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Are artificial islands a joy or a worry?

Time:2022-10-04 12:39:47 author:Birds Read:527次
Are artificial islands a joy or a worry?

A photo of Durrat Al Bahrain, an artificial archipelago that has been under construction for more than a decade near the southern tip of Bahrain, can be seen from the 2021 International Space Station Photography. Now the Persian Gulf island nation wants to build more artificial islands. PHOTO: SERGEY KUD-SVERCHKOV, ROSCOSMOS VIA NASA TEXT: RICHA SYAL In a small fishing village called Karranah on the north coast of Bahrain, 72-year-old Haji Saeed, one of the oldest fishermen in the community, waded at low tide to check on him set traps. Twenty years ago, the bay in front of him was home to an abundance of local fish, including a cod, the omuja, and a silver shark; he could easily catch more than 100 kilograms of fish a day. Later, the Bahraini government built two artificial islands, altered the seabed, and dwindled fish populations in the shallow waters. When he returned to shore, Saeed had picked less than three kilograms of fish from the five traps set. The next day, he caught only three and a half kilograms of fish, a little heavier than 454 grams. "This has been the case since the islands were built," he said. "Before, we could fish the income from fishing is not enough." Sandstorms swept through the capital of Bahrain and Manama, the largest city in the northeast. Dust storms in the Middle East are becoming more frequent and more intense, linked to overgrazing, deforestation, overuse of river water and the construction of dams. PHOTO: MAZEN MAHDI, AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES The Persian Gulf country of 1.8 million people is preparing to build five artificial islands and five cities in the past decade, and fishing may become more difficult. Combined, these artificial islands would increase the land area of ​​the small country by 60 percent. While government officials say new-build real estate is central to Bahrain's economic development, building the islands also carries huge environmental costs in parts of the world where marine life is already struggling to adapt to climate change and survive. Charles Sheppard, a professor of marine science at the University of Warwick who has spent seven years studying coral reefs in the Persian Gulf region, said: "There is a lot of stress across the Persian Gulf because of the high salinity and temperature of the sea. Any additional stress will be very stressful for the species that live there. The harmful effects are greater than anywhere else.” Island building in the Persian Gulf, where land is reclaimed in the sea, and new islands are created by dredging the seabed, is common in Bahrain. The country underwent various coastal transformations in 1963, expanding from 668 square kilometers to over 777 square kilometers in 2021 - today Bahrain is slightly larger than Singapore. This small archipelago already has more than 30 natural and artificial islands. Muharraq, Bahrain's northernmost city island, has been slowly expanding since the 1960s and is now four times its size thanks to land reclamation. Bahrain's reclamation of islands is fundamentally due to its small size, but for decades, larger coastal countries around Bahrain have also been building islands, often on a larger scale. Some man-made islands stand out, such as Dubai's Palm Jumeirah, which broke ground in 1990, a group of offshore islands shaped like stylized palm trees filled with luxury villas and hotels. Saudi Arabia is also building the world's largest free-floating structure, the Oxagon, which will be built into a 47-square-kilometer industrial hub. Other reclamation projects are more traditional, such as Qatar's new Doha International Airport, which was built on reclaimed land in 2006. Luxury villas line a canal in a new real estate development on the artificial island of Amwaj in Bahrain. The canal is deep enough to accommodate boats. PHOTO: IAIN MASTERTON, ALAMY Bahrain's proposed five new islands are part of an ambitious $30 billion plan to recover from the pandemic and help transform Bahrain's economy from oil-based to one of private sector, manufacturing and tourism driven. The World Bank said Bahrain's economy shrank by 5% in 2020, largely due to a sharp drop in oil demand amid the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, the International Monetary Fund estimates the country's economy will grow by 3.3%. Sheikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Minister of Finance and National Economy of Bahrain, when introducing the Economic Vision 2030 in November last year, said: "Bahrain is emerging from the epidemic boldly and ambitiously, and we must not only recover the economy, but also Focus on a more prosperous future.” Part of the $30 billion plan will fund 22 new developments, including Bahrain’s first metro system and a 24-kilometer new causeway between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. More than doubling the land area of ​​Bahrain is a highly ambitious task. The new island is expected to expand to 466 square kilometers of land. The Bahrain Economic Development Council has advertised the five cities as sustainable cities, with current designs aimed at building airports, mansions and seaside resorts that are said to preserve natural habitats. A man stands in the shade of a 400-year-old grey-leaf mesquite known as the "tree of life". It is the loneliest tree in Bahrain, standing alone on a barren hillside about 24 kilometers south of Bahrain's capital, Manama. It survived because its taproots tap into groundwater up to 35 meters below the surface. PHOTOGRAPH BY GIUSEPPE CACACE, AFP The VIA GETTY canal cuts through wetlands on the Aska coast in eastern Bahrain, where salt marshes support marine and terrestrial wildlife populations. PHOTO: GARETH DEWAR, ALAMY Environmental consequences of dredging Scientists who have studied the history of artificial island construction say there is a need to pay attention to the impact of reclamation. Dredging material for reclamation often comes from coastal shallow waters, where seagrass beds are food and refuge for fish and other marine species, Sheppard said. Of the five new islands, the two largest are planned to be built on and named after Fasht Al Adhm and Fasht Al Jarim, the largest reefs in the Persian Gulf. The reefs are shallow, hollow domes and extend over 104 square kilometers in the Persian Gulf. They provide rich breeding grounds and important marine habitats for hundreds of tropical species, including clownfish and stingrays. In 2000, the state of coral reefs in the Persian Gulf, published by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, showed that years of sand dredging between 1985 and 1992 severely damaged Adham Reef, the largest of the two reefs. "Imagine burying a cornfield under three meters of sand and concrete. It's going to die," Sheppard said. In Bahrain, the sand bed near Muharraq is a popular dredging area, causing 182,000 square meters of reef area to be covered in silt. Bahrain marine biologist and aquatic consultant Hameed Al Alawi said digging up these reefs would cause the silt to flow directly onto the coral polyps, "which would burn or suffocate". Continued dredging also increases turbidity and sediment around the reef, causing further stress, said Mohammad Shokri, a coral scientist who studies coral reefs in the Gulf and a professor of marine biology at Shahid Beheshti University in Iran. "The focus must be on protecting existing corals and actively restoring reef resources in the bay," he said. Environmental impacts are not limited to coral reefs. Reclamation dredging between 1967 and 2020 resulted in 95% redness in Tubli Bay off Bahrain's northeast coast, the scientists concluded in a paper published last May in the journal Science Guide. The woods disappeared, where luxury waterfront residences were built. Coastal transformation can lead to significant losses in biodiversity and productivity, Alawi said. An environmental impact assessment by the Bahrain Parliament and Fishermen's Conservation Society (FPS) of land reclamation projects carried out between February 2008 and December 2009 showed that fish diversity was reduced from more than 400 species to less than 50 species. "That means people will only notice when the damage has already been done," Alawi said, estimating that the new island construction would also cause a 10 percent loss of fish diversity. Sheppard said reclamation in Bahrain and across the Gulf could be managed differently, taking advantage of ecologically poor, rather than wildlife-rich sites. "Sadly, most of the damage could have been avoided and there are several mitigation options," he said. The Ministry of Works, Fisheries and the Supreme Environment Council (the government body responsible for permitting and approving land reclamation projects) did not respond to multiple placements. Evaluation request. In a statement on the commission's website, officials said the commission's reclamation and dredging monitoring program was designed to verify that the project was proceeding in accordance with the environmental protocols described in the permit, and barriers were placed around the construction site to prevent the spread of turbidity. Fish are migrating into the sea For Bahrain's fishermen, dwindling stocks have forced them to fish further afield, sometimes in deadly conflicts with neighbouring countries. Some 650 Bahraini fishing vessels have been detained by the Qatari Coast Guard for trespassing in its waters over the past decade, with the most recent two detained last April. Others have resorted to riskier methods, such as using illegal fishing equipment such as nylon line traps, in defiance of fishing bans. Abdul Amir Al Mughani, director of the Fishermen's Conservation Association, which represents more than 500 fishermen, said: "We know that every inch of land is expensive, but for us, reclamation is an attack on the sea."

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