A Dubai Disneyland Coming To Lebanon?

(Illustration of Cedar Island, a new artificial island project proposed for off the coast of Lebanon).

Environmentalists in Beirut’s American University are calling it a disaster:  A Lebanese company is looking to build mega artificial islands like Palm Island in Dubai, but in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Lebanon.

They are calling it Cedar Island, modeled after the Lebanese Cedar,the country’s national symbol. And Panasonic Corporation, and Chinesepartners and Arab investors are already on board.

This January, Noor International Holding from Beirut, applied for alegal license at Lebanon’s development authority, the IDAL, to buildwhat it’s calling “a luxurious residential, commercial, and touristicproject.”

cedar-island lebanon artificial pictureAnartificial island (illustrated above and to the left)  is planned forthe Mediteranean coast on a 3.3 square km area on the Lebanese coast.Professors at the American University in Beirut say it will be anenvironmental and urban disaster.

A seminar took place last month to establish sound scientificarguments in order to raise awareness among people and policy makers tostop the process. Here’s a YouTube video on the discussion (in Arabic).

Environmental tragedy or the perfect way to expand land and run awayfrom all the pollution on problems back on the mainland? You decide. Iguess it’s like building an alternate reality, once you see the one youhave isn’t quite what you expected.

Bloggers in Lebanon, the Inner Circle blog reports are divided:

Meanwhile, among Lebanese blogs and on Facebook, thesubject is dividing people sharply. Blogger Qika Nabki wrote, “Am I thelast person to hear about this? Say it isn’t so!” The online communityalso expressed the view that this island is so similar to the PalmIsland in Dubai that it will move Lebanon closer to being what oneFacebook user called “another Dubai-Disney-land.”

“Well sure,” said Dr. Saleh when questioned about the securityaspect, “if there is a war, we’ll stop.” However, he explained, heunveiled the plans only as US President Barack Obama took office,because, “he will help the Arab world,” and conflict is unlikely in thefuture.

I do know however, that Caesaria, the ancient port city built by theRomans on Israel’s Mediterranean Coast is believed to have beendestroyed by an ancient tsunami. Builders take note.

More on The Cedar Island:
(Via a company press release slighted edited for brevity. Notice allthe grandiose hyperbole. And what are the environmental assessmentsmentioned?)

This island will include service, entertaining, touristic, commercial and residential compounds characterized by a great luxuriousness that is in harmony with the modern lifestyle, in addition to the availability of the best accommodations.

Moreover, the company mentionedthat it will be the main developer of the project and that it hasstarted its calls with many Lebanese investors residing in Lebanon andabroad, with Arabs and other investment parties.

The chairman of the board ofdirectors in “Noor International Holding,” Dr. Muhammad Saleh, declaredthat the project aims at reinforcing Lebanon’s position as a pioneertouristic and investment figure at the international level and atattracting the visitors and the investors from all over the world tovisit Lebanon.

Furthermore, Dr. Saleh (theinventor of the project’s idea) clarified that the company’s board ofdirectors visited some political leaders in order to get “the blessing”regarding the idea of the project’s presentation and he confirmed thatthe idea was welcomed.

Saleh expressed his hope forgetting the official approval related to the project, in addition tothe issuance of the necessary authorizations as soon as possible due tothe serious interest of the investors in joining the giant “CedarIsland” project.

Dr. Saleh added that theproject will provide 50,000 job opportunities, clarifying that thecompany’s strategy is to form alliances with the most importantcompanies in this field in order to provide the best services in theproject. In addition, he mentioned that more details will be announcedabout “Lebanon’s Cedar Island” after getting the necessary approvals.

cedar-lebanon-island-site lebanon photo
(The proposed area off the coast of Lebanon where Cedar Island could be built.)

According to Dr. Saleh, it isexpected that the accomplishment of this project will take 3 to 4 yearsafter getting the specific authorizations and decrees from thecompetent Lebanese parties.

Dr. Saleh confirmed that theproject, in its plans, takes into consideration the protection of themaritime environment without causing any damages to it due to the factthat some of the Island’s parts will be the cedar’s branches floatingabove the sea surface.

He also mentioned that manyinvestment companies showed their interest in investing in thisproject, among them are the Lebanese-Saudi Affairs Council, the Saudibased company Al Hokair Group for Tourism and Development, Qatarian andBahraini companies and El Behbehani Group in Kuwait.

The company revealed that firstnegotiations are taking place with several companies in order topresent the consultative services and among these companies is theAmerican company B.A. specialized in the water projects worldwide.

In order to carry outconstruction works related to the project, the company made contractswith the biggest universal companies such as Panasonic Corporation, theuniversal Chinese Hawawi Corporation, the British Homes ExpressCorporation specialized in the real estate marketing and NavyInternational Group specialized in controlling the environmentalpollution.

How will will this project impact the already in-peril MediterraneanSea? How are green groups fighting this project? What do internationalauthorities have to say?

Mixed with the current political problems in Lebanon (with theextremely tolerant liberal society becoming overpowered by a toxicradical one)  it will be interesting to see what sides different groupstake.

Will the radical ones be in favor or against Cedars Island? Withpictures of “white kids” looking like they are from Arkansas in theirbrochure, and painting a picture of a modern, western society includingcountry clubs and discos, I can’t imagine the growingintolerant Islamist radicals in Lebanon would tolerate such freedomsthat Cedar Island promises. Maybe it will be a safe haven from the lessradical to escape to. Wind catchers and solar energy projects areexpected to be part of the deal.

But your thoughts on the matter are most welcome.  

::Cedars Island

Update: The Inner Circle says the plan is being shelved until the elections are over in June.



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