Mega marine canal project along Saudi-Qatari border on cards

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A satellite image of the area.

AN integrated project for excavating a marine canal along the borders with Qatar is set to be carried out with investments by a consortium of nine Saudi companies in this field. The project is awaiting official approval and licensing to begin execution, which will be completed within 12 months only, according to Sabq online newspaper, which said it had knowledge of the integrated tourism project.

The drawn up plan includes excavating a marine canal from Khor Salwa to Khor Al-Udayd such that it becomes an undisrupted extension of the Saudi eastern coast. The only disruption to this extension of the Saudi eastern coast is the 60-km long land border with Qatar. This hinders trade exchange. There are plans to develop tourism in the vital region, as it is the center for linking the Arab Gulf countries.



Reason for selection



This location was chosen due to the importance of the area and its vitality, apart from its sandy nature that is conducive to carry out the project. There are no mountain ranges or rugged topography that would impede the excavation operations. Furthermore, the canal will not pass through populated villages or agricultural areas, but will enhance activity in the area.



The area will be distinct with the various scheduled other projects, whether oil-related or industrial, qualifying the area to become an economic and industrial center.



Details of the project



A 200-meter wide marine canal, with a depth of 15-20 meters and length of 60 km will be the link between Khor Salwa and Khor Al-Udayd. It will be capable of handling all kinds of vessels, including container and passenger ships.



The maximum length of a ship should not exceed 295 meters, maximum width 33 meters and maximum depth should not exceed 12 meters. The preliminary cost is projected as nearly SR2.8 billion and will be carried out in 12 months from the date of project approval.



Resorts and private beaches



The project also aims to build resorts along the new coast. They will be in the form of separate units guaranteeing private beaches for each resort. Apart from these, there will be five major hotels, one of which will be in Salwa, the second in “Sikak”, the third will be in Khor Al-Udayd and two in Ras Abu Qamees.



Ports

As to ports, apart from Ras Abu Qamees, a port will be constructed in Salwa and another in Uqlat Al-Zawayid. The project also includes construction of wharves on both banks of the canal for marine sports and yachts.



Other wharves will be for tourist passenger ships. The project will be the most outstanding in the Gulf region due to its pivotal location among the Gulf countries and a center linking them.



The scheduled activities include the establishment of two companies for marine trips, whether between Gulf countries or those located in the Indian Ocean and the setting up of a free trade zone to encourage trade exchange.



Benefits from the project



Among the most prominent direct benefits of the project is activating tourism via marine trips between Gulf countries, especially in the areas with pristine coasts, coral reefs and diverse marine topography, so as to encourage tourism via yachts and boats.



The objectives include encouraging permitted fishing such that it does not affect the fish resources, as well as reducing temperatures by at least two degrees. There is the possibility of increasing rainfall in the area, stopping sandstorms and stabilizing the desert soil.



The benefits also include increasing the populated areas, providing various investment options, creating new jobs, expanding fishing industry, farming of various kinds of marine life and investment in saline agriculture. This includes breeding plants and crops that are irrigated with saline water and providing sources of water by desalination. This will encourage settlement in the area that is sparsely populated due to an acute shortage of potable drinking water.



Will they be international waters?



The canal will be along the borders with Qatar. It will nullify all the land borders, and it will be purely Saudi territories for a length of 1 km from the official border with the State of Qatar. This will make the terrestrial area adjacent to Qatar a military zone for protection and monitoring.



Despite the proposed length being 1 km, the matter will be referred to the related authorities, like the Ministry of Defense and Border Guard to specify the safe and necessary areas.



This aspect does not pose any problem, for according to the project plan the topography of the area is favorable in all conditions. However, some measures might increase the length of the canal by 1-5 km, according to understanding with the related security authorities.


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