Dubai firm dreams of harvesting icebergs for water

  • Get News Alerts


A Dubai firm’s dream of towing icebergs from the Antarctic to the Arabian Peninsula could face some titanic obstacles.

Where many see the crumbling polar ice caps as a distressing sign of global warming, the National Advisor Bureau Limited sees it as a source of profit, and a way of offsetting the effects of climate change in the increasingly sweltering Gulf.

The firm has drawn up plans to harvest icebergs in the southern Indian Ocean and tow them 9,200 kilometers (5,700 miles) away to the Gulf, where they could be melted down for freshwater and marketed as a tourist attraction.

“The icebergs are just floating in the Indian Ocean. They are up for grabs to whoever can take them,” managing director Abdullah al-Shehi told The Associated Press in his Dubai office. He hopes to begin harvesting them by 2019.

It is perhaps no surprise that the idea would originate in Dubai, which is already famous for its indoor ski slope, artificial islands and the world’s tallest building. But the plan to harvest icebergs faces a wide array of legal, financial and logistical hurdles — and environmentalists are less than thrilled.

The firm would send ships down to Heard Island, an Australian nature reserve in the southern Indian Ocean, where they would steer between massive icebergs the size of cities in search of truck-sized chunks known as growlers. Workers would then secure them to the boats with nets and embark on a yearlong cruise to the United Arab Emirates.

The company believes that, as most of the icebergs’ mass is underwater, they would not melt significantly during the voyage. Al-Shehi said each iceberg would hold around 20 billion gallons of fresh water that could be harvested without costly desalinization, which currently provides nearly all of the Gulf region’s water.

Masdar, a government-backed clean energy firm in the United Arab Emirates, is exploring new technologies to meet the country’s water needs. The United Arab Emirates’ Energy Ministry issued a statement this week denying “reports” that an iceberg was in the process of being imported, without specifying the reports to which it referred.

Al-Shehi said his project is a private initiative and that he would seek government approval once his firm completes its feasibility study. He declined to share the company’s cost estimates, and said it has not carried out an environmental impact study.

Robert Brears, the founder of the climate think tank Mitidaption, has studied the feasibility of Antarctic ice harvesting and estimates the project would require an initial outlay of at least $500 million.

The challenges begin at Heard Island, where Australia strictly limits access in order to preserve the area’s rich ecosystem of migratory birds, seals, penguins and fish, which could be disrupted by large ships. Antarctica itself is subject to global treaties that mandate environmental regulations and ban mining and military activities.

Even if the firm secures the necessary approvals from multiple governments, the wrangling itself could prove daunting.

“There are thousands and thousands of icebergs drifting around and they can move without warning,” said Christopher Readinger, who heads the Antarctic team at the U.S. National Ice Center. “Storms down there can be really brutal, and there’s really not anyone that can help.”

The interagency group uses satellites and floating sensors to track large icebergs in order to warn fishing and science vessels. One of the icebergs it tracked last month was twice the size of Manhattan.

Antarctica holds 60 percent of the world’s freshwater, frozen in an ice shelf that sheds nearly 1.2 trillion tons of icebergs a year , according to NASA. The ice loss is accelerating as global temperatures warm.

In the Arctic, Canadian “iceberg cowboys” use rifles to blast off chunks of icebergs that are later sold to wineries, breweries and vodka distilleries. A Norwegian company sells 750ml bottles of melted iceberg for $100 each.

But iceberg wranglers off Antarctica would find a leaner herd. “It’s the driest ice in the world,” Brears said. “You could melt a lot of this ice and get very little water from it.”

Environmentalists meanwhile point to simpler measures that could be taken to address climate change in the Middle East, like drip-irrigation, fixing leaks and water conservation.

“This region is the heartland of the global oil industry, it will be at the forefront of experiencing these massive, insane heat waves, and there’s only one way to avoid this — reducing emissions and keeping all fossil fuels in the ground,” said Hoda Baraka, spokeswoman for the climate advocacy group 350.org.

Green investment groups are unlikely to finance the iceberg project, said Charlotte Streck, director of the consultancy firm Climate Focus. She says the project is “an exceptionally futile and expensive way” to solve the Gulf’s water woes __ and “seems to run counter to all ideas of climate change adaptation.”

Al-Shehi is undeterred, and insists the project will have no impact on Antarctica or any other natural environment. The whole process, he said, “will be a drop in the ocean.”

Comments

More News

  • Jaywalkers to face fine from May 30

    Jaywalkers to face fine from May 30 The Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD) is to fine jaywalkers Rs 200 per person effective from May 30. Chief of the MTPD, Deputy Inspector General Mingmar Lama said the Division is also to conduct a road safety campaign to reduce the number of road fatalities in view of 40 percent of the total deaths in a year resulting from road accidents involving pedestrians.

  • Lady Justice statue removed from Bangladesh court complex

    Lady Justice statue removed from Bangladesh court complex A statue of Lady Justice was removed from Bangladesh’s Supreme Court premises under tight security after Islamist hard-liners pressed for its removal, the sculptor said Friday. The statue of a woman holding a scale and sword in her hands was installed in December outside the court building. The woman is wrapped in a sari, a Bangladeshi revision of the usual representation, the Greek goddess Themis blindfolded and clad in a gown.

  • Two boys missing in Narayani River found dead

    Two boys, who went missing in the Narayani River on Thursday, were found dead Friday. Ashish Shrestha, 18, of Gaindakot-1 and Bhupendra KC, 17, of Gaindakot-8 went missing on Thursday in course of swimming.

  • Sole gharial in Chitwan National Park found dead

    Sole gharial in Chitwan National Park found dead The sole adult gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) of Chitwan National Park (CNP) was found dead getting trapped onto a big fishing net. According to CNP Chief Conservation Officer Ram Chandra Kandel, the gharial was found dead with its snout trapped in a big fishing net at Khoriya Thursday.

  • Pilgrim drowns in Gosaikunda

    A pilgrim drowned in a lake in Gosaikunda Friday morning while taking a holy dip. The deceased has been identified as Rojina Karki, 40, of Naikap of Chandragiri Municipality-14, Kathmandu, police said. She arrived here along with her kin three days ago on a religious trip to observe the Ganga Dasahara Festival kicked off from today.

Opinion

  • Oops! Deuba does it again Oops! Deuba does it again

    Deuba and Dahal have made a mockery of the constitutional provision of impeachment as a weapon of last resort with its preemptive registration as a tactical move to stop CJ Karki from delivering justice. This will set a bad precedent and there will be more such tactical use of impeachment in the future considering how justices at the SC are being appointed in political quotas in recent times.

    Prem Dhakal

  • Challenges for reconstruction Challenges for reconstruction

    One of the major challenges faced in the reconstruction process of Nepal is the absence of elected local government. Lack of government in local level was reflected in the major pre-disaster and post-disaster events, where it took months to reach the affected region and still no widely-accepted data is available. In the absence of an elected local government, top-down approach of governance has its own accountability deficit.

    Apil KC/Keshab Sharma

Blog

  • Jhamsikhel as I knew Jhamsikhel as I knew

    Hari-ko-pasal, right at the said junction used to be the place to buy any household item ranging from food grains and other household items. There was nothing that he did not have. Most often he loved keeping his customers waiting, more so if they were younger. He kept his client engaged with jokes and tole gossip.

    Hemant Arjyal

  • Empowering local bodies Empowering local bodies

    It is common to rent a room or two based on nothing more than a verbal contract. There are two types of owners. There are many who rent legal properties informally and those who rent out illegally built ones. The rental space demand is so much that owners openly flout bylaws by building more number of floors than approved. It is difficult, as it is, to bring both type of owners within the system.

    Hemant Arjyal

Readers Column

  • Traffic Police in Kathmandu

    As busy and hassling as the traffic system in Kathmandu is, the Traffic Police here have to handle an equally strenuous job. Over 1,400 traffic officers in and around the Kathmandu Valley battle against the pestering traffic and air pollution each day.

  • Menstrual taboo outdated

    I have seen my sisters and friends isolated and treated in discriminatory manner during their first menstruation cycle. They were not allowed to look at the sun, to touch water source, flower, fruits, any male family member, nor even hear their voice. The activist may claim the situation has changed and I do agree but still during every month my loved ones turns into untouchables beings.

Popular

Recommended

Suchanapati