Palestinian cities get a boost through integrated urban planning and innovation

Palestinian municipalities face rapid urbanization fueled by high population growth rates and densely populated centers. Today, 74% of the West Bank and Gaza is considered urban. Growing land scarcity and spatial fragmentation in the territories have created pressure on local authorities, especially in the traditional urban centers of Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem, Ramallah-Al Bireh and Gaza City. These centers merged with their surrounding peri-urban areas to form large urban agglomerates – densely populated urban areas – in the northern, central and southern West Bank and Gaza Strip. Overall, cities contribute strongly to socio-economic development and are centers of job creation. Palestinian cities are no different and have the potential to reap these benefits when urbanization is well managed.

Local authorities in urban agglomerations in the West Bank and Gaza are struggling to meet the growing service needs of a growing population as well as the investments needed to rehabilitate strained and inadequate infrastructure networks. A chronic lack of resources and limited fiscal space, combined with weak institutional capacity at local and national levels, prevent urban centers from reaching their full economic potential. As a result, Palestinian cities are experiencing uneven development and haphazard urbanization. Land and housing development is also ad hoc with little state regulation, resulting in growth often occurring as sporadic low-density urban sprawl. This creates additional pressure on already scarce lands, which is further exacerbated by further restrictions on land use.

Due to their scale, urban agglomerations face a unique set of development challenges ranging from a growing need for services, jobs and housing, to the lack of integrated cross-government planning for the provision of urban services, to unplanned urban sprawl and heavy congestion. and poor traffic management. In addition to tackling population growth and integrating sectoral and spatial planning into the budget cycle, these emerging metropolitan areas will need to update existing urban and development plans to manage disaster risks and mitigate impacts. climatic shocks such as droughts, urban floods and energy shortages. Climate-informed urban planning through the promotion of compact growth, transit-oriented development, urban greening initiatives and investments in green infrastructure will help these cities cope with the impacts climate change and decarbonize urban areas.

An integrated approach to facilitate good urban planning

the Integrated Cities and Urban Development Project, with support from the World Bank, is helping five major urban economic areas – Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem, Ramallah-Al Bireh and Gaza City – to begin adopting integrated metropolitan approaches. With a $5 million grant, local authorities in major urban areas are working together to create joint plans, policies and services for their corresponding urban area. The project provided tailored support to urban agglomerations to improve the efficiency of city management systems, including urban and spatial planning, land use and development procedures so that cities can effectively deliver and expand basic services, improve the regulatory environment and facilitate economic growth. in collaboration with the private sector, promoting job creation.

Services addressed with participating urban areas include: (i) an integrated and comprehensive Geographic Information System (GIS) to share various types of spatial data and information with local authorities that can inform engineering, planning, transportation and logistics; (ii) city-wide interjurisdictional traffic management plans; and (iii) a public transport master plan for improving mobility options. This effort has resulted in better resource management, efficiency in service delivery, climate co-benefits and more holistic urban planning.