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The Future of Sustainable Urban Development in Qatar

Qatar needs closer public and private sector engagement to achieve sustainable urban development

By: Hamoda Youssef, Head of Communications, QGBC 
Published on: August 9th, 2017
Although Qatar’s urban development is a relatively young experience, with the first substantial urban settlement taking place in the 1940s, 99 percent of Qatar’s population currently live in cities. The country has taken encouraging steps towards creating a more sustainable and improved urban infrastructure. We have seen this take place as major neighbourhoods, such as Msheireb Downtown Doha, Education City, Katara and Lusail City, have come to life. These major projects, may seem few in number, but are leading developments which have started to reshape Qatar’s urban landscape.

Doha’s urban life, despite the recent progress, faces major challenges. The increasing of waste production, the lack of regular recycling schemes, as well as an increased consumption of water and electricity, Urban Sprawling, limited walkability, poor air quality and inefficient public transportation network, are some of the main challenges the government expect to tackle as part of its long-term urban development strategy. However, successfully tackling those challenges through an effective public and private sector stakeholder engagement can have a unique opportunity to drive Qatar to become a regional role model, providing that they abide by the precepts of sustainable urban development from the onset of their endeavours.

Qatar has committed itself to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (U.N SDGs) as part of its ongoing development within the framework of Qatar National Vision 2030. An important testament to this commitment is the appointment of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation, as one of the global advocates for U.N. SDGs.

From an international perspectives, there has been several efforts to tackle the rapid increase of urban population and exponential negative impact the urban development is imposing on the environment. In light of the U.N. SDGs and UN-Habitat’s “New Urban Agenda”, tackling Qatar’s urban development challenges requires a cohesive cross-sectoral engagement strategy. What is currently lacking is comprehensive stakeholder coordination, effective public awareness and closer community engagement. Closer coordination among the key urban development parties, such as municipalities, private sector partners and public sector institutions, is what is required to ensure these challenges are identified early on and tackled in a sustainable manner.

Qatar’s public sector needs to identify practical solutions to engage the private sector from the outset of urban planning policy development. Government agencies’ work can be sped up if these stakeholders are more closely involved, as well as having buy-in from them. Policies devised in isolation, and which the private sector will struggle to implement will not be achieve their targets.

Most importantly, it is vital for the stakeholders to ensure members of the wider community are consulted with on a regular basis. Personal benefit is an aspect that needs to be strongly conveyed to all members of the community, and how an individual can benefit from these efforts for sustainability. A huge behaviour change and support from the community is required for meaningful urban development to take place, and the gap between government, the private sector and individual members of the community must be bridged.

Qatar Green Building Council’s (QGBC) various initiatives including professional talks, training and education programs, public events, and outreach campaigns, provide effective ways for members of the public to learn about sustainability, get involved in campaigns, have their voices heard, and make the necessary behaviour changes for a sustainable future.

QGBC, for instance, was recently awarded the right to host Urban Thinkers Campus (UTC) in Doha as part of its mission to raise awareness about sustainable living in Qatar. UTC is part of the World Urban Campaign (WUC), an initiative of UN-Habitat, which aims to raise awareness of the UN’s ‘New Urban Agenda’ across emerging cities. The Campus brought together leading Urban thinkers, government decision-makers, members of the private sectors, members of academia, students, designers and consultants to gauge Doha’s current urban development potential and the way forward for a sustainable and intelligent Doha city.

Professional talks, such as the Urban Thinking Campus and QGBC’s in-house trainings are complementary to the more human and personal campaigns such as the No Paper Day campaign and Green Life sustainability loyalty program, during which all members of the community in Qatar can learn about the small ways they can both benefit and contribute to the sustainability agenda. Policy, academia and the personal application of sustainability are complementary to each other. The bones of the policy and government are essential to the accomplishment of a sustainable city, but these are pointless if they do not see an application in the daily lives of people. Bridging this gap is of fundamental importance, and this is a vital part of QGBC’s role in Qatar.