Saturday 11 July 2020

Riyadh aiming to be among most liveable cities by 2030

RIYADH, December 3, 2019

The Royal Commission of Riyadh City (RCRC) - formerly Riyadh Development Authority - has laid out an ambitious plan for the Saudi capital - a city which today covers a massive area of over 3,000 sq km and whose population has exploded in the past seven decades to nearly seven million.

About 61 per cent of Riyadh’s population is below 35, and by 2030, the city’s population is predicted to grow to over 8.1 million.

With the focus having been on rapid urban development, the city today is a concrete jungle. But that’s to change soon with four transformative projects dubbed as “wellbeing projects” worth $23 billion that aim to touch every aspect of human life including health, entertainment, sustainability, sports, plantation, art, biodiversity, economic and well-being.

The King Salman Park, Sports Boulevard, Green Riyadh, and Riyadh Art projects are pivotal in Riyadh’s ambitions of becoming one of the most livable cities on the planet.

They complement Saudi Vision 2030’s ‘Quality of Life’ programme and are aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to create sustainable cities and communities, while driving urgent action against climate change.

Putting in place such mega projects means doing things right from the get-go. And so, the RCRC last month called in over 60 experts from all corners of the globe, including research scholars in urban planning sector besides consultants, art curators, project managers and other sustainability and lifestyle experts.

A two-day symposium at the King Fahad National Library, which was attended by AbdulAziz Khattak of Gulf Construction magazine, gave delegates a chance to discuss all four projects from every angle possible using available data to plug any gaps that might have been overseen.

The symposium aimed to benefit from the rich experience that these experts bring from other urban global projects.

The “Riyadh: The Sustainable City Symposium” was an attempt to analyse challenges that all cities face today, says a spokesman for RCRC.

The delegates were overall in awe of the mammoth area that these projects would encompass.
Riyadh is already home to the biggest transport masterplan of the world that features Riyadh Metro and an extensive rapid transit system - crucial elements that will make the well-being projects easily reachable.

Green Riyadh
The most extensive and far-reaching of the four projects, this citywide greening initiative includes the planting of 7.5 million trees, and aims to lower the temperature of the city by 2 deg C and provide welcome shade, allowing residents to walk and exercise outdoors.

In his presentation, Dr Abdulrahman Albidah, assistant professor at King Saudi University, said the project aimed to increase the green cover from the current 1.51 per cent to 9.1 per cent by 2030.

He admitted the urban sprawl in Riyadh occurred at the expense of vegetation cover and that the city lacked strategic direction for a greening initiative.

He also said the percentage of population within walking distance from parks in Riyadh was 32 per cent compared to 81.5 per cent in New York City and 83 per cent in Singapore.

Green Riyadh, he said, offers ample opportunities through 13 greening initiatives, including public buildings, wadis and sub-wadis, city parks, universities and colleges, main roads, parking areas, empty plots, neighbourhood parks, medical facilities, schools, streets, mosques and government buildings.

By 2030, the targets include greening 3,331 neighbourhood parks covering 10.2 sq km, 43 city parks (67 sq km), 272 linear km of wadis (103 sq km), 8,878 mosques (1.3 sq km), 6,003 educational facilities (20 sq km), 1,665 government buildings (39 sq km), 387 medical facilities (1.5 sq km), 175,000 empty plots (73 sq km), 270 linear km of public transport networks (0.5 sq km), 16,400 linear km of streets and roads (56 sq km), 2,000 parking areas (3.4 sq km), 1,100 linear km of utility corridors (85 sq km), and 11 sq km of private properties.

Riyadh is an arid city with water supplied from outside through pipelines. A massive project like Green Riyadh will require huge amounts of water.

Albidah said: “Currently, Riyadh uses only 15 per cent of the total volume of wastewater treated. This is very low compared to other global cities, such as Abu Dhabi, which uses 40 per cent, Dubai 90 per cent, while it’s 100 per cent in Singapore.”

In volume, Riyadh will recycle 90,000 cu m of water in 2019 but aims to increase that output to 1 million cu m by 2030.

He lamented that in Riyadh only the traffic medians are landscaped while road sides are neglected, and the walkways are narrow.

Riyadh plans to raise annual public investments in greening to SR372 per capita from the current SR33.1. This is meagre when compared to New York City’s SR2,337 per capita spent on greening.
Meanwhile, the per capita share of green areas will increase from 1.7 sq m to 28 sq m, 16 times its current amount, he added.

According to Albidah, the design and study for the Green Riyadh project has already been completed and the project implementation had started this year. The project would be implemented in three phases with deadlines of every phase in 2020, 2023 and 2030.

A significant effect of this project will be reduction of annual pollution and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels would be decreased by three to six per cent.

Other benefits include a reduction in energy consumption by an average of 650 GW per hour per year, by fostering green building principles and using green roofs and walls. The city’s capacity to absorb rainwater in the green area will also increase and this will reduce flooding.

The cumulative economic benefits achieved through this project by 2030 could be to the tune of SR71 billion, Albidah claimed.

The King Salman Park

This massive park will take shape with Riyadh city and blends with it. It will be the largest city park in the world, covering an area of 13.4 sq km, four times the area of Central Park in New York.

Being built on the land previously occupied by King Salman Air Base (old Riyadh airport), the centrally located park will be connected to six major roadways.

Its environmental features include green areas and open spaces over 9.3 million sq m, gardens over 400,000 sq m, a 7.2-km circular walking trail, an 800,000-sq-m valley area, and water and aquatic elements covering 300,000 sq m.

The park will host a Royal Arts Complex covering an area of more than 400,000 sq m that will have a 2,500-seat national theatre, five enclosed theatres of various sizes, an open-air theatre for 8,000 spectators, a three-screen cinema, four arts academies, and an educational centre to develop young talent.

In addition, there will be seven museums, each for aviation, astronomy, space, forest, science, architecture and virtual reality.

To cater to sports activities, King Salman Park  will feature The Royal Golf Green with an area of 850,000 sq m, a sports complex with an area of 50,000 sq m, a virtual reality playroom, a parachute and hot air balloons centre, an equestrian centre, and a running and biking trail.

Among other attractions are an 80,000-sq-m knowledge, cultural and environmental centre, interactive park exhibitions, multipurpose halls, meeting rooms, as well as tree and plant nurseries, open spaces and areas, food and beverage kiosks, a 100,000-sq-m recreation and playground area, a 140,000-sq-m aquatic park area, a family recreation centre, and an observation deck.

There will also be residential building complexes over a 1.6 million-sq-m area and housing 12,000 units, 16 hotels, 500,000 sq m dedicated to restaurants, cafés and retail shops, and office buildings covering 600,000 sq m, mosques, security, health, educational and social centres, public libraries, and parking garages.

The King Salman Park is connected to five stations on Riyadh Metro, 10 bus rapid transit stops, while within the park, smart vehicles as well as electrical cars and bikes will be used.

Work on the project has started and is expected to complete in 2024.

For further details, visit https://www.gulfconstructionworldwide


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