That Sinking Filling

Sea off Dubai Is About
to Reclaim “The World”

To say that a lot is going on in the Middle East is the understatement of the week. And please don’t feel patronized if we use the word sinking for what’s happening in Dubai. But the ambitious project, the building of a complex archipelago of 300 man-made islands called “The World,” is in deep trouble.
Still officially incomplete, the project was supposed to join the palm-shaped Atlantis, another offshore development that state-run Nakheel created in 2002, as the biggest tourist attractions of this once booming multimillionaire playground. Atlantis has faced problems of its own but they’re nothing compared to what’s happening with the World.
So far, only 70 islands have been occupied, and lawsuits, scandals, jail terms, corruption claims and even suicides have plagued and dragged the selling of the remainder of the luxury resort. By most accounts, construction has come to a screeching halt.
Worse, the islands shaped like the countries of the globe are sinking back into the sea, their sands are eroding and the navigational channels between them are silting up, according to deposition documents in one of the lawsuits. If nothing is done, soon the luxury yachts won’t be able to access them as they do now. Oh, the horror.
The fact that the islands, conceived as hotel complexes and luxury villas, may be soon no longer would have been enough of a nightmare to the Al Maktoum family, who has been ruling Dubai since 1833, but even them have bigger fish to fry at the moment: according to high-rolling investors, they’re trying desperately to raise cash.
Thus the builders, who couldn’t afford to even set foot in any of the islands as guests, don’t give a damn about it either. They were lured to Dubai in the early 1990s with the promise of high paying jobs, but faced instead their own personal brand of a nightmare: extremely risky labor conditions, low wages and, after being done with their task, an uncertain future.
Some managed to save enough to go back to their neighboring nations of origin. Those left are mostly illegal immigrants, can hardly speak the language and are penniless. They have few pleasures left. One of the them is to sit at the water’s edge and watch half-smiling the faux isles they’ve built slowly sink into the deep blue sea. Good for them.

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