An artificial island or man-made island is an island that has been constructed by people rather than formed by natural means. Artificial islands may vary in size from small islets reclaimed solely to support a single pillar of a building or structure, to those that support entire communities and cities. Early artificial islands included floating structures in still waters[disambiguation needed], or wooden or megalithic structures erected in shallow waters (e.g. crannógs and Nan Madol discussed below).

In modern times artificial islands are usually formed by land reclamation, but some are formed by the incidental isolation of an existing piece of land during canal construction (e.g. Donauinsel and Ko Kret), or flooding of valleys resulting in the tops of former knolls getting isolated by water (e.g. Barro Colorado Island). The largest artificial island, René-Levasseur Island[citation needed], was formed by flooding of two adjacent reservoirs.


Despite a popular image of modernity, artificial islands actually have a long history in many parts of the world, dating back to the reclaimed islands of Ancient Egyptian civilization, the Stilt crannogs of prehistoric Scotland and Ireland, the ceremonial centers of Nan Madol in the Micronesia and the still extant floating islands of Lake Titicaca.[1] The city of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec predecessor of Mexico City that was home to 500,000 people when the Spaniards arrived, stood on a small natural island in Lake Texcoco that was surrounded by countless artificial chinamitl islands.

Reef Island off North Malaita.

The people of Langa Langa Lagoon and Lau Lagoon in Malaita, Solomon Islands built about 60 artificial islands on the reef including Funaafou, Sulufou and Adaege.[2][3] The people of Lau Lagoon build islands on the reef as these provided protection against attack from the people who lived in the centre of Malaita.[4][5] These islands were formed literally one rock at a time. A family would take their canoe out to the reef which protects the lagoon and then dive for rocks, bring them to the surface and then return to the selected site and drop the rocks into the water. Living on the reef was also healthier as the mosquitoes, which infested the coastal swamps, were not found on the reef islands. The Lau people continue to live on the reef islands.[2]

Many artificial islands have been built in urban harbors to provide either a site deliberately isolated from the city or just spare real estate otherwise unobtainable in a crowded metropolis. An example of the first case is Dejima (or Deshima), created in the bay of Nagasaki in Japan's Edo period as a contained center for European merchants. During the isolationist era, Dutch people were generally banned from Nagasaki and Japanese from Dejima. Similarly, Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay beside New York City, a former tiny islet greatly expanded by Land Reclamation, served as an isolated immigration center for the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century, preventing an escape to the city of those refused entry for disease or other perceived flaws, who might otherwise be tempted toward illegal immigration. One of the most well-known artificial islands is the Île Notre-Dame in Montreal, built for Expo 67.

The Venetian Islands in Miami Beach, Florida, in Biscayne Bay added valuable new real estate during the Florida land boom of the 1920s. When the bubble that the developers were riding burst, the bay was left scarred with the remnants of their failed project. A boom town development company was building a sea wall for an island that was to be called Isola di Lolando but could not stay in business after the 1926 Miami Hurricane and the Great Depression, dooming the island-building project. The concrete pilings from the project still stand as another development boom roared around them, 80 years later.

Dejima, not allowed direct contact with nearby Nagasaki 
1927 sea wall pilings from the failed Isola di Lolando construction project in Miami Beach, Florida 
Our Lady of the Rocks (Gospa od Škrpjela) in Montenegro 

Largest artificial islands according to their size (reclaimed lands)

No. Name Size (km2) Location Year built Utilisation
1 Flevopolder 970 Flevoland, Netherlands 1968 Towns, agriculture
2 Yas Island 25 Abu Dhabi, UAE 2018 Yas Marina Circuit
4 Kansai International Airport 10.68[6] Osaka, Japan 1994 Airport
3 Hong Kong International Airport 9.4 Hong Kong 1998 Airport
5 Palm Jebel Ali 8 Dubai, UAE Unknown on hold
6 Chūbu Centrair International Airport 6.8 Tokoname, Japan 2005 Airport
7 Palm Jumeirah[7] 6.5[7] Dubai, UAE 2002 Housing
8 Rokko Island 5.8 Kobe, Japan 1992 Housing
9 Fundão Island[8] 5.23 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 1983 Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
10 Port Island 5.2 Kobe, Japan 1981 Housing
11 Willingdon Island 3.96 Kochi, India 1936 Port, Naval Base

Modern projects


In 1969, the Flevopolder in the Netherlands was finished, as part of the Zuiderzee Works. It has a total land surface of 970 km2, which makes it by far the largest artificial island by land reclamation in the world. The island consists of two polders Eastern Flevoland and Southern Flevoland. Together with the Noordoostpolder, which includes some small former islands like Urk, the polders form Flevoland, the 12th province of the Netherlands that almost entirely consists of reclaimed land.


The Pearl-Qatar is in the north of the Qatari capital Doha, home to a range of residential, commercial and tourism activities. Qanat Quartier is designed to be a 'Virtual Venice in the Middle East'. Lusail & large areas around Ras Laffan, Hamad International Airport & Hamad Port.


The UAE is home to several artificial island projects. They include the Yas Island, augmentions to Saadiyat Island, Khalifa Port, Al Reem Island, Al Lulu Island, Al Raha Creek, al Hudairiyat Island, Palm Islands projects (Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali, and Palm Deira); and The World, The Universe and the Dubai Waterfront. Of all these, only the Palm Jumeirah is complete and inhabited so far. Also, the Burj Al Arab is on its own artificial island.[9] The Universe, Palm Jebel Ali, Dubai Waterfront, and Palm Deira are on hold.


Subi Reef being built by the PRC and transformed into an artificial island, May 2015

China has conducted a land reclamation project which had built at least seven artificial islands in the South China Sea totaling 2000 acres in size by mid 2015.[10] One artificial island built on Fiery Cross Reef near the Spratly Islands is now the site of a military barracks, lookout tower and a runway long enough to handle Chinese military aircraft.[11]


Kansai International Airport is the first airport to be built completely on an artificial island in 1994, followed by Chūbu Centrair International Airport in 2005, and both the New Kitakyushu Airport and Kobe Airport in 2006, and Ordu Giresun Airport in 2016. When Hong Kong International Airport opened in 1998, 75% of the property was created using land reclamation upon the existing islands of Chek Lap Kok and Lam Chau. Currently China is building several airports on artificial islands, they include runways of Shanghai international Airport Dalian Jinzhouwan International Airport being built on a 21 square kilometer artificial island, Xiamen Xiang'an International Airport, Sanya Hongtangwan International Airport[12] designed by Bentley Systems which is being built on a 28 square kilometer artificial islands.


Controversial side effect

To prepare the artificial island, a large amount of sand is required. This preparation of sand may cause environmental pollution. For example, Singapore dredged five hundred million tons of sand to prepare an artificial island. This sand removal caused desertification to a fishing town, having a bad effect on the ecosystem.[clarification needed][13]

Political status

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea treaty (UNCLOS), artificial islands are not considered harbor works (Article 11) and are under the jurisdiction of the nearest coastal state if within 200 nautical miles (370 km) (Article 56).[14] Artificial islands are not considered islands for purposes of having their own territorial waters or exclusive economic zones, and only the coastal state may authorize their construction (Article 60);[15] however, on the high seas beyond national jurisdiction, any "state" may construct artificial islands (Article 87).

See also


  1. ^ "The Story of Ancient Egypt". Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Stanley, David (1999). South Pacific Handbook. Moon South Pacific. p. 895. 
  3. ^ "Historical Photographs of Malaita". University of Queensland. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Akimichi, Tomoya (2009). "Sea Tenure and Its Transformation in the Lau of North Malaita, Solomon Island" (PDF). South Pacific Study Vol. 12, No. 1, 1991. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 May 2014. Retrieved 22 May 2014. 
  5. ^ Akimichi, Tomoya (1992). The ecological aspect of Lau (Solomon Islands) ethnoichthyology. 87 (4) Journal of the Polynesian Society. pp. 301–326. 
  6. ^ "関西空港の概要" (PDF). 国土交通省. Retrieved 2017-11-07. 
  7. ^ a b "Presenting Properties in Excess of Five Million Dirhams by LUXHABITAT Luxury homes and properties in UAE" (in Spanish). Luxhabitat. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  8. ^ "oglobo.globo.com/rio/concurso-de-fotos-revela-as-belezas-da-ilha-do-fundao-10707822" (in Portuguese). O Globo. Retrieved 2016-01-25. 
  9. ^ http://forum.world-mysteries.com/images/misc/hotel-burj-al-arab.jpg
  10. ^ "China proceeds with building artificial islands on reefs claimed by Philippines". the Guardian. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  11. ^ Jim Sciutto, Chief National Security Correspondent (20 May 2015). "Exclusive: China warns U.S. spy plane". CNN. Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  12. ^ "Sanya New Airport Reclamation Project Wins "Be Inspired" Special Recognition Award for 2017 - Tropical Hainan". Tropical Hainan. 2017-10-17. Retrieved 2017-12-13. 
  13. ^ 연합뉴스. "지구촌 곳곳서 인공섬 조성 붐…갈등·오염 등 부작용 속출". Retrieved 2016-03-23. 
  14. ^ "UNCLOS and Agreement on Part XI - Preamble and frame index". Retrieved 24 March 2016. 
  15. ^ "Article 60. Artificial islands, installations and structures in the exclusive economic zone (PREAMBLE TO THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON THE LAW OF THE SEA)". United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Retrieved 17 March 2017. 

External links