14.05.2020  //  Tunnel construction

Interview with Wilhelm Nell

Dubai is famous for its awesome architectural landmarks. Yet this fascinating metropolis also sets benchmarks when it comes to urban infrastructure for tomorrow – for instance, with the smart city taking shape in »Dubai South«. The EXPO site and Al Maktoum International Airport are directly adjacent. Wilhelm Nell, our Product & Business Development Manager, describes the special challenges facing Dubai in connection with urban development and explains how KrampeHarex came to be involved in a drainage project that abounds with superlatives.



Mr. Nell, this interview series aims to introduce a few of the more unusual projects in which KrampeHarex is, or has been, involved. What qualifies the »Storm Water System« in Dubai for inclusion here?

Wilhelm Nell:

Dubai is one of the world’s most dynamic metropolises. The urban development projects unfolding there are fascinating and they also point the way for the future of other million-person cities around the globe. That’s just as true for how living and working are organised as it is for strategies to protect the population – for example, against heavy rainfall.

Dubai – A dynamic metropolis

Dubai: Modern business city and popular tourist destination

Heavy rain in Dubai



I’m not quite sure what you mean there: isn’t Dubai situated in the desert? Do the challenges it faces really compare to geographical locations where the impacts of climate change are far more severe? How often does it actually rain at all in the United Arab Emirates?

Wilhelm Nell:

The main challenge for Dubai is that increasing urbanisation is at conflict with a high groundwater level and heavy rainfall in the rainy season. It’s difficult for us here in Germany to imagine, but the groundwater level there is literally so high that in low-lying areas water can rise to the surface even in dry weather. That doesn’t simply mean buildings and foundations must be built to meet very high stability requirements. Another effect is that when it does rain, the extra water has no way of seeping into the ground. In that situation it isn’t relevant how often heavy rainfall occurs in practice. The fact is that if rain falls and the water can’t be drained away artificially, the consequences are instantly calamitous. And during the rainy season in Dubai, which lasts from November to April, that can happen at any time.

One system protects 3.1 million inhabitants and 15.3 million visitors per year against heavy rain



What critical volume of water are we talking about here in case of heavy rain? And why is the »Storm Water System«, the drainage system which Dubai Municipality is building to rectify this situation, a project of superlatives?

Wilhelm Nell:

It’s not only a drainage project of enormous proportions; it also has a very fast-track schedule. The reason for this is that it was originally supposed to be completed in time for the opening of EXPO 2020 Dubai in October, which has meanwhile been postponed for a year. 25 million visitors from all over the world were expected to travel to Dubai during the exhibition period – exactly when the rainy season was starting. Ever since construction work began, therefore, the international firms involved have been working together very closely to get the 10.2 km main tunnel, the drainage system, the reservoir, the pumping station and the water outlet finished within the allotted time frame. Both Dubai Municipality and the general building contractor are doing a magnificent job. In future, the new drainage system will protect 40% of Dubai’s urban area against flooding, making it one of the municipality’s most complex infrastructure projects to date. All in all, it will be capable of draining away 6.5 million cubic metres of water, equivalent to 2600 Olympic-size swimming pools. What’s more, the pumps which are due to be installed at the sea outlet are so powerful that they could fill a pool that size in less than a minute.

Storm Water System: A gigantic construction project with a fast-track schedule

5000 TONS


How is KrampeHarex helping to build the »Storm Water System«? What particular challenges are we up against and what arguments enabled our company to win the order?

Wilhelm Nell:

KrampeHarex is involved in the construction of the central drainage tunnel as a technology partner. We’re supplying the fibres that provide the concrete with the necessary stability and durability. The tunnel project is an incredible feat of engineering that abounds with superlatives. The tunnel boring machines are the biggest ever used in the United Arab Emirates. The drill bits measure exactly 11.05 m in diameter – 1.47 m more than the ones employed to build the Gotthard rail tunnel. A very tight construction schedule of just 36 months has been specified for the 10.2 km long central drainage tunnel in Dubai. To make sure the required quantity of tubing will be available on time in spite of this ultra-narrow time frame, the construction firm has put up a factory on site especially.  Our job is to deliver 5000 tons of steel fibres just in time for reinforcing the 43,000 concrete sections. In a project of this kind, total reliability is expected all-round because if not, the construction work can easily be delayed by several months. And since it was originally due to be finished ready for the start of a major event, that would have been a disaster. What tipped the scales in awarding the contract to us was our specialist expertise. We succeeded in convincing the customer that we can supply even large quantities of fibres fast and right on time. To safeguard our ability to deliver, we manufacture the wire for making our fibres ourselves. That way, we’re not bound by suppliers’ deadlines and we can meet even the most demanding timelines without any problem.

Deep tunnel

Tubing factory

A world-class tunnel system needs the very best specialists and materials



When you look back at how the project has proceeded so far, what is your verdict?

Wilhelm Nell:

A proven ability to deliver combined with specialist expertise and experience are an unbeatable advantage for projects on this scale. The fibres we chose here not only ensure optimal value for money; they also improve the processability of the concrete still further. We’re proud that our fibres are helping to make this groundbreaking future project a reality. Feel free to contact us – even if your particular infrastructure project is not quite as challenging as this one. Whatever it is you have in mind, we’re ideally placed to assist.

Click here to find out more about this project


Author // KrampeHarex
Tubing for a rainwater tunnel in Dubai
Find out more about how a deep tunnel system is helping to make Dubai’s infrastructure more robust.

»Storm Water System« – A groundbreaking future project

Dubai is taking steps to secure its future – and that of EXPO 2021– with a sustainable drainage system for about 40% of the city’s urban area.

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