Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dubai Strikes Again!

A beach in Dubai, where development is still geared to luxury rather than sustainability. Photograph: Jochen Tack/Alamy

Dubai just keeps coming up with one extravagance after another. Each more dizzying than the last. Soon there will be no excesses left untasted, no environmental temples left undesecrated, no folly left unerected.

We all watched in wonder when ski domes were built in the desert, gasped when artificial islands shaped to represent a world map rose from the sea and watched several structures compete for the title of world’s tallest building. (Does the Tower of Babel spring to anyone else’s mind?) While some believe Dubai represents the best life has to offer and is a testament to how far man’s vision can soar; the more realistic among us realize that is more a testimony to man’s insatiable greed and folly.

The latest project from the Emirate, more specifically the Palazzo Versace hotel, is enough to take your breath away. The Palazzo Versace hotel (when completed in 2010) will host a refrigerated 820 sq. metre (8826 sq. ft) swimming pool, a beach with artificially cooled sand and wind machines to provide a gentle breeze. This is all to protect guests from the summer temperatures which can exceed 50 degrees C (122 degrees F).

“We will suck the heat out of the sand to keep it cool enough to lie on," said Soheil Abedian, founder and president of Palazzo Versace, a hotel group with plans for a further 15 luxury hotels around the world to add to the one that already exists on Australia's Gold Coast. "This is the kind of luxury that top people want," he added.

I can’t help but wonder if Soheil Abedian realizes that he may be pushing the envelope a little too far. When Hyder Consulting, the British Company hired by the hotel to build these facilities, was questioned about the energy that was going to be required to run this project; they stood behind a confidentiality agreement they had signed with Palazzo Versace and refused to comment. This lack of transparency leads me to believe that environmentalists and conservationists worldwide would be downright apoplectic; if not comatose, were the figures released to the public.

Again Dubai’s total lack of regard for water and the environment is shown by the importing of 30,000 mature trees (among many other plants) to help landscape the new Tiger Woods-designed golf course (http://www.tigerwoodsdubai.com/) that will be bordered by 22 palaces and 75 mansions. The proposed Tiger Woods Dubai is a stunning paradise if artificially built and sustained decadence is enough to cause people to overlook the environmental catastrophe they are contributing to. We have looked at the massive amounts of water needed to maintain a golf course in previous blogs. The term “green” in golf refers not to “good for the environment” it means “expensive both monetarily and in water usage.”

The United Nations has described Dubai as one of the most “water-imperilled” environments on the planet; but, the per capita water use is three time the global average. The last thing Dubai needs is a golf course surrounded by 22 palaces and 75 mansions.

And as for the Palazzo Versace: "It's grotesque that while the world's poorest people face the loss of their homes and livelihoods, as well as disease and starvation, because of climate change, the world's richest people think it's acceptable to waste precious energy so pointlessly on things such as artificially cooled beaches," says Robin Oakley, head of climate and energy at Greenpeace UK. "While Abu Dhabi, like Barack Obama, is betting on green technology as the engine for growth this century and even building a zero-emissions city, Dubai is apparently still stuck in the 1980s."

There does seem to a delicious irony in the fact that when the seas rise due to global warming, Dubai will be one of the first to disappear below the waves. At least then their water shortage problems will be a thing of the past.

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