Eng. Qasim Mohd Al. Nabhani
Senior Urban & Regional Planner
What are the prime necessities and key challenges involved in town planning and how geospatial technologies can help in this?
Town and country planning is a complex process of making decisions about space, the earth surface and organising human activities over it. This is based on relevant spatial information. One part of information required relates to making a plan for the city and region; and the other part of information relates to managing and monitoring those planned decisions.
The prime necessities of town planning are to capture, store and organise the data in sustained and systematic manner. Since a vast amount of information required for making appropriate analysis to prepare town and country plan, GIS is used extensively. Although GIS is in use for quite a while, gaps in data availability, lack of hormonisation between datasets at different geographical scales and duplication of information collection are the challenges that need to be addressed.
Cities are dynamic. How can latest geospatial technologies help in change detection and better management of a city?
Better management of a city is based not just on latest geospatial technologies, but also on how one intends to clearly define the purpose, organise and use the technology that is available. It is impossible for one single organisation, institution to hold, integrate, maintain and update all available geo-information of a city.
In our view, it is essential to build a GISsystem that integrates all relevant existing data and creates GIS-module as a part of urban spatial data infrastructure that ensures content that can be constantly complemented and improved; maintained on a long-term basis; used in order to constantly analyse and monitor developments; used for running scenarios and run simulations; are interoperable with other GIS-implementations (national, regional and urban level); where the user can access the data in the best way. So the goal is to develop an infrastructure that allows us to deliver integrated spatial information services to the users.
What GIS methods and technologies is your organisation using to bring better administration to its citizens?
We have acquired satellite images from 2000 onward and have aerial photographs for some parts of the country. Presently, we are using the technology apart from the plan preparation exercise, to make decision about compensation to the project affected population. We are also using GIS for decision making about request applications received from citizens for the conversion of existing land use.
Sustainability and environmental protection are major criteria while planning a city. How is Supreme Committee for Town Planning incorporating these into its planning?
One of our major goals is to achieve and maintain the principles of sustainable spatial strategy. Some of the objectives for preparation of the regional level plan or the country level spatial plan include innovation of sustainable agricultural land use, to integrate and retain agriculture and tourism, an important cultural heritage of the Sultanate. We have identified and made preservation of ecologically sensitive areas including our coastlines, desert sand and natural streams and have created protected national parks, dedicating archeological sites and cultural landscape.
At urban and city level, we are seriously working on renewable sources of energy like wind and sun. We have already incorporated that in the master plan of our newly developing port-cum-industrial town, Dqum. At city’s infrastructure level, we have planned the reuse of waste water for irrigating landscaped areas of the town in the future.
What are the future plans of SCTP in terms of overall development of Oman?
The Sultanate of Oman has initiated a process of preparing national and regional level spatial strategy, Oman National Spatial Strategy (ONSS). The development of GIS as a Planning Information System is the precondition for Oman National Spatial Strategy (ONSS). Our goal is to develop digital technology in relevant spatial fields, coordination of GIS among all the relevant authorities, developing the system for flow of information between authorities (of course considering restricted and confidential data) as well as securing permanent update of information to make spatial planning a dynamic process.