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Work Proceeds on Dubai Canal, Despite Global Financial Woes

January 14, 2009

By Dianna Dilworth

Most canals are built for the purpose of transportation or irrigation. Not so in Dubai, where, despite the economic crisis, work is reportedly under way on The Arabian Canal, a 46-mile-long waterway that will wrap around an inland development, essentially transforming a swath of desert into desirable waterfront property.

The Arabian Canal in Dubai
Image courtesy Limitless
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Calthorpe Associates, an urban design firm in California, is designing the canal in collaboration with the landscape architecture firm SWA Group, and the engineering firms Moffatt & Nichol, Parsons International, and Mott MacDonald. Limitless, a government-owned developer, is funding the $11 billion project.

While Limitless announced in late November that it is holding off on selling land plots due to the global financial crisis, it says construction of the canal is proceeding as planned. Workers are excavating 100,000 cubic meters per day, with more than 300 pieces of equipment on site, a Limitless spokesman said in December. The first phase of the project involves digging 200 million cubic meters of earth; the entire canal entails the excavation of 1.1 billion cubic meters of soil, according to SWA Group spokesman.

The canal will be 246 feet wide and 20 feet deep. When completed, it will be just a few miles shorter than the 51-mile-long Panama Canal.

The canal will connect to the Persian Gulf and will snake through the southern part of the emirate, where Limitless hopes to build a 31,000-acre mixed-used development. The land there is mostly dry and barren. “The idea is to maximize the value of the land in the desert,” said Kinder Baumgardner, principal at SWA Group.

The intent also is to create a true city, not a nouveaux Disneyland. In designing the project, SWA Group researched canal cities like Venice and Amsterdam, in addition to studying waterfronts in London and New York City. “The idea was to make it feel like a real place with an urban fabric,” says Baumgardner, “where people will live and work.”

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