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Urban Oman Exhibition Panel 3 - Introduction Urban Expansion
Urban Expansion Urbanization in Oman is an ongoing process that accelerated since 1970. Urbanization has two faces: rapidly growing and expanding urban areas on one side and rural areas, steadily transforming and creating a new rural-urban interface on the other. Urban expansion Based on the 1990 strategy developed by Weidleplan and implemented by the Ministry of Housing since areas located to the West of Muscat are be given priority in development. The aim of this strategy is to locate future citizens around Seeb in order to create a second center in an attempt to decentralize Muscat area. Massive zones have been allocated for residential land use such as Mabailah, Mawaleh and Al Khoudh. Another center under development is Al Amrat across the mountains South of Muscat. Neighboring willayats of Bidbid (case-study rural-to-urban expansion: Fanja) or Barka gradually accommodate Muscat’s urban sprawl. High costs of land development The transformation of former gravel desert into construction land required massive infrastructure measures foremost the construction of the storm water retention dams as seen in Al Khoudh, leveling of terrain as seen along the slopes of the Hajar mountains in the South and new highway linkages such as the expansion of Sultan Qabous highway and the Southern Expressway. Since the provision of physical infrastructure was a tremendous effort and is still incomplete development of houses started slowly. Better connected parts of these new residential areas develop faster than others. In some cases the infrastructure has been designed to meet the anticipated demand and is out of scale for the time being. In other parts the infrastructure is already collapsing. The implementation of the strategy of decentralization becomes more difficult in in rural areas as the costs for land development and infrastructure provision rises, while the areas become less attractive for residents due to the larger distance to the centers. In short, the strategy has already reached its limits before it has been fully implemented. Non-congruent development of infrastructure and residential areas Discrepancies in development become evident in the case-study Al Khoudh. The zone between Seeb in the North and the old village of Al Khoudh in the South was divided into 6 phases. The last phase is the subject of the the following case-study. Each phase was planned and implemented independently forming insular pockets of residential land. Each phase is connected to the larger highway system by a series of primary and secondary roads. The size and number of roads anticipate the final plan, while construction on the residential part is still under way. The final plan once implemented shows little functional mix and has no strategy for further densification to accommodate the rising population. According to this logic urbanization can only be achieved through further expansion. Land consumption and land speculation Governmental provision of infrastructure and land development is seen as the prerequisite for private sector construction. The private sector is not accountable for the costs of infrastructure and land development. On the contrary, the land allocation system by lottery redistributes land amongst Omani citizens regardless of the actual need, opening up a vast land speculation. Large governmental resources are bound by this development process that is neither economically, nor socially or ecologically sustainable. Land is consumed faster than necessary.