‘THE LINE’ – An Ecological & futuristic evolution of Saudi urban living
The Line is a smart city proposal in Neom, Tabuk in Saudi Arabia that will feature no automobiles, no streets, and no carbon emissions. The city is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative which the Government claims would generate 3,80,000 jobs and $48 billion in GDP. The Line will be the first development in Neom.
In 2017, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the establishment of NEOM, the country’s futuristic and fully automated business zone. This high-tech business hub will be built in the Tabuk province in Saudi Arabia’s northwestern region along the Red Sea coast at $500 billion. The location was chosen because of its comparatively mild environment.
The majority of Saudi Arabia has a desert environment with daytime temperatures exceeding 45° Celsius. The project would cover a total area of 26,500 square kilometres and will connect Jordan and Egypt via Saudi Arabia. It is expected that the project would provide 380,000 employment with $48 billion in GDP by 2030.
The Crown Prince recently stated in Jan 2021 that a zero-carbon metropolis named ‘The Line’ will be established as part of the NEOM initiative. The Crown Prince labelled this city project as a “civilisation strategy which gives priority to people.” “The Line” is a linear metropolis with a length of 170 kilometres and a width that would be walkable of 5 minutes for one million inhabitants. The city’s superb environment, modern infrastructure and better quality of life are expected to attract individuals throughout the world.
THE LINE – FUTURISTIC TOWN.
‘The Line’ is a futuristic town and not just a typical modern town. In view of the people’ desired inclination to provide superior education, health and entertainment, the customary amenities of a town such as schools, hospitals and gardens will be carefully designed. The city will also be a prominent destination for tourists.
The Saudi government is also trying to alleviate any concerns regarding the governance paradigm that will be followed by “The Line.” The whole NEOM territory including ‘the Line’ will be a free-trade zone with an independent judicial system and its tax structure. The city’s “zero automobiles, zero roads and zero carbon emissions” technology and environmental goals attracted major attention. ‘The Line’ drawings illustrate the municipal infrastructure and services in three tiers.
• The top layer is a pedestrian layer above ground.
• Two subsurface levels are supported. The layer of physical infrastructure will be right below the earth.
• The backbone layer for transport will be farther below the service layer.
“High speed, utilities, digital infrastructure and logistics will be seamlessly integrated into the specific locations flowing via an unseen layer of The Line” asserted the project proponents. The high-speed transport system is expected to get people anywhere in the city in 20 minutes or less.
People might also walk to conveniences in less than five minutes. In the city, artificial intelligence will play a crucial role. ‘The Line’ would be powered entirely by renewable energy, making the city pollution-free, healthy, and long-lasting. Smart city technologies would be used to run the entire city. Security, logistics, home delivery, and healthcare will all benefit from the use of robots.
The city infrastructure is most likely to cost between $100 billion to $200 billion. Over 10 years, investments will be made from the $500 billion set aside for NEOM, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, local and worldwide investors.
The first phase of the project is already under construction. NEOM Bay as well as a few hotel complexes and beautiful residences have been built. The NEOM Bay Airport was opened in 2019. A massive palace complex for the Saudi monarch, prince, and royal family members has already begun with the construction.
NEOM and ‘The Line’ are projects with a bigger picture in mind. Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer, finds its economy challenged unless it can find alternative avenues of income production. The major areas for Saudi Arabia’s new economy would be global trade and tourism. NEOM, backed by ‘The Line’ as the world’s first fully automated metropolis has the potential to become the most popular tourist destination on the planet. Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries have a lot in common in this regard.
• Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030
• Oman’s Vision 2040
• Qatar’s National Vision 2030
• the United Arab Emirates’ Vision 2021
• Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030
Are all attempting to diversify their economies and reduce their reliance on oil.
VOICES OF DISCONTENT
Furthermore, a city’s core idea should remain the same regardless of the type of city that is built. The economy, the environment, and the equality of a city all contribute to its overall quality. A city that exaggerates one aspect to the detriment of others creates an imbalance that becomes unsustainable over time.
The project’s supporters have talked extensively about the economic, technological, and environmental aspects of the project but nothing is known about how equitable the city would be or who would be able to afford to live there. As previously stated, NEOM and ‘The Line’ would be controlled by a distinct set of regulations than Saudi Arabia.
However, given the character of Saudi politics where some of the government procedures are amongst the most regressive ones, people may experience unsettling inconsistencies. Because the city is looking for people from all over the world to move in, such issues may deter people from moving in.
Saudi Arabia does not tolerate criticism, thus there have been few voices of discontent from within the Kingdom. Some have gently reminded the Saudi government that it is pointless to spend billions of dollar on a completely new endeavour when the old Saudi cities are in ruin and require restoration. The Saudi government emphasises its environmental concerns and plans to develop a completely green city.
The Crown Prince raised few questions
• Why should we give up nature for the sake of progress?
• Why should pollution kill seven million people every year?
• Why should we lose a million people to automobile accidents every year?
The Saudi government has also been under fire for attempting to remove the 20,000- strong Howeitat tribe from their centuries-old homestead, which is located within NEOM’s jurisdiction. Eviction is being fought by the tribe. When the tribe’s leaders protested, several of them were arrested and imprisoned. Alya Abutayah Alhwaiti, the most outspoken of them all, was killed.
The unfavourable publicity was to be countered with a public relations exercise devised by an American public relations firm. However, there is still a lot of scepticism about the idea. You may be wondering if all this evolution is justified or not and if yes then at what cost? Is this wonderful project is going to be proven as a landmark in the history of Saudi evolution?
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Sanjay Pahwa Calega Capital Director
Sanjay Pahwa is the Director at Calega Resources Investment LLC. Executive Director : Calega Resources Partner : Sygmia Consulting Group Chief Operations Officer, Middle East and Africa : Agility Logistics Global Integrated Logistics Senior Manager, Procurement and Materials Middle East : Kbr, Inc. General Manager :…
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