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“Green Riyadh” … A Futuristic Eco-Friendly Vision to the Saudi capital

By: Taha Sakr

While the economic and social circles await the announcement of the details of the Riyadh strategy, which was revealed by His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Defense, experts and specialists present proposals on the importance of developing the small and medium cities surrounding the capital, to support this new trend.

The Crown Prince’s vision about the city of Riyadh came as it has very special features, as the strategy will be part of the plans to diversify sources of income and grow the economy in the Kingdom.

 “We aim for Riyadh to be one of the ten largest economic cities in the world, today it is number 40, of the 40 largest economies in the world as a city.,” His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince said.

“We aim in Riyadh to reach from 7.5 million people to between 15 and 20 million people in 2030.” He added.

The crown prince indicated that cities constitute 85% of the world economy, so real development begins with cities, whether in industry, innovation, education, services, tourism, and other sectors.

The Crown Prince said that Riyadh constitutes approximately 50% of the non-oil economy in the Kingdom. The cost of creating a job in it is 30% less than the rest of the cities, and the cost of developing the infrastructure and real estate development in it is 29% less than the rest of the cities of the Kingdom.

According to the statement of His Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom is planning to establish a “Green Riyadh” program to plant millions of trees in the city, which will reduce the temperature as well as the level of dust. There are also plans to establish huge reserves around the city of Riyadh to improve the environmental situation of the city.

Riyadh is located in the middle of a desert, with fewer trees and green sites, but the Saudi government intends to transform the metropolis with its area and population into a green capital full of gardens and trees, to protect the environment, reduce pollution and improve the quality of life in the city of Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia applies this in a campaign to all Saudi cities, but Riyadh is the most in need of it for its location in the middle of the Najd desert. What made it launch the “Green Riyadh Program” project, one of the four major Riyadh projects launched by King Salman bin Abdulaziz, in 2019 at the initiative of Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince.

Environmentalists confirm that trees and vegetation have an environmental role in reducing the problems caused by environmental pollution by reducing the temperature by up to 8 degrees Celsius compared to areas without trees. This reduces energy consumption in cooling buildings, in addition to reducing the proportion of dust by about 30 to 40 percent compared to areas without vegetation.

7.5 million Trees in Riyadh

Recently, signs of green began to form in many sites and roads in the capital, Riyadh, which witnessed the cultivation of large numbers of local green trees as part of a project aimed at planting more than 7.5 million trees throughout the city of Riyadh.

The project contributes to raising the per capita share of the green space in the city and increasing the percentage of total green areas in it, while achieving optimal utilization of treated water in irrigation works, thus contributing to improving the quality of its air and reducing its temperature, and encouraging residents to practice a more active and vibrant lifestyle within the vision 2030.

Phases of “Green Riyadh” 

The first package of afforestation projects included planting about 31,000 trees along 144 km of the main roads in Riyadh, including King Salman Road, King Khalid Road, King Fahd Road, Airport Road, Makkah Al-Mukarramah Road, Northern Ring Road, and Eastern Ring Road.

100,000 shrubs will also be planted, bringing the total green areas on these roads to about 1.4 million square meters, with an intensification of afforestation in the middle and side islands of these roads and the implementation of water networks for irrigation using treated water in quantities of 3000 cubic meters per day.

Native trees

The trees that will be planted on these roads are distinguished by being from the local environment suitable for the temperature in Riyadh, the most prominent of which are Al Sidr Al Baladi, Najdi Talh, and Al Ghaf Al Khaleeji, and are distinguished by covering large areas providing the required shade.

The Green Riyadh Program also includes the design and implementation of 48 major parks in the city, the design and implementation of 3,250 parks within the residential neighborhoods, the planting of 2,000 km of the main roads in the city, 7,600 km of internal streets in the neighborhoods, the planting of 5,100 mosques, 3,900 schools, 175 hospitals, and 1,600 buildings, and 2000 car parks.

The program also includes afforestation of 272 km of valleys in the city, 1,100 km of green belts within public utility lines (electricity towers and others), 175,000 vacant plots of land within the developed area, 390 health facilities, and 64 universities and colleges.

The project aims to increase the percentage of green spaces from 1.5% currently to 9% of the total area of the city of Riyadh, equivalent to 541 square kilometers after the completion of the project.

The project contributes to raising the per capita share in the city of green spaces from 1.7 square meters currently to 28 square meters 16 times as much.

72 kinds of Trees 

The project is characterized by the diversity of trees, as 72 selected types of local trees suitable for the city of Riyadh will be used, and the optimum utilization of treated water in irrigation works is achieved by raising the rate of exploitation within the city from 90,000 cubic meters currently, to more than one million cubic meters per day, through the establishment of a network new treated water.

Among the possibilities in the project is the establishment of a network of nurseries to feed the project with seedlings and trees, and the development of legislation and urban controls to enhance afforestation in public and private projects, including stimulating community groups to participate in volunteer initiatives within the project.

Positive Climatic Effect

The Green Riyadh Project has a climate impact and positive returns that contribute to improving the quality of life, most notably:

Reducing temperatures by 1.5 to 2 ° C at the city level.

The project will contribute to reducing temperatures between 8 to 15 degrees in areas of intensive afforestation, and improving air quality by reducing carbon dioxide rates ranging between 3-6% and increasing the oxygen rate, and increasing the humidity rate in the air.

The project will also contribute to reducing dust in the air, reducing energy consumption by 650-gigawatt hours per year, by encouraging green building principles in the use of green roofs and walls, increasing the city’s ability to absorb rainwater in green areas and reducing the effects of flooding in the city.

The project will enhance aesthetics, encouraging residents to practice healthy mobility patterns, and preserving natural areas.

Economic returns

The project will achieve an economic return to the city of about 71 billion riyals in 2030, through its role in reducing health care expenditures and electricity consumption, rationalizing the waste of drinking water in irrigation and replacing it with the establishment of treated water networks and raising the value of the real estate.

It will also provide new investment opportunities for the private sector in the work of nurseries, orchards, afforestation, landscaping design, and irrigation works, and contribute to achieving many “Vision 2030” goals by achieving environmental sustainability, building a vibrant society with a healthy lifestyle, and enhancing economic efficiency.

It will also contribute to achieving many goals of the “National Transformation Program”, including increasing green space, reducing water waste, improving the efficiency of flood discharge, and increasing the rate of use of treated water.

It also contributes to achieving many objectives of the “Quality of Life Program” by creating open areas for social communication, practicing various sports, and increasing the walking rates for individuals.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), trees in cities help mitigate some of the negative impacts, explaining that there are nine ways in which trees and forests contribute to cities by making them more socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable, including that a mature tree can absorb up to 150 kilograms of carbon dioxide annually.

As a result; trees play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change and improving its quality, especially in cities, where pollution levels are high, making them better places to live.

The contributions of trees and green areas also included that strategic planning for tree sites in cities can help cool the air by between 2 and 8 degrees celsius.

Trees also help reduce carbon emissions by helping to conserve energy.

 Research shows that living close to and accessing urban green spaces can improve physical and mental health, for example, by lowering blood pressure and stress, in turn contributing to the well-being of societies, according to the organization.

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