Short on space, Israel looks to artificial islands

Cabinet approves plan to form new landmasses to house airport, infrastructures; environmental group anticipates problems

Satellite image of Kansai International Airport in Osaka Bay in Japan (photo credit: courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory)
Satellite image of Kansai International Airport in Osaka Bay in Japan (photo credit: courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory)

Israel is well-known for its innovation and outside-the-box thinking, but usually not on the scale now being suggested. At the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, ministers gave the green light to an ambitious new project that would see artificial islands constructed off Israel’s coastline.

Plans for the islands, which will be home to a new airport, a seaport, a desalination plant, a power plant and a military testing base, have already been approved by the Interior Ministry and will now go to a special interministerial steering committee for more specific discussions on implementation.

“The formation of artificial islands can solve Israel’s shortage of space for large industrial facilities. The solution of artificial islands offers an alternative to facilities that would have been built on the shoreline, robbing it of valuable real estate and harming the environment,” Science and Technology Minister Daniel Hershkowitz said Sunday.

“We will examine the experience accumulated by other countries, as well as novel technologies and techniques,” he added.

The steering committee will hear from relevant experts and organizations and examine several construction models and their potential impact on the existing coastline. The committee is scheduled to report back to the Cabinet in a year. The cost of the project is estimated at $1.5 billion.

Environmental groups have already spoken out against the plan, which hopes to distance pollution sources from Israel’s coastal cities, saying that islands will cause irreversible damage to Israel’s shoreline. A spokesperson for Adam, Teva V’Din said artificial islands would erase many of Israel’s beaches by preventing sand from reaching the coast.

The spokesperson said that in other places such as Japan, where artificial islands have been constructed, the islands were built in bays or inlets and not on the open sea.

Other countries that have large-scale artificial islands off their coast include the Netherlands, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Last year Israel announced it was considering building an artificial island off blockaded Gaza where good shipped into the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave could arrive and undergo security checks.


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