Well-managed cities and other human settlements can be incubators of innovation and creativity and are key drivers of sustainable development.
Oman National Spatial Strategy is the general framework for directing urban growth over the years till 2040 with a view to achieving a balance between the social, economic and environmental developments, which are spatially embodied in urban development.
The strategy has been formulated in alignment with Oman Vision 2040 and United Nations’ goals for Sustainable Development 2030.
Since the blessed renaissance in 1970, the Sultanate of Oman has devoted great attention to urban development.
“This was reflected in the first long-term development strategy which established early awareness of the importance of the spatial dimension to comprehensive development”, says the document of Oman National Spatial Strategy which was approved by His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik in March last.
According to the features of the strategy, the Sultanate of Oman will have established future-proofed “livable” smart cities by 2040, in addition to supporting revitalised rural communities to promote socio-economic prosperity.
“In keeping with the aspirations of Vision 2040, the Sultanate of Oman will be a progressive nation, achieving integrated, balanced development to different regions while providing all citizens with employment opportunities that will contribute to the drive for economic diversification”, the document affirms.
The Sultanate of Oman is among the countries that signed its commitment to apply its principles in all national plans and strategies that call for ensuring universal access to safe and affordable basic housing and services, sustainable transport systems, and green and public spaces for all.
In 2020, says the report, development in the Sultanate of Oman was concentrated within limited growth centres, which have made them attraction centres for internal migration. That led to development and service pressures in these centres, and in return, low efficiency of services in other areas regions.
But for 2040, the Urban Strategy envisions achieving more balanced development based on a clear hierarchy of service centres distribution, which shall lead to job opportunities in various centres based on their developmental capabilities, and thus reducing internal migration towards major attraction centres.
The strategy, which will be the “essential enabler for the implementation of Oman Vision 2040 and the broad framework to direct urban growth in the Sultanate of Oman in the next 19 years”, contains many objectives such as the geographical distribution of investments, supporting and maintaining population centres, completion of infrastructure, and great concern for the environment and its preservation.
As population growth expands at the expense of available land, cities expand beyond their formal administrative boundaries, and unplanned urbanization undermines other elements of sustainable development. In addition, solid waste management and air pollution are often problematic in densely populated areas.
The priorities of the strategy include the development of governorates and sustainable cities. Accordingly, plans are afoot for balanced and equitable development to enhance governorates and urban areas’ competitive and comparative advantages.
It aims at empowering communities capable of setting their socio-economic and environmental priorities and operating within a framework of administrative and economic decentralisation in addition to an efficient settlement hierarchy to guide sustainable urban development, accommodate the growing population and provide the necessary public services and utilities.
The strategy eyes smart, sustainable and vibrant cities and a vital countryside with a viable architecture that ensures high quality of life, work, and leisure, and a diversified and easily accessible means of transport, integrated with sound and targeted urban planning and sustainable world-class infrastructure.