Urban Development & Planning in the Palestinian Territories
Director, Urban & Regional Planning Unit An-Najah National University, Nablus
Dr. Ali Abdelhamid
Urban development and planning practice and experience in Palestine which stemmed back to mid 19th Century had passed through various changes and developments in terms of characteristics, policies, principles, and management. The urban planning system in Palestine seems to be unique in its composition and context. This uniqueness is related to the fact that planning practice was controlled and experienced by external forces (or foreigners) and not by native bodies (Palestinians themselves).
The Palestinian Territories (PT), including West Bank (WB) and Gaza Strip (GS), covers an total area of 6,209 km2 (5844 km2 in the West Bank and 365 km2 in Gaza Strip). Palestine has a large and rapidly growing population. As of early 2013, there were approximately 4.3 million people in the PT (2.6 million in WB and 1.7 in GS) living in 557 localities (cities, towns, villages, hamlets & refugee camps). Population density is (672 person/km2 in PT), 444 person/km2 in WB & 4,206 persons/km2 in GS)
Urban Development in Palestine:
The Palestinian land is a composite of numerous elements reflecting an environment of great ecology, culture, history and religious values. Moreover, it has a big diversity in its topography and landscape within a very small area.
Factors Impacting Urban Development :
1) Political Factors. 2) Historical Factors (Previous or Past Experiences). 3) Geographic or Location Factors. 4) Institutional or Administrative Factors.
(1) Political Factors:
Political Agreements: Classification of Land:
Area (A) where the Palestinians have a political and security control as well as the responsibility for planning and development issues in such areas; (%2.8). Area (B) where the Palestinian have only the responsibility of planning and development but not for political and security issues that are controlled by the Israelis (%37.2). Area (C) where the Palestinians neither have a political and security control nor having the responsibility for planning and development issues in such areas (%60).
• Number of settlers in the West Bank exceeded half million settlers. • The number of settlements in the West Bank totaled 150 settlements.
In June 2002, the government of Israel decided to erect a physical barrier to separate Israel and the West Bank, its declared objective being to prevent the uncontrolled entry of Palestinians into Israel. In most areas, the barrier is comprised of an electronic fence with dirt paths, barbed-wire fences, and trenches on both sides, at an average width of 60 meters. The length of the wall – already built, under construction, or in planning – is 709 kilometers, a distance twice as long as the Green Line.
(2) Historical Factors (Previous or Past Experiences)
The previous or past planning experiences in the PT in terms of the successive different administrations (Ottoman, British, Jordanian, Israeli) with their different laws and regulations that were issued mostly for the benefit of these authorities and the impose of their power or control over land. These various administration have affected the current building and planning Palestinian system, so that the existing laws, regulations, and orders characterizing the legal planning system in the Palestine looks like a mixture or composition of different previous laws and orders.
(3) Geographic or Location Factors:
These factors are normally referred to the geographic features that the localities have. This will directly impact the expansion of these localities and their resulted form. Therefore, we can easily observe various urban forms of Palestinian cities; linear, radial, concentric, and tree-shape forms.
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