x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Al Ain's 20-year master plan revealed

Government unveils guidelines that will dictate Al Ain's development over the next two decades without sacrificing city's character.

AL AIN // The Government today unveiled its master plan for Al Ain, a set of guidelines that will dictate development over the next two decades and help it mature without sacrificing the character of the city. Plan Al Ain 2030, developed by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC), focuses on how the UAE's fourth-largest city can grow to become a "dynamic hub" in the modern global economy using sustainable principles. Developers and municipality officials must abide by the vision outlined in the plan.

"Our objective is to make a difference for Al Ain's future generations by designing structures that can enhance sustainable social, cultural, environmental and economic aspects of the city," said Falah al Ahbabi, general manager of the UPC. "For us, heritage means a past with a vision." Continuously inhabited for a millennia due to its natural springs, the area has traditionally provided a summer retreat for Emiratis wanting to escape the high humidity of the coast. Known as the "garden city" of the UAE, because of its oases, parks and agricultural land, the UPC want to preserve the city's greenery, as well as its historic sites.

In line with a 2005 decree by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the city's six palm oases will be protected and preserved from over-development. "Plan Al Ain 2030 strikes a delicate and much needed balance between conservation and development," Mr al Ahbabi said. "Rather than competing with the heavy industry, skyscrapers and shopping malls of our coastal cities, Al Ain will focus on attracting residents and tourists based on its unique cultural heritage and the quality of the lifestyle it offers."

The city contains significant archaeological sites, historic buildings and some of the UAE's most beautiful natural landscapes. Al Ain's heritage sites include the Eastern Fort, the ancestral home of the ruling family and the recently renovated Al Jahili Fort, and the Government have submitted an application for the city to be recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The release of the Al Ain 2030 plan, is part of an overall vision for the emirate and follows a similar set of development guidelines released for the capital in Sept 2007. A further regional plan, for the Al Gharbia region, is still being formulated by the UPC. lmorris@thenational.ae