Exclusive: Emiratis could be housed where their grandparents lived


Dubai - The strategic, high-level 2040 plan lays down several options to meet the housing needs of nationals for more than 20 years.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Tue 16 Mar 2021, 6:21 PM

Last updated: Wed 17 Mar 2021, 9:54 AM

Dubai’s 2040 cityscape will not only be green, idyllic and high-tech: It will also showcase the revitalised charm of its historic districts and bring Emiratis back to the neighbourhoods their parents and grandparents had treasured, a top official of the emirate has said.

On Saturday, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, unveiled the ambitious Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan, with the goal set at making it the best city to live in in the world.

A five-minute video released on the same day encapsulated how Dubai would evolve over the next 19 years, showing how tourist districts would flourish, how new hubs would emerge, how eco-friendly transport would figure in daily commute, and, essentially, how Dubai life would eventually look like.

It is a grand vision for the future which, at the same time, honours the rich Emirati history. In an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, Mattar Al Tayer, head of the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan Higher Committee, shared a glimpse of how the city would strengthen Emiratis’ ties to their roots.

The strategic, high-level 2040 plan lays down several options to meet the housing needs of nationals for more than 20 years. “One of the proposed initiatives is to rehouse nationals in old neighbourhoods where their parents and grandparents resided,” said Al Tayer, who is also the director-general of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

It will revitalise old Dubai and turn some of its parts into heritage residences. “The plan envisages (relocating) citizens to old national housing neighbourhoods to reinforce and strengthen the nationals’ attachment to these historical areas,” the official added.

When the plan was introduced, some residents expressed concern and wondered whether changes would disrupt the existing trade and tourism hubs in the city historic areas. However, Al Tayer assured that “for this purpose, relevant governmental departments will perform the studies and scenarios to assess the initiative and then specify the exact locations”.

He explained: “The plan also puts forth a new concept in city planning, focusing investment and development around five main urban centres, three of which are existing and two of which will be new.”

One of these existing centres is the Deira and Bur Dubai cluster, which will serve as the core of the city’s unique heritage and traditions.

The plan also targets the expansion of educational and healthcare spaces by 25 per cent and areas for hotels and tourism by 134 per cent. However, this does not mean it would disrupt existing locations for such facilities, Al Tayer confirmed.

“The spaces dedicated to hotels and tourism will not be disrupted and will remain as they are. What the plan provides is an increase in the amount of land dedicated and available to these activities,” he said.

Plots of land would strategically be assigned to provide optimal accessibility for residents and visitors by 2040.

While Al Tayer did not reveal the exact fund allocated to the urban masterplan — as it was too early to make it public — he said a comprehensive action plan including budgeting amd implementation shall be developed.

“This will cater to each of the sectors’ needs and specific triggers that will launch each project. The associated budget will then be prioritised and allocated according to criteria for implementation, but it is too early to make the details public,” he explained.

The mega plan to bring public transport near homes

By 2040, at least 55 per cent of Dubai’s population will be living within 800m of a central public transport station. And according to Mattar Al Tayer, this will be made possible by implementing a new concept called transit-oriented development (TOD).

Under the plan, population density surrounding Metro stations will be increased by re-zoning plots and uses within 800m, he said.

“Besides, other planning and financial incentives will allow these spaces to accommodate the increased population density through private-public partnerships and development.”

With over half of residents living near a Metro station by that time, there will be “an increased use of sustainable public transportation and reduced reliance on private modes of transport, especially for short trips,” Al Tayer said.

Soft modes of mobility will also be a crucial pillar to achieve sustainable transportation goals. “An integrated approach to centre hierarchy will allow equitable access to facilities, services and opportunities across the city,” he said.

The plan has defined four levels of transportation, which includes sustainable and electric means of transit. These are based on the speed and frequency of services, namely: tier one, Metro (high-speed transit); tier two, light transit; tier three, bus; and tier four, micro-mobility and first-last mile (FLM) modes.


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