The Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Commission in Jubail, Dr. Mosleh H. Al-Otaibi, on behalf of HH, Prince Saud bin Abdullah bin Thunayan Al-Saud, Chairman of the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, has opened Jubail 2nd International City Planning Forum in JIC under the motto “City Planning Future Challenges” and the accompanying exhibition. The two-day ceremony, which was held from 11-12/2/2013, took place in the presence of more than 300 experts, specialists, and interested figures in city planning at the local, regional, and international levels, at the Conference Hall, Al-Fanateer District, JIC.
During his speech at the Opening Ceremony, the General Supervisor of the forum, Eng. Ahmad Mutair Al-Balawi, GM of Technical Affairs at RCJ, emphasized that this forum comes in light of serious challenges that encounter all the cities of the world. In this regard, he mentioned that urbanization rates are increasing on a continuous basis. He added that the UN reports indicate that the urbanization level had peaked, involving more than half of the world’s population.
Eng. Al-Balawi added that the Arab World was not excluded from these changes that the rest of the world has witnessed, on the contrary it had the lion’s share in such changes. In this regard, the UN report for the Arab states issued in 2013 shows that 56% of their populations, which amount to 357 million, live in urban centers. The percentage is expected to reach about 68% by 2050. The report also mentioned that the majority of such urban development processes were recorded in the areas surrounding major cities in the Arab states, despite the fact that the fastest growth rates were recorded by medium-sized or minor cities.
He also referred to the studies which indicate that “In 1940, inhabitants of urban centers did not exceed 15% with less than 10 urban centers, the biggest of which was the city of Makkah, while the percentage increased to 49% in 1970, with 93 urban centers. The percentage went up to 80% in 2000 and according to the latest census in 2010, the number of urban centers increased significantly to 245 centers covering 83% of the population."
Al-Balawi said that these numbers show the challenge that cities face now and in the future, as the population growth and urban transition discussed above posed a significant pressure on cities and urban centers and would require further urban areas and gigantic networks of infrastructure coupled with adequate services distributed in a balanced and moderate manner. It also means that there is a dire need to create more jobs and a labour market that can accommodate job seekers. In the meantime, the biggest challenge is to find an urban administration that is capable of managing these cities in a smart, efficient, and flexible manner.
At the end of his speech, Al-Balawi noted that the forum was endeavoring to offer a selection of experiments and learned lessons, and that it should focus on the challenges and ways of addressing them through the assistance of a variety of experiences from different countries. He added that, over a period of two days, the forum is going to discuss 27 work papers covering five areas that tackle the issues of city planning such as comprehensive development, city growth management, transportation planning, urban economy, and urban development and design, in the hope that this would represent a contribution to help planners and decision makers to accomplish an urban development that could overcome the difficulties and challenges encountered.
During his speech, keynote speaker, Prof. Dr. Spiro Pollalis, of Harvard University, pointed out that population density is one of the obstacles for city planning; yet, good planning should succeed if accompanied by successful management and a good method. Here in KSA, the infrastructure should be good enough to facilitate movement of goods in order to accomplish a flourishing economic development. Dr. Pollalis emphasized that infrastructure should include several systems such as energy, water, food, transportation, space, and information; and once those are available, then there should be a continuous sustainability. Dr. Pollalis mentioned his experiments in several cities and his research on “Gulf Sustainable Urbanism” that covers ten cities in the region.
After that, the CEO of RCJ honored the sponsors, participants and supporters in the forum and opened the accompanying exhibition that involved more than 15 participants at the local and international levels.
Next, the forum’s workshops and lectures started. The first session included Guy C. Perry from IN-VI, who spoke about planning and designing for health and sustainability; Paul Bumstead from Dillon Company; Jameel Al-Souki, a planning engineer at Saudi ARAMCO, who spoke about urban development in ARAMCO communities; Brian Bern, CEO of Technopath; and Dr. Ehab Fouda, from Otaishan Consulting Engineers, who spoke about overcoming obstacles of renewable applications in the Gulf region and the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT).
The second session was about city growth management, in which the speakers were: Dr. Jayprakash Chadchan from KFUPM, Abdul Hakim Al-Rashoodi from Qassim Municipality, Dr. Bandar Al-Naim from ACE Consulting Engineers, Paul Archer from Atheeb Intergraph, Eng. Adel Al-Melhem, Mayor of Al-Hasa, and Harald Brenner Mayor of Brenner for Engineering Consultants and real estate development, who spoke about urban development in Germany and Europe.