Urban liveability calls for urgent action

Lively street in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Lively street in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Sometimes doing nothing can be the most costly option – both in environmental and financial terms. Representing 3.5 million residents, Jeddah officials have realised that swift action is needed to make the city more liveable in the future. Ramboll established a cost-benefit analysis and crafted a masterplan to ensure future sustainable development for Jeddah.

How expensive is it to let Jeddah’s living conditions deteriorate further from its current state? Having more than quadrupled its population since the 1970s, Jeddah is battling water scarcity, severe pollution and general urban-planning inadequacy. An environmental degradation study performed by Ramboll showed that the cost of no action will reach 2 to 4 percent of Jeddah's GDP, adding up to an astounding EUR 1 to 2 billion annually.

- Using this figure as a basis, we can demonstrate that it is wise to invest in environmental improvement and also show the urgency of taking action. By combining the baseline with cost-benefit analyses of the initiatives we are proposing, the authorities can prioritise main action areas, says Neel Strøbæk, Group Director for Planning and Urban Design in Ramboll.

Environmental and social action needed

Ramboll has acted as Environmental Consultant on the Jeddah Environmental Impact Assessment as well as the Jeddah Environmental Social Masterplan. Both projects will help ensure sustainable development in Jeddah going forward. The masterplan involved expertise from 15 different disciplines, including air, water and waste.

- We have valuable experience from the Nordics and from preparing European states for entrance into the European Union. We are building on these experiences when dealing with the challenges in the Arab region. The basic problems are the same here, Neel Strøbæk adds.

Getting the people on board

The quality of the environment has deteriorated significantly in Jeddah in recent years, particularly in terms of noise, pollution, and emission levels. Additionally, the water quality is poor and waste-management issues have led to city-wide litter problems and associated health issues.

The resulting lack of a sense of belonging has severely affected general liveability for the people of Jeddah. To transform Jeddah to a vibrant, liveable city, its inhabitants need to embrace the changes. This is an integral part of the masterplan.

- Environmental awareness through public outreach is a top priority. We want to establish trusting relationships, not only with stakeholders and decision-makers, but also initiate buy-in from the people of Jeddah, says Jeremy Anterola, Landscape Architect from world-leading liveability design consultancy Atelier Dreiseitl, now part of Ramboll.

Moving into action mode

Implementing the masterplan and its outlined activities presents a big challenge for the city of Jeddah.

- Protecting the environment used to be viewed as a luxury – a nice-to-have thing – but this view is changing. However, it requires that the environmental authorities are equipped to enforce regulations, Neel Strøbæk explains.

Ramboll's studies show that Saudi Arabian environmental legislation already contains all necessary laws, provisions and regulations. What they need is institutional strength and capacity to enforce them. Visualising the massive environmental and financial cost of doing nothing is the key to obtaining the power to move into action mode.


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