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Saudi Arabia plans to build The Line, a 170km city that has major Black Mirror vibes

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman announced a plan to construct a city built in a 170km straight line—known as “The Line”. It will be the first major construction project as part of the USD 500 billion (RM2 trillion) futuristic megacity Neom

“Throughout history, cities were built to protect their citizens within confined spaces. after the Industrial Revolution, cities prioritised machines, cars and factories over people,” said the Crown Prince.

He then continued by saying that by 2050, a billion people would be displaced due to rising CO2 emissions and sea levels. And that currently 90% of people are breathing polluted air.

He then introduced The Line—the new 170km city which would have “zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions”. The city would let its one million inhabitants “fulfil all their daily requirements” within a “five-minute walk” out of their homes. 

While he didn’t specify exactly how a city built in a line would help make it easier for people to walk, the video that played after his introduction did show what it could look like. According to the images, it looks like they plan to build several smaller “neighbourhoods” across the city line.

The neighbourhoods, or city modules, are connected through a “spine”—which is implied to be where a high-speed rail service would be built underground. According to the Crown Prince, it would be possible to travel from one end of The Line to the other in 20 minutes. The city also aims to be powered by 100% renewable energy with a digital framework incorporating AI and robotics.

This is a wild idea for a city plan, and it feels just like the beginning of a worrying Black Mirror episode. It could also end up separating people by “class” if they’re not careful—where poorer citizens would be on one end of the line, and richer citizens on the other end.

Several people on Twitter have also expressed their concerns. @Reem_Abdellatif tweeted that The Line is Mohammed bin Salman’s “desperate attempt” to rebrand Saudi Arabia’s Neom project—which has previously been widely criticised.

Alya al-Huwaiti—a former Saudi jockey turned campaigner—strongly condemned the kingdom’s new environmental project. She called the Crown Prince “the biggest polluter of the universe”.

Translation: “The saw [nickname for bin Salman after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey] is worried about the environment. He killed Abdul-Rahim al-Howeiti, jailed his family and terrorises his family and anyone who is against giving up their land. He is a prime example of someone who is a despot and a coward, he kills in a treacherous way. His title is the saw and yet he wants to build a city that protects the environment. You are the biggest polluter to the universe and earth.”

Construction for The Line is scheduled to start in early 2021. The city is expected to contribute USD 48 billion (RM194 billion) to the kingdom’s economy and create 380,000 jobs.


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