The Urban Planning Council (UPC), the agency responsible for the future of Abu Dhabi’s urban regional environments, has launched the urban structure framework plan for Al Ain city.
Known as Plan Al Ain 2030, the masterplan was developed based on inspirational sessions with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and chairman of the Urban Planning Council; meetings between representatives of the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council and senior representatives of Al Ain Municipality and the Abu Dhabi Government.
This visionary plan presents a coherent picture for the future of Al Ain as an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable city. It proposes new ways to grow and leverage the economic opportunities at hand without sacrificing the agricultural character of the city – and adds new elements to make it a dynamic hub of knowledge in the modern global economy.
Developed through close collaboration between international planning experts, Abu Dhabi Government representatives, the Al Ain Municipality and its local people, the masterplan includes policies and frameworks for land use, building densities, building heights, transportation, infrastructure, and protected environmental zones.
"Our objective is to make a difference for Al Ain’s future generations by designing structures that can enhance sustainable social, cultural, environmental and economic aspects of the city. For us, heritage means a past with a vision. Al Ain is part of our overall 2030 vision for the Abu Dhabi Emirate, a vision that is inspired by our history and crafted for future generations," said Falah Al Ahbabi, General Manager of UPC.
Known as the ‘garden city’ of the UAE, Al Ain is a natural oasis in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and is characterized by lush vegetation and fertile urban farms, which have supported continuous settlement for thousands of years. Today, Al Ain remains an environmental and cultural jewel in the crown of Abu Dhabi.
"Through a balance of conservation and development, Plan Al Ain 2030 will foster the authentic Arabic identity of Al Ain whilst supporting a continuously evolving modern culture," said Al Ahbabi.
Plan Al Ain 2030 promises special treatment for the city’s oases, ensuring that they remain at the heart of the community. At the same time, it supports Bedouin living based on the neighborhoods’ - ‘Fareej’ - group of dwellings situated around a shaded courtyard that allow extended Emirati families to live together in close proximity.
"We are safeguarding Al Ain's unique landscape by identifying protected ‘open space’ areas and providing awareness and education on the local environment. The oases will receive specialized treatment to help them thrive within the fabric of our society. Our traditional Bedouin patterns of life will be upheld through the creation of Fareej which allow extended families to live together,” explained Al Ahbabi.
In line with Estidama, which means ‘sustainability’ in Arabic and is Abu Dhabi’s contribution to the global discussion of how to create more sustainable communities, cities and global enterprises that aims to ensure sustainable design, operation and maintenance of all types of buildings and communities in the Emirate, Plan Al Ain 2030 is founded on key environmental, cultural, social and economic sustainability principles.
“Plan Al Ain 2030 strikes a delicate and much-needed balance between conservation and development. It explores the need to conserve ground water resources, protects natural habitats and reverses damaging trends such as the contamination of the city’s oases with pesticides from local farms.
“With the population of Al Ain expected to reach one million by 2030, Plan Al Ain 2030 offers a range of solutions to regulate the quality and quantity of new development projects, improve public transport, preserve the city’s unique character and create new open spaces and cool micro-climates for residents to share and enjoy,” he continued.
Importantly, Plan Al Ain 2030 also outlines policies for facilities such as mosques, gathering places, recreation areas and shopping precincts, which will be spread throughout residential areas within easy walking distance. A range of suitable and affordable housing options will meet the needs of Al Ain’s diverse population, including Emirati extended families, various expatriate households, and guest workers.
"While the protection of our environmental and cultural heritage is a cornerstone of Plan Al Ain 2030, the UPC is also committed to fostering long-term economic development. As such, the plan aims to make Al Ain a knowledge centre with world-leading museums, universities and businesses. Rather than competing with the heavy industry, skyscrapers and shopping malls of our coastal cities, Al Ain will focus on attracting residents and tourists based on its unique cultural heritage and the quality of the lifestyle it offers," added Al Ahbabi.
"Special attention has been given to environmental analyses to understand Al Ain’s ecological assets, its biodiversity, and its unique water management requirements as well as archaeological analyses to ensure the protection of key sites."
The benefits outlined in Plan Al Ain 2030 will be delivered during a continuous process of refined planning and development. During Phase 1, the major structural elements of the Land Use Plan will be planned, including a redevelopment plan for the City’s Central District, key transportation and transit improvement initiatives, and the advancement of Emirati housing projects.
For Phase 2, the major structural components of the Gateway Transit Corridor will be planned, and development at key transit nodes will intensify. Planning work will begin on the surface tram system and the development of Emirati housing will continue in the areas such as Salamat and Al Khrair.
By implementation of Phase 3 by 2030, the Al Maqam, Asharej, and Al Muwaiji districts will join the Central District to house the majority of Al Ain residents and commerce. A second north-south axis consisting of Hili, Al Jimi, Al Mutaredh, and Sanaiya will also contain higher density accommodation, creating a crossroad where the two major axes meet.
"To create a truly sustainable city, Plan Al Ain 2030 proposes a range of urban development, renewable energy, water conservation and public transport initiatives. This will ensure that local residents continue to enjoy an excellent quality of life as the city’s population grows to one million and beyond," concluded Al Ahbabi.