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Dubai tries its luck again with islands

The new man-made island schemes are much more modest in scale and ambition than their predecessors

Dubai has a mixed record when it comes to man-made islands. There was the extreme high of the triumphant firework display at the unveiling of the Palm Jumeirah in 2008, and the sad low of being forced to abandon the Palm Jebel Ali and Palm Deira schemes in 2009.

Unperturbed by the billions of dollars wasted on the failed projects, the emirate is trying again with a new generation of island schemes. These projects are much more modest in scale and ambition than their predecessors.

The three main schemes are being developed by local developer Meraas, namely Bluewaters, Jumana Island and the Pearl Jumeira. Unlike the previous projects that dramatically altered Dubai’s coastline, these schemes are small additions that will add space for luxury real estate developments commanding views back across the emirate.

Work on all three projects has started and in the case of the Pearl Jumeira and Jumana Island, the work on the infrastructure is already well advanced. However, Dubai should know by now that building islands is the easy part, completing a fully functioning island with homes, hotels and shopping malls is a much more difficult proposition.

The Palm Jumeirah is the only island that can realistically claim to have achieved that goal. That said, work on the man-made island is far from complete. The island’s developer, Nakheel, and other third-party developers have been busy launching new schemes on the development for more than a year now.

If the new islands, along with the new projects Nakheel is developing on the Palm Jumeirah, are a success, then Dubai may be able to revisit some of the other man-made islands it has already built. But before it can dream big, the emirate must deliver the small, and that is what it should have done the first time around.

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