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#AceNewsRoom With ‘Kindness & Wisdom’ Aug.11, 2022 @acenewsservices
#AceNewsDesk – Saudi Arabia has unveiled plans for a mirrored skyscraper eco-city, but the project is not without controversy
Posted Fri 29 Jul 2022 at 9:38pm, updated Mon 1 Aug 2022 at 12:20am
Dubbed ‘The Line’, the 170-kilometre-long parallel structures form the heart of the Red Sea megacity known as NEOM.
It’s a plank of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s bid to diversify the Gulf state’s oil-dependent economy.
But since it was announced in 2017, NEOM has raised eyebrows for proposed flourishes like flying taxis and robot maids, and drawn criticism from human rights campaigners who say local residents have been forced out to make way for its construction.
What is NEOM?
NEOM was once touted as a regional “Silicon Valley”, a biotech and digital hub spread over 26,500 square kilometres.
“The concept has morphed so much from its early conception that it’s sometimes hard to determine its direction: scaling down, scaling up, or making an aggressive turn sideways,” said Robert Mogielnicki of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
In essence, NEOM is a huge economic zone in north-western Saudi Arabia that is meant to house nine million people by 2045.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman first unveiled plans for The Line in January 2021, the first major construction project for the $US717 billion NEOM business zone aimed at diversifying the economy of the world’s top oil exporter.
This week, further details about the design were released.
There will be a 170-km long mirror
It’s a key part of the eco-city, which will be 200 metres wide and run on “100 per cent renewable energy”.
According to plans, the city will be sandwiched between two 500-metre-high, 170-kilometre-long mirrored exterior facades that cut through a vast array of desert and mountains.
There will be hanging pathways, gardens and a stadium, with a high-speed rail with an end-to-end transit of 20 minutes and walkways.
It’s relatively compact design is meant to cut waste and minimise environmental impact.
How is it being funded?
The Prince said the city’s first phase is set to cost 1.2 trillion riyals ($458 billion), half of which will come from the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, he said.
Saudi Arabia will tap sovereign wealth funds in the fourth quarter of this year to raise part of the remaining 600 billion riyals ($229 billion).
It will also be funded through private-sector investment and an initial public offering that is expected to take place in 2024, he said.
Saudi Arabia will also allocate 300 billion riyals ($114 billion) for an investment fund linked to NEOM, which will invest in companies that set up there.
Why is NEOM controversial?
Analysts have pointed out that plans for NEOM have changed course over the years, fuelling doubts about whether The Line will ever become reality.
Leaked strategy documents, obtained by the Wall Street Journal in 2019, outlined some of the proposals being floated for the megaproject.
According to the report, some of the ideas put forward included robot “maids” that would do chores, flying taxis, and cloud seeding to increase rainfall in the desert.
The project’s location has also been mired in controversy.
According to human rights campaigners, two towns have been cleared and about 20,000 residents of the Al-Huwaitat indigenous tribe have been forced out to make way for its construction.
In April 2020, a man was shot by Saudi security forces, days after he began posting videos online about refusing to be evicted, the BBC reported.
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