Saturday, June 21, 2008

The hidden and unsung heroes of development

The pace of development in the UAE and the region in general is frenetic. Iconic buildings seem to spring up almost every month, plush resorts bloom in the desert as more and more people decide to set up home.
But as welcome as this is, it is vital that basic infrastructure keeps up with the speed. Utilities may lack the glamour associated with large commercial or residential towers but no project is viable if the power is not on or no water comes from the taps.
What goes on above the ground level is eye-catching but what makes it work is what takes place underground: cable ducts, sewage pipes and telecommunication lines. It is no easy task configuring, planning, mapping, often for projects many years or decades in advance.
The strategic vision in the UAE has been simply breathtaking in turning imagination into reality, transforming plans into concrete; but it stands to reason that as more developments come on line the greater will be the need for utility services.
Just before the handover, the Hong Kong authorities gave the go-ahead for a massive new airport but were at pains to point out that they also gave the green light for a massive sewerage system. This new system, officials insisted, was just as essential to Hong Kong's future growth as the new airport, though it is not difficult to guess which development grabbed the media spotlight.
Utilities and infrastructure are the unsung heroes of modern projects, they are only noticed when absent. Turning a light switch on is an action we often take for granted. Planning for the future is by definition a never-ending process and not always appreciated but yesterday's planning brings today's benefits and allows for future growth. Unless that humble light switch works no project can succeed.

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