The new Sharjah Beach development project will create bike lanes, picnic places and seating areas. Image Credit: Sharjah Urban Planning Council

Sharjah: A raft of new roads, public transport projects, green parks and outdoor spaces are taking shape in Sharjah to keep pace with a growing population, a top urban planning official said on Monday.

Shaikh Khalid Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, chairman of the Sharjah Urban Planning Council (SUPC) — newly reformed in 2014 — said new public projects are enhancing quality of life for the population which increased to 1.4 million in 2015.

The planning council’s “mandate is to enhance development and improve essential services that people need such as roads, transportation, green spaces and social activity spaces,” said Al Qasimi in a statement on Monday.

“It is crucial to preserve the cultural and historical identity, including the Arab and Islamic features of the emirate of Sharjah. By preserving and renovating old buildings and souqs we protect the collective memory that exemplifies Sharjah and its residents. At the same time, we seek to highlight the modern manifestation, represented by premium quality service and world-class infrastructure.”

He said the planning council is helping guide a series of ongoing initiatives in the emirate to help smooth transportation flows and reduce greenhouse gases through electric vehicle use while making the city friendly to pedestrians and the elderly.

The council collaborated with the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (Sewa) on a project that saw the launch of electric car charging stations distributed across Sharjah, in a bid to support electric car owners and to spread positive awareness of more energy efficient transportation.

“We were successful in launching the first phase of this project, which saw the installation of 100 electric car charging stations in numerous business districts, retail centres, hospitals, main streets as well as government establishment across Sharjah.”

Al Qasimi highlighted the launch of the “Sharjah Postal Code project three years ago [that] provides a free application that operates on any smart phone [to help] people to find the right location quickly.”

To help pedestrians get to their destinations safely, Al Qasimi said the council also worked with the Sharjah Roads and Transport Authority to build and approve “designs of five pedestrian bridges at King Faisal Street, King Abdul Aziz, Al Ittihad and Al Taawun.”

New air-conditioned bus stops now under construction “will be supplied with solar energy through solar panels” for energy conservation.

Sharjah is also upgrading its sanitary sewer and stormwater drainage system to improve the efficiency and capacity of sewage treatment plants in Sharjah.

The new three-kilometre University City Road improvement project across 52,000 square metres “improves the public realm with natural landscapes, service amenities and facilities, public parking, and dedicated parking areas for all age groups including differently-abled persons, as well as safe pedestrian walkways,” he said.

In addition, Al Qasimi said the new Sharjah Beach development project will give residents “bike lanes, picnic places, seating areas, shading structures, public art areas, and water features along the entire route. The project also provides all required service amenities such as restrooms, shower facilities, prayer areas, bicycle parking system with about 1,100 vehicle parking spaces provided on both sides of the road.”

“It’s important that the public knows the meaning of urban planning and what the council’s mission and vision entail. Urban planning is a technical process that shapes the landscape of cities, highlighting the aesthetics and endowing it with a unique character. Urban planning requires analytical skills interspersed with visionary thought process.”

He added: “Building a city’s identity is an art as well as science. Since, it is based on data and urban growth rates, as well as foresight on the future of residential, commercial, industrial communities and other sectors. It is our responsibility towards every citizen, resident and visitor, to add value to enhance the social fabric of Sharjah.”