". Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Environmental Impacts - The Impact of the Palm Islands, United Arab Emirates". Retrieved 2014-01-25. 


Geo Links

Ideally Geo Links should be integrated into the main article.

  • Satellite view of The Palm Islands
  • The Palm Jebel Ali
  • Palm Jumeirah

See also


External links

  • The Palm official website
  • "TOP TEN AMAZING MAN MADE ISLANDS". Retrieved 2014-01-25. 
  • Images + Information on Palm Island
  • Timelapse animation of Palm Islands construction
  • Dubai's Palm Islands - slideshow by The First Post
  • Globalisation and Development: A Case Study of Dubai's Jumeriah Palm Island Mega Project PhD thesis by Ibrahim Abdul Rahman al Darmaki for the University of South Hampton