Dubai Municipality is planning to surround the city with a desert belt of rugged beauty along the same lines as London's green belt.
The body has worked up a blueprint to restrict property development outside the Dubai Ring Road and to conserve the land for wildlife. According to the Municipality the desert area around the city contains an estimated 90,000 wild camels.
The master plan has been put together by the Municipality with the planning consultant Aecom. It was adopted by the Dubai Executive Council last year and was announced at this year's Cityscape in October.
The blueprint divides the land mass of the emirate of Dubai into four rough land zones, each of which allows different land uses within it. Zone One comprises the coast up to 12 nautical miles out to sea and has been earmarked mostly for tourist resorts. The second zone that comprises most of the existing city has been earmarked for further urban development.
However, zones three and four on the master plan - comprising hundreds of square kilometres of desert outside the city - have been reserved for non-urban uses such as conservation areas, traditional sport and farming.
A more detailed map of the emirate has also been drawn up on which zones are designated for specific uses on a neighbourhood by neighbourhood basis. Land in this map is earmarked for uses such as residential, national housing, tourism, industrial, logistics and recreational.
"This is an attempt to capitalise on the existing and available infrastructure and mobility networks and achieve sustainability," Essa Al Maidoor, the deputy director general at the Dubai Municipality, told The National. "The Dubai 2020 Urban Master Plan prioritises the development of new urban projects."
The introduction of the plan, which has been more than four years in the making, has met an enthusiatic response.
"The effect of implementing a plan of this sort would be potentially to reduce future supply," said Craig Plumb, the head of Middle East and North Africa research at the property agent Jones Lang LaSalle. "A desert belt would create a boundary to future development, which in turn would ultimately drive up values both within the city and in rural Dubai. In London, over the last 50 years the green belt has been proven to work by improving the urban form. This would be a very significant step."
"Ultimately there has to be some sort of town plan to protect investors," said Mario Volpi, the sales and leasing manager at Cluttons in Dubai. "A master plan would create certainty and that would attract more buyers to Dubai."
However, others questioned how Dubai Municipality would go about enforcing the plan, which has not yet been made available to the public. "It sounds very good in principle but we have no idea how this will actually work in practice," said a property expert, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Who will enforce this plan? Will the Municipality really be able to tell people what they can and can't build on their own land?"