Artificial Islands, A Solution to Urban Overpopulation?

You are probably dreaming about having your own private piece of paradise surrounded by the sea. A nature paradise? What’s so natural in it when, in reality, it is deteriorating the ecosystem, the ‘natural habitat’? It may potentially reach your luxurious goals of having a private place, but what about the natural habitat challenges it comes with?

In this article, you’ll know about the development of the artificial island and what challenges it comes with.


The Context:

Of course, for many of today’s cities, artificial islands could be the answer to overcrowding and rising land prices. And yet not a far fetched idea from a virtual sci-fi reality where artificial islands are becoming a growing phenomenon. As cities look for new ways to manage rapid urbanization and development, more are seeing water as a solution, surrounding them. These land reclamations are carefully constructed in bodies of water, providing a longing solution to expand the land.

Although, it may seem a breathtaking paradise for many who are inhabiting these artificial lands of relaxed and well equipped with everything one needs. But this isn’t exactly the case. The idea of land reclamation has been quite familiar to mankind for almost a decade now.

Land reclamation is a process of creating new land by collecting and building together with the masses of sand from the seafloor. Hence, giving rise to a new land in the middle of the ocean. The first major landfill was recorded to be done in the Netherlands in the 1970s for extending Port Rotterdam with sand from the sea. And since then, the technology used for reclamation has evolved, and artificial islands have been developed in bodies of ocean water throughout the world.

A Possible New Home for Rapid Urbanization?

Mand-made islands offer a potentially viable solution for expanding a livable space. Dubai is one such familiar example – Palm Jumeirah and the world islands in archipelago being $14 billion for a collection of small islands.

Dubai’s latest island project- Marsa Al Arab, has two artificial islands worth $1.7 billion. These islands cater to entertainment, family fun with water sports and the other one focusing on isolation with luxury villas, private marina.

Another such example is Japan’s Port island, housing various hotels, parks, convention centers, a heliport, and even a museum. The list of the functionality of these man-made islands continues, these islands have been primarily been used for practical purposes.

But besides attracting tourists, these architectural marvels could provide to ‘climate migrants’- people who are forced to leave their residence due to natural calamities and extreme climates. For example, residents of Kiribati, and island in the Pacific Ocean are under threat due to rising sea levels. Man-made islands could be a solution in such situations.

If by any chance, humankind is able to mitigate sea-level rise, the artificial island is a possible option. Yet another question remains unanswered, how will building artificial islands impact the coastal ecosystem?


The Impact of Artificial Islands on Ecosystem:

Large scale constructions of artificial islands have brought in many changes with giving rise to successful projects. We can’t ignore what lies beneath. 

Marine habitats have always been essential for human life in coastal regions providing with- food, building- crafting materials with coastal protection and nutrient cycling. The construction of artificial islands causes large changes to the seabed by permanently smothering local habitats. At some locations, artificial islands in the tropics are often built directly on top of coral reefs, leading to considerate destruction of already threatened marine ecosystems.

Land reclamation also impacts nearby habitats that are particularly sensitive to waters, coral reefs, and seagrass beds. One such example is- Singapore, where there was a decline of the coral reef due to sedimentation and light reductions — nearly losing 45% of the country’s private reef flats and 40% of intertidal mudflats.

“Satellite images show that approximately 28 reefs vanished from the Earth.”

Even with the successful project of Dubai luxury artificial islands, it has been concerning environmentalists around the globe for its impact on the marine ecosystem and consisting of 300 individuals intended to attract the world’s wealthiest people, offering them an opportunity to relax in private paradise. The amount of impact of artificial islands on the environment will likely vary with size, location, and purpose.

The idea of artificial islands is now being seen as a solution for overpopulation and has become an idea realistic enough to be entertained by politicians and urban planners. One such example is the new project of Hong kong, coming from desperation. As the city’s market tight and features among the most expensive real estate in the world with the US $ 1 million for 236 square feet.

The fuss about creating and constructing artificial islands isn’t the only option. Researchers are testing the concept of an artificial floating island. The research is still in progress whether the island could withstand the wave activity. Using Google maps, we can identify more than 45 artificial islands around the world. These projects are often celebrated as architectural and engineering marvels, but at what cost to the marine ecosystem?


Designs based on ecological principles can reduce the impacts of artificial islands on natural ecosystems. But the ‘Blue-Green’ infrastructure remains untested at larger scales. But the fact is, there are various obstacles like climate change to mitigate first. We must take into account that at the rate at which we aim for developing and urbanization, it will, however, force us to experience the possible impact we are causing.

It just the matter of fact that, as the effects of climate change emerge even more in the coming years, artificial islands will be springing up high.

To know more about Architecture Technology, Stay Tuned. 

Previous Coverage:

  1. Coastal cities at the highest risks?
  2. Algae-based bioreactor: Swallows CO2 From Air
  3. Co-Living, A buzzword of 21st Century!
  4. Urban Segregation: Data from 350,000 Smartphones Used
  5. Beyond Imagination: 21st Century’s Emerging Tech for Architecture & Design

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An Architect by profession & practice, Pranita is a keen observer and specialises in content, visualisation, and presentation. Cyber attacks & Architecture Technology in the far more technologically-advanced world made her realise that there is a lack of necessary awareness among people. Hence, keeping you all updated and protected by all means with subjects from Architecture Technology to Security Awareness.Currently working as a Head of Content, content writer & creator at BLARROW.TECH

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