NEOM: The Future of Innovation and Sustainability

Marcelina Kukawska, Creative Director/Reporter

The vision of any sci-fi movie, Neom is on track to be built in the desert of the Tabuk Province in northwestern Saudi Arabia. Unlike anything else that has ever been built on Earth, Neom will be the largest megastructure in the world, reinventing conservation and environmental protection and setting new standards for sustainability.

Founded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, this bold project is set to be completed before 2030. The name NEOM comes from the Greek word Neo (“new”) and the first letter of the Arabic word mustaqbal (“future,”) as well as the first letter of Prince Mohammed’s name. The city is expected to house 450,000 individuals by 2026, 1.5 to 2 million by 2030, and nine million by 2045. 

Neom will be the first city in the world to be completely powered by renewable energy —  including wind, solar, and hydrogen power —  promoting environmental sustainability principles and regenerative development practices. This clean energy approach will ensure a zero-emission, carbon-positive ecosystem.

Neom will provide an alternative way of urban living, creating solutions to some of the most pressing global challenges that face large cities and urban areas. One of the ways in which Neom will do this is by incorporating the concept of “zero gravity urbanism,” a style of layering the city functions vertically, rather than horizontally across large areas of land. 

This will also allow the city to preserve 95 percent of the natural environment that surrounds the city, emphasizing a commensalistic relationship between mankind and the natural world.

Designed for convenience, Neom will be built around people rather than cars. The layout of the city will have high walkability, with all amenities located within a five-minute walk of one another. This pedestrian-first approach has attracted most attention worldwide after Prince Mohammed revealed plans to include flying taxis, completely removing roads and cars from the picture.

Prince Mohammed has a variety of reasons for the complete removal of cars from the blueprint of the city. “Why should seven million people die every year because of pollution? Why should we lose one million people every year to traffic accidents? And why should we accept wasting years of our lives commuting?” Prince Mohammed said for The National News.

Other details that have sparked interest worldwide, blurring the boundary between science and fiction, have been Prince Mohammed’s plans to include an artificial moon above the city and introducing classes taught by holographic teachers.

Dr Paul Marshall, Head of Nature at Neom, says that Neom will include a new, unique version of a national park, one where nature can thrive under conservation, but also where visitors can have some of the most incredible nature-based experiences.

The landscape and seascape of the region has been untouched by any industrial pollution, so there is plenty of potential. However, it has undergone desertification, meaning that, throughout the years, the fertile land in the area has become a desert. Neom plans to turn this process around by restoring natural flows of groundwater. Neom will also enforce hunting bans, protect the natural vegetation, and reduce livestock grazing, gradually restoring the habitat. 

Additionally, Neom’s regreening program will return 100 million trees, shrubs, and grasses over a ten-year period, acknowledging the damage that humans have caused to the environment in the past. Once this vegetation returns, small and big animals that are native to the land, like oryx and ibex, will return to the area.

The post-industrial era introduced the either/or fallacy that humans can either see the economy or the environment flourish. However, Neom has designed thriving economic sectors that foresee economic opportunity without harming the environment. In Neom, social and economic development will occur harmoniously with nature, rather than at the expanse of it.

This ambitious project is an exciting moment in history and a potential turning point for the future of the world. A step in the direction of a clean future, Neom will give the planet a chance against the environmental issues that overshadow it. The project will lead humanity into a modern era in which man and nature can coexist.