Sustainable and people friendly city: ‘A Day in Riyadh’ at the UN


UNITED NATIONS – More than ever before, it is now recognized that urban environments must have green space and places for residents to go beyond the streets where they live and work in order to have a full, enjoyable life.

That was one of the issues explored at “A Sustainable and People Friendly City,” Wednesday’s workshop at A Day in Riyadh, a series of events at the United Nations featuring expert speakers and sponsored by the Arriyadh Development Authority, explaining the philosophy, planning and projects making up the transformation and revitalization of the Saudi capital.

“The environment cannot be managed vertically, it must be done horizontally,” said Ibrahim Alshaye, Director of the Environmental and Infrastructure Department, the workshop’s main speaker as he discussed the city’s development plan.

One project discussed as an example of providing residents the best possible urban living experience was the Wadi Hanifah Environmental Rehabilitation Program, a development project to turn the Wadi Hanifah into a friendly destination for families and recreation. “Riyadh is undergoing many development projects and the Wadi Hanifah restoration initiative has created nine new parks and five new lakes as part of the city’s rehabilitation program.” Riyadh’s parks and open spaces will provide a measure of enjoyment that balances out day-to-day city living.

The key to sustainability is how to plan for the most efficient use of energy in building new structures and the use of other resources that people use in day-to-day life. “Excellent progress has been made but ongoing efforts are still required. There are some clear examples of world’s best practice, including Wadi Hanifah and air quality monitoring,” said Dr. George Stockton, Consultant, Wadi Hanifah project, President, Moriyama & Teshima Planners. Dr. Stockton talked about the importance of environment challenges and alternatives that Riyadh is taking into consideration to have a sustainable and friendly city. “The new set of environmental program, if implemented, will continue to transform Riyadh into one of the world’s most environmentally sustainable cities.”

Saudi Arabia is pioneering creative solutions to sustainable issues such as solar powered desalinization plans, supplying precious water to our desert nation. Additionally, Riyadh is a leader in using reclaimed water for agricultural irrigation and greening in the city.

“One of the biggest challenges that we are seeing is adaptation to climate change. Climate change is a process and key focus area for Riyadh,” said Sarah Baashan, Advisor, Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Chair, UN Climate Agreements, as she discussed the role of the cities in the face of larger climate change issues. She also highlighted the importance of cities to focus on sustainability and said that an estimated 60% of people will live in urban areas by 2030.

A Day in Riyadh continues Thursday with a focus on transportation. The King Abdulaziz Project for Riyadh Public Transport will also greatly benefit the environment in Riyadh by reducing congestion and pollution from private cars.