$8.2billion artificial island still lingers off the Lebanese Coast
It’s so easy to love the Cedar Island idea, I guess its why it getting so much attention.
Update: Work on Cedar Island, an $8.2 billion artificial island off the coast of Beirut, Lebanon, will be postponed until after the parliamentary elections in June. ”We are still waiting for permits from the authorities, so everything is on hold,” a spokesman for Noor said. “Hopefully we can move after the elections before the summer vacation starts.”
Mohammad Saleh is convinced: If he builds it, Lebanese expatriates will come.
It’s the kind of bling-bling megaproject that gave Dubai its outsized profile but left it drowning in debt. And in Lebanon, a tiny country known more for war than tourism, critics see the project as outright absurd, and a copy cat of Dubai’s amplified glitter.
The project seems to claim the financial backing, and yet the people of Lebanon are sharply split on the idea.
“Unlike foreign investors, these people are used to Lebanon’s system, its ups and downs.” Saleh – many of whose projects boast outsized stature, like the Rose Tower in Dubai, which calls itself the world’s tallest hotel – points in particular to a $2 billion memorandum of understanding he’s signed regarding Cedar Island with Turkey’s Ihlas Holding. The rest of the money will come from other developers and investors, Saleh said.
He also points to stacks of correspondence he has received from expatriate Lebanese interested in buying into the venture. “I never expected such an outpouring of interest,” he says.
Dubai boasts several artificial islands, so the project, which is still far from securing Lebanese government approvals, is not unique to Lebanon. But it’s drawing sharp criticism.
Skeptics run the gamut from a coalition of 25 groups worried about the environmental impact of dredging enough seabed or quarrying enough land to build an island to some prominent Lebanese economists such as Louis Hobeika, who doubts funding will be stable.
“I cannot see who will do it and how the funding will be secured, particularly when states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with billions in reserves, are halting projects,” Hobeika said.
Others worry that pursuing Cedar Island will threaten the nation’s tradition of conservative investment, which many economists and Lebanese officials credit for the country’s ability to weather the global economic downturn so far.
A group of American University of Beirut professors teamed up to protest Cedar Island, describing it as an “urban, economic and environmental disaster.” Jad Chaaban, professor of economics, said it would bring Lebanon no significant public revenue or permanent benefit.
“The suggested artificial island would generate mostly unskilled construction jobs which are typically taken by non-Lebanese residents,” he said.
Hala Ashour, an engineer and one of the founding members of Green Line, an independent environmental awareness organization opposing the project, doubts every aspect of the project.
Because Cedar Island would involve public property on the coast, Lebanese law requires that the government have a minimum 20 percent stake, the Cabinet approve the project and the president endorse it. The process of seeking those sign-offs has begun, with Saleh meeting and lobbying officials.
Tourism Minister Elie Marouny told The Associated Press that officials are still studying Cedar Island, but he is not worried that it will lead Lebanon into Dubai’s footsteps. – Zeina Karama
Filed under: Activism, Lebanese Expatriates, Mediterranean | 2 Comments
Tags: Artificial Island, Cedar Island, man made, Mohammad Saleh