During the construction of the Dubai Water Canal the most visible and noticeable impact for most residents of the city was redirection and subsequent elevation of Sheikh Zayed Road — an ambitious infrastructure project the likes of which only a few cities in the world would even consider, let alone carry out, and one which was completed in only 18 months.
However, it is only really upon the completion of the walls and the flooding of the project that the full measure of the work — carried out by Six Construct, subcontractors and hundreds of piece of equipment to complete the circuit between Dubai Creek, Business Bay and Jumeirah — is apparent.
If the Burj Khalifa is Dubai’s vertical masterpiece, the Dubai Water Canal can make a strong claim to be its horizontal counterpart. It also builds upon a historic precedent of a flowing Dubai Creek. While Ras Al Khor has for many centuries marked the inland limit of Dubai’s strategic watercourse, there is every indication that the body of water was once the estuary of a powerful river that may have flowed all the way from Al Ain, and was once named the River Zara by the ancient Greeks.
From a contracting perspective, the challenges were many, but the most immediate obstacles were the existing utilities and key services that needed to be diverted and subsequently the vast amount of earth excavated from the new sections of the canal or dredged from the existing Business Bay stretch.
“Some 3.2 million cubic metres of soil were dredged for the canal and 15,000 concrete blocks of 40 tonnes each were used to fortify the banks over a total length of 15 kilometres,” explains Pierre Sironval, MD of Six Construct.
“The main challenge of the project was the diversion of the underground services in order for the excavation and construction of the 3km long canal to proceed smoothly. During the construction process, we had to be extremely vigilant and careful while working on the Dubai Canal, as it cut through residential areas, as well as some of the city’s main traffic arteries such as Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah Beach Road and Sheikh Zayed Road.”
Helping make all the right services and utility connections was the job of Volvo CE-equipped Turkish infrastructure specialist DETech Contracting, which assisted with phase one of the project — consisting of the building of the two eight-lane elevated road bridges to carry the Sheikh Zayed Road, or E11 highway, over the soon-to-be-excavated canal. These multi-span bridges, each 600m long, 36.7m wide and with a navigational clearance of eight metres, opened to traffic in late June this year — but not before a considerable amount of modification in the vicinity of the project.
DETech’s role included micro-tunnelling and the relocation and protection of all utilities, including 132 kV cabling, water main lines, sewerage rising main/gravity pipes and communications services — activities that also included the installation of a 15km pipeline and all of which had to take place before the excavation of the canal could begin in earnest.
“We’re not just digging in the sand anymore,” says Onur Kutlu, who, as the one responsible for the company’s equipment decision, described the project as somewhat of a utility minefield. “A lot of Dubai’s projects now are downtown, and managing the sewage, drainage, irrigation and telecoms is as complex here as in any other major city.”
The relocation of utilities was certainly not without its own difficulties. The proposed corridor already had several unmapped utilities running through it and the sewage pipes to be sunk to an unplanned depth of 10m.
“If you hit unexpected situations or bad ground structures then you can be in trouble,” says Onur. “With the risk of damaging existing or unknown utilities ever-present, it’s a bit like working in a minefield. So you need to be flexible. Luckily, in this project we had very good teamwork and quickly resolved any difficulties, coming up with a new plan in a good way.”
Given the high profile and time sensitive nature of the project, DETech determined that it needed suitably high quality machines to support them. For the Dubai Water Canal work, it trialled a number of machines, one of which was Volvo. After an initial six-month trial renting two Volvo excavators, the company now has 12 machines from the manufacturer.