Environmentalists in Beirut’s American University are calling it a disaster: A Lebanese company is looking to build mega artificial islands like Palm Island in Dubai, but in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Lebanon.
They are calling it Cedar Island, modeled after the Lebanese Cedar, the country’s national symbol. And Panasonic Corporation, and Chinese partners and Arab investors are already on board.
This January, Noor International Holding from Beirut, applied for a legal license at Lebanon’s development authority, the IDAL, to build what it’s calling “a luxurious residential, commercial, and touristic project.”
An artificial island (illustrated above and to the left) is planned for the Mediteranean coast on a 3.3 square km area on the Lebanese coast. Professors at the American University in Beirut say it will be an environmental and urban disaster.
A seminar took place last month to establish sound scientific arguments in order to raise awareness among people and policy makers to stop the process. Here’s a YouTube video on the discussion (in Arabic).
Environmental tragedy or the perfect way to expand land and run away from all the pollution on problems back on the mainland? You decide. I guess it’s like building an alternate reality, once you see the one you have isn’t quite what you expected.
Bloggers in Lebanon, the Inner Circle blog reports are divided:
Meanwhile, among Lebanese blogs and on Facebook, the subject is dividing people sharply. Blogger Qika Nabki wrote, “Am I the last person to hear about this? Say it isn’t so!” The online community also expressed the view that this island is so similar to the Palm Island in Dubai that it will move Lebanon closer to being what one Facebook user called “another Dubai-Disney-land.”
“Well sure,” said Dr. Saleh when questioned about the security aspect, “if there is a war, we’ll stop.” However, he explained, he unveiled the plans only as US President Barack Obama took office, because, “he will help the Arab world,” and conflict is unlikely in the future.
I do know however, that Caesaria, the ancient port city built by the Romans on Israel’s Mediterranean Coast is believed to have been destroyed by an ancient tsunami. Builders take note.
More on The Cedar Island:
(Via a company press release slighted edited for brevity. Notice all the grandiose hyperbole. And what are the environmental assessments mentioned?)
This island will include service, entertaining, touristic, commercial and residential compounds characterized by a great luxuriousness that is in harmony with the modern lifestyle, in addition to the availability of the best accommodations.
Moreover, the company mentioned that it will be the main developer of the project and that it has started its calls with many Lebanese investors residing in Lebanon and abroad, with Arabs and other investment parties.
The chairman of the board of directors in “Noor International Holding,” Dr. Muhammad Saleh, declared that the project aims at reinforcing Lebanon’s position as a pioneer touristic and investment figure at the international level and at attracting the visitors and the investors from all over the world to visit Lebanon.
Furthermore, Dr. Saleh (the inventor of the project’s idea) clarified that the company’s board of directors visited some political leaders in order to get “the blessing” regarding the idea of the project’s presentation and he confirmed that the idea was welcomed.
Saleh expressed his hope for getting the official approval related to the project, in addition to the issuance of the necessary authorizations as soon as possible due to the serious interest of the investors in joining the giant “Cedar Island” project.
Dr. Saleh added that the project will provide 50,000 job opportunities, clarifying that the company’s strategy is to form alliances with the most important companies in this field in order to provide the best services in the project. In addition, he mentioned that more details will be announced about “Lebanon’s Cedar Island” after getting the necessary approvals.
(The proposed area off the coast of Lebanon where Cedar Island could be built.)
According to Dr. Saleh, it is expected that the accomplishment of this project will take 3 to 4 years after getting the specific authorizations and decrees from the competent Lebanese parties.
Dr. Saleh confirmed that the project, in its plans, takes into consideration the protection of the maritime environment without causing any damages to it due to the fact that some of the Island’s parts will be the cedar’s branches floating above the sea surface.
He also mentioned that many investment companies showed their interest in investing in this project, among them are the Lebanese-Saudi Affairs Council, the Saudi based company Al Hokair Group for Tourism and Development, Qatarian and Bahraini companies and El Behbehani Group in Kuwait.
The company revealed that first negotiations are taking place with several companies in order to present the consultative services and among these companies is the American company B.A. specialized in the water projects worldwide.
In order to carry out construction works related to the project, the company made contracts with the biggest universal companies such as Panasonic Corporation, the universal Chinese Hawawi Corporation, the British Homes Express Corporation specialized in the real estate marketing and Navy International Group specialized in controlling the environmental pollution.
How will will this project impact the already in-peril Mediterranean Sea? How are green groups fighting this project? What do international authorities have to say?
Mixed with the current political problems in Lebanon (with the extremely tolerant liberal society becoming overpowered by a toxic radical one) it will be interesting to see what sides different groups take.
Will the radical ones be in favor or against Cedars Island? With pictures of “white kids” looking like they are from Arkansas in their brochure, and painting a picture of a modern, western society including country clubs and discos, I can’t imagine the growing intolerant Islamist radicals in Lebanon would tolerate such freedoms that Cedar Island promises. Maybe it will be a safe haven from the less radical to escape to. Wind catchers and solar energy projects are expected to be part of the deal.
But your thoughts on the matter are most welcome.
Update: The Inner Circle says the plan is being shelved until the elections are over in June.