Assessing alternatives for comprehensive Master Plans at metropolitan scale.

Palestine, one of the highest population densities in the world and the highest annual growth rates, is facing enormous challenges to provide quality urban environments for its inhabitants. 

The infrastructure is insufficient for the current population in the urban areas, resulting in inadequate wastewater and waste management and lack of public spaces. 

Furthermore, the absence of inter-sector and intra-urban coordination among the Local Government Units (LGU) that comprise each urban area has resulted in incompatible land uses, horizontal expansion with employment opportunities highly concentrated in the core center, and limited and disconnected mobility options, making traffic congestion one of the most evident problems that inhabitants face as a daily basis.

In addition to these internal problematics, Palestinian’s unique historic context under the Israeli occupation limits the LGU’s capacity to plan infrastructure and development, as 65% of the Palestinian territory is under Israeli control (Area C). 

Particularly in the West Bank, Israeli settlements and by-pass roads within this territory continue emerging, creating a sense of urgency among the Palestinians to expand their urban areas before more land is taken.

To tackle these problematics, the Ministry of Local Government, through the Integrated Cities and Urban Development (ICUD) project, is providing technical assistance to the urban areas of Nablus, Ramallah-Al Bireh, Bethlehem, Hebron, and Gaza City to use Urban Performance to develop integrated and comprehensive Master Plans.

In 2018, Local teams integrated by the LGU of each urban area developed and tested Master Plan drafts for the year 2035, including expansion areas aiming to protect Palestinian land. A compact growth option was also tested in order to compare benefits and drawbacks. These urban growth options were combined with various sectoral projects, like new public transportation routes, wastewater treatment plants, and energy efficiency measures.

By assessing the sectoral projects in Urban Performance, the local stakeholders were able to recognize cross-sector effects and trade-offs. For example, building the wastewater treatment plants to cover 100% of the urban area’s discharge increases the energy consumption and the running costs; but replacing the public lighting to LED technology combined with compact growth yields savings that can offset the extra costs of the wastewater treatment plants.

The results of the 2018’s exercises showed that expanding horizontally to secure the land implies twice the investment of growing compact and four times more energy. 

Therefore, it is crucial to strategically define where and how are the urban areas going to grow.

In 2019, the local teams continue using Urban Performance to analyze new urban growth scenarios and projects. Additionally, they are developing new indicators to assess them. The overall objective is to define new Master Plans and investment projects that can bring Palestinian urban areas closer to a sustainable path.

To read about the case for Nablus urban area, click here. You can also read the excecutive summary with the main results per urban area here.

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