Neom: What’s the green truth behind a planned eco-city in the Saudi desert?

Posted: February 22, 2022 by oldbrew in Big Green, design, Energy, government, ideology
Tags: ,

Who is this supposedly green all-renewable energy virtue signalling mega-project actually for, some are asking. The BBC attempts to look behind the curtain, while the Saudis confirm they want to keep selling oil until there either isn’t any more to sell or there are no buyers.
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Glow-in-the dark beaches. Billions of trees planted in a country dominated by the desert. Levitating trains. A fake moon. A car-free, carbon-free city built in a straight line over 100 miles long in the desert.

These are some of the plans for Neom – a futuristic eco-city that is part of Saudi Arabia’s pivot to go green. But is it all too good to be true?

Neom claims to be a “blueprint for tomorrow in which humanity progresses without compromise to the health of the planet”.

It’s a $500bn (£366bn) project, part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan to wean the country off oil – the industry that made it rich.

Covering a total area of over 26,500 sq-km (10,230 sq-miles) – larger than Kuwait or Israel – Neom will, developers claim, exist entirely outside the confines of the current Saudi judicial system, governed by an autonomous legal system that will be drafted up by investors.

Ali Shihabi, a former banker now on Neom’s advisory board, says the mega-territory will include a 170km (105m) long city, called The Line, which will run in a straight line through the desert.

If that sounds unlikely, Shihabi explains that The Line will be built in stages, block by block. “People say this is some crazy project that’s going to cost gazillions, but it’s going to be built module by module, in a manner that meets demand,” he says.

Much like Barcelona’s traffic-free “superblocks”, he explains that each square will be self-sufficient and contain amenities such as shops and schools so that anything people need will be a five-minute walk or cycle away.

When complete, travel along The Line will be via hyper-speed trains, with the longest journey “never more than 20 minutes”, the developers claim.

What’s more, Neom will be home to Oxagon, a city floating on water spanning 7km (4.3 miles) – making it the largest floating structure in the world. Neom’s chief executive, Nadhmi al-Nasr, has said the port city will “welcome its first manufacturing tenants at the beginning of 2022”.

Further up the Red Sea coast from this “industrial hub”, Neom has announced plans for the world’s largest coral reef restoration project. Its website, which sometimes sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, claims that the first phase of the mega-territory will be completed by 2025.

That’s the vision. The reality, for now, is more modest.

A satellite image currently shows that a single square has been built in the desert. As well as rows of homes, it has two swimming pools and a football pitch. Ali Shihabi says this is the camp for Neom staff, but we are not on the ground to verify.

Continued here.

  1. oldbrew says:

    Some murky goings-on linked to evictions to make way for Neom…

  2. JB says:

    Another money pit venture similar to the chartered colonies of North America, 1600s. We’ll see just how intensive their tree project will be, and who is willing to live a neo-feudal lifestyle

  3. Gamecock says:

    ‘governed by an autonomous legal system that will be drafted up by investors’

    HOA with guns.