NEOM saudi arabia
© NEOMThe $500 billion desert project sparked human rights concerns over the need to expel Bedouin tribes from the development area
Saudi Arabia will downsize plans for its $500 billion NEOM linear city, The Line, as part of Mohammad bin Salman's (MbS) 2030 vision to diversify the oil-dependent economy.

By 2030, development was planned in stages to ultimately cover a stretch of 170 kilometers of coastal desert and house 1.5 million people.

However, an unnamed official told Bloomberg on 5 April that the project would be scaled back to 2.4 kilometers, with a reduced capacity of less than 300,000 residents.

Comment: So it'll essentially be another skysraper-esque building in the desert?

"The pullback on The Line comes as the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund has yet to approve Neom's budget for 2024," Bloomberg writes, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter. "It shows that the financial realities of the trillions of dollars of investment are starting to cause concern at the highest levels of the Saudi government as it tries to fulfill its ambitious Vision 2030 program, the overarching initiative tasked with diversifying the kingdom's economy."

Saudi Arabia's NEOM The Line development has also sparked human rights concerns over the required expulsion of the Howeitat tribe from their lands in the Tabuk region.

A group of UN-appointed independent human rights experts made concerns heard in May last year following news of the potential execution of three tribesmen for resisting forced evictions.

"Despite being charged with terrorism, they were reportedly arrested for resisting forced evictions in the name of the NEOM project and the construction of a 170km linear city called The Line," the experts said.

They invoked international law, which requires that the death penalty only be imposed for the most serious of crimes. "We do not believe the actions in question meet this threshold," the experts said.

Saudi human rights organization ALQST also criticized the Saudi government's sentencing of the Howeitat tribesmen.

"These shocking sentences again show the Saudi authorities' callous disregard for human rights and the cruel measures they are prepared to take to punish members of the Howeitat tribe for legitimately protesting against forced eviction from their homes," Abdullah Aljuraywi of ALQST said.

The UN experts said in their report that they "urge all companies involved, including foreign investors, to ensure that they are not causing or contributing to, and are not directly linked to serious human rights abuses."