Zawya takes a look at Noor International’s Cedar Island, focusing on the environmental hurdles that the company is facing, and will face. Interestingly, cracks are showing in Noor’s original press release.

Originally, the company reported that government approval process should be complete in two to three months. Now they are saying:

Official responses should come from the Ministry of Works, the Civil Regulatory Administration, the prime minister, the parliament and the president of the Lebanese Republic. “We expect the process to take around six months or one year at the most,” says Saleh.

I see we’ve changed the approval timeline from 90 days tops to 6 months plus or minus another 6 months.

And then came the all important question, how exactly is this going to be built? The answers were quite interesting:

Although the method by which the island would be constructed remains undetermined, Saleh explains that most probably the cedar trunk will be constructed by land reclamation, while the branches will be floating.

Experts claim that a floating island is a bad idea, not because of the construction process, but due to the costly maintenance the island will require. Adel Monsef, project manager at Archirodon, a leading international construction group, explains that, “a floating structure, whatever it is, needs maintenance every year or maximum every two years. In this case, a dry dock has to be built next to the island, which would be very costly. We are on the Mediterranean and we have rough seas, so there will have to be [lots of] maintenance, they are already facing some difficulties in the Palm,” which experiences mild seas compared to what the Cedar would face, Monsef adds.

I’ve been saying this privately to everyone who asked for my opinion on this project (or who told me that they approved of it and I wanted to change their minds). Building this thing on the shores of the rough seas of the Mediterranean is completely different than the calm seas of the Arabian Gulf.

To give Noor credit, they do concede that dredging the sea negatively affects the environment and have proposed an idea:

For the construction of the Cedar’s trunk, Saleh says the company has found a way to enable its creation without using sea dredging or quarrying mountains. “I heard that there is a license being issued for constructing a tunnel in the mountain leading to Shtoura [in the Bekaa valley], which would reduce the travelling time from more than an hour to 25 minutes. The idea is to use the rocks that will be taken out of the mountain to construct the island.” Saleh did not specify to whom the license is being issued, but he added that if the tunnel project is not already online, Noor International will propose and execute the idea itself. “One tunnel might not be enough, it is a plus or minus, but here we are trying to find ways to develop our project without hurting the environment. Instead of damaging the sea or the mountains, a point in which environmentalists are 100 percent right, we are developing new infrastructure,” he notes.

Though I am not to keen on blowing holes through mountains and it seems Saleh is saying that even if we don’t need a tunnel through a mountain, we’ll still make one because we need the stones. So not only is Noor going to float homes on the Mediterranean, but they are going to also turn our mountains into Swiss cheese.