Perhaps no place on the Earth has had as drastic land cover change over the past ten years as Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The creation of over 300 kilometers of coastline, the rapid expansion of urban land cover, and the intensification of urban development make this one of the most rapidly and visibly changed land covers due to urbanization.
Urbanization in Dubai
Dubai has experienced tremendous recent urban growth; its developed area grew from 149 square kilometers in 1993 to 224 square kilometers in 2005 (AMEInfo 2005a).
The growth of its urban footprint is expected to accelerate, potentially reaching 604 square kilometers in 2015 (AMEInfo 2005a). This represents a 38 percent increase from 2005.
Dubai’s two Palm artificial islands, Palm Jumeriah and Palm Jebel Ali, have created nearly 100 km of new coastline through terraforming (AMEInfo 2007). A third, much larger island, the Palm Deria, is under construction and will create a new city for more than a million people (AMEInfo 2007).
Dubai’s largest terraforming project, The World, has created 232 km of shoreline through its 300 private islands (AMEInfo 2007).
Dubai’s 2009 population of 1.1 million is projected to grow to 3 million by 2017 (Harman 2009).
Dubai’s development is largely based on its desire for the creation of a global image. In the early 1990s the city made “a strategic decision to emerge as a major international-quality tourism destination” (Elsheshtawy 2004).
Dubai’s has maintained a strong economic growth rate since the early 1990s reaching as high as 16.7 percent in 2004, fueling a large regional net migration (AMEInfo2005b).
The creation of The Palms and The World has a troubling but unknown impact marine biodiversity in the Arabian Gulf. The terraforming has destroyed natural coral formations but provides an increased amount of artificial reefs. There is concern that the new environment will alienate native species and encourage new, foreign species (Butler 2005).
Dubai’s rapid urban development has unknown impacts, but similar development has produced urban heat islands and other local climate change effects.
While Dubai continues to profit from its revenues from oil and natural gas production, the global recession has stalled the tourist and real estate investments through which Dubai was attempting to diversify
The Dubai Municipality talks of a movement for ‘green urbanization’ though this has not been put into practice.In 2005, the Municipality said “Preservation of environmental and rural areas from urban expansion is an important factor in Dubai's overall Master Plan” (AMEInfo 2005).
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AMEinfo.com. 2005b. Dubai targets 59 per cent urban growth by 2015.AMEInfo6 June.http://www.ameinfo.com/61808.html(last accessed 3 November 2009).
Butler, T. 2005.The Price of "The World": Dubai's Artificial Future. Mongabay.com 23 August.http://news.mongabay.com/2005/0823-tina_butler_dubai.html(last accessed 3 November 2009).
Elsheshtawy, Y. 2004. Planning Middle Eastern Cities: An Urban Kaleidoscope in a Globalizing World. Routledge, London.
Hansen, A. J., etalKnight, R., Marzluff, J., Powell, S., Brown, K., Gude, P., and Jones, K. 2005. Effects of Exurban Development on Biodiversity: Patterns, Mechanisms, and Research Needs, Ecological Society of America.
Harman, E. and P. Menon. 2009. 110,000 ride Metro in first two days. The National14 September. http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090913/NATIONAL/7...(last accessed 3 November 2009).
Hawthorne, Christopher. 2009.Dubai development may be down, but it's not out. LA Times 21 June. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/arts/la-ca-dubai21-2009jun21,0...(last accessed 3 November 2009).