Urban planning key to sustainable development, says Muntafiq

DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates presented its urban wonders focused on sustainable urban development at the first-ever 'World Cities Forum' held in London from June 15 to17.

By A Staff Reporter

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Published: Sat 18 Jun 2005, 10:13 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 4:44 PM

Saeed Al Muntafiq, Director General of Dubai Development and Investment Authority, presented the latest in urban development in the country to the international audience at the World Cities Forum. “The level of development achieved by the UAE in less than five decades is mind-boggling. What took the great cities of the world hundreds of years, was achieved by the UAE in just a few decades. It was as if the country leapt into the modern age almost overnight,” Al Muntafiq said.

The World Cities Forum was organised by the Urban Land Institute in association with the World Bank. Al Muntafiq was invited to share his thoughts with the world leaders on how the UAE has been highly successful on embarking upon the road to sustainable development.

"The World Cities Forum 2005 was a perfect platform to brief the world's leaders in urban thought on the exceptional growth of the UAE and Dubai. We are proud of what we have achieved and we want to assist others with our experience and example. We have created a successful model and I am extremely pleased that the organisers of this prestigious international conference asked us to present our unique model to the world,” Al Muntafiq pointed out.

The UAE and Dubai has been blessed with core competencies such as a visionary leadership, an action-oriented society, a model government-private sector partnership and highly trained human resources.

Muntafiq pointed out that city planners are usually faced with three broad alternatives: to maintain the traditional style; to be a modern, industrial or trade hub; or to be a tourist destination. Each has its pros and cons, which result in many compromises and sacrifices.

"The UAE and Dubai provide a tangible example of how to get the three alternatives achieved in parallel. The growth of trade and the expansion of industrial zones goes on side by side of the growth in tourist and modern lifestyle facilities. Yet, for example, Dubai has beautifully maintained its Arabic style within a total concept of being a cosmopolitan destination in which each inhabitant can and does avail himself of the lifestyle he prefers,” Al Muntafiq pointed out.

Giving the example of Dubai, he said that that urban planning now is transformed from environmentalism (the movement against pollution) to sustainability (the movement towards new actions and behaviours).

We have faced many challenges. Because of the economic boom and the lifestyle opportunities, we have a rapidly increasing population which puts pressure on the quality of life, housing/accommodation/leisure, economic and social development requirements, on social capital such as employment, health and education facilities and, of course, on water resources in a desalination-dependent country. We also have depleting oil reserves, limited land and arid weather, he said.

The urban planning of Dubai is focused on the expansion of greenery, maintain local heritage, ensure equitable access to efficient use of energy, establish an integrated sustainable water management system, manage and minimise domestic and industrial waste, develop sustainable transport networks and logistics, incorporate eco-efficiency principles into new buildings and housing, provide urban plans that accommodate lifestyle and business opportunities, landscape planning focused on maximising the use of land, clustering environment polluting plants in remote areas, ensuring the critical transition from environmentalism to sustainability, creating sustainability literacy, quantifying what really counts when it comes to sustaining a nation's wealth, eco-efficiency and creating state-of-the-art infrastructures.

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