Beaches that glow in the dark. Billions of trees planted in the desert. Trains that levitate. A fake moon. A carbon-free city built 170 kilometers into the desert. Saudi Arabia’s eco-friendly gigaproject is called Neom. It’s a futuristic eco-city, Saudi Arabia’s plan to go green.
It’s a US$500 billion project. And part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan to move the country away from oil. It will cover a total area of more than 26,500 square kilometers.
Ali Shihabi is a former banker, part of Neom’s advisory board. He explains that it will be built in stages, block by block. Each plaza will be self-sufficient and have amenities such as stores and schools. Anything people need will be within a five-minute walk or bike ride. When completed, it will be traveled by high-speed trains.
Neom will be home to Oxagon. A 7km city on water, the world’s largest floating structure. The first phase of the mega-territory will be completed in 2025. They claim that Neom will become “the most food self-sufficient city in the world”. It lays out a vision for vertical and greenhouse agriculture.
Shihabi admits that Neom “is a pilot experimental project. We could solve the water problem in the Middle East.” Climate experts worry that relying on unproven technologies could be a form of climate delay.
Critics say the project will cater mainly to the very wealthy. According to reports, palaces have been built for the country’s royal family.
The Saudis say they are responding to the world’s energy needs. “Saudi Arabia intervened in a very intense way trying to point out uncertainties, costs, natural impacts, to minimize the urgency of the climate change problem,” they explain.
Fahad Nazer, the government spokesman, says Saudi Arabia is heading towards a green future. Will Saudi Arabia’s green gigaproject deliver on its promises? Its advertising invites us to book a condo, “before others do.”