RIYADH: Saudi Arabia launched an ambitious $23 billion project on Tuesday to create vast open green areas in the capital, Riyadh, including the world’s biggest city park.
Construction will begin this year on four schemes — King Salman Park, Sports Boulevard, Green Riyadh and Riyadh Art — which will create sustainable communities, drive action against climate change and provide up to 70,000 new jobs.
The aim of the project is to “significantly improve the lives of its citizens, transform the city into an attractive destination and make it one of the world’s most livable cities,” the government said.
The four projects - King Salman Park, Sports Boulevard, Green Riyadh and Riyadh Art – will complement the Saudi Vision 2030’s “Quality of Life” Program and are aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to create sustainable cities and communities, while driving urgent action against climate change.
Developed with a government investment of $23 billion, the four projects will offer opportunities worth $15bn for the private sector to invest in residential, commercial, recreational and wellness projects.
As well as creating tens of thousands of new jobs, the project will also help boost efforts to improve the city’s health and wellbeing with a commitment to wellness, health, sports, culture and the arts, underpinned by a commitment to environmental sustainability.
The project will transform the environment and make Riyadh a more sustainable city, Dr. Fatma Alaish, assistant professor of ecology and environmental pollution at Jeddah University’s biology/botany department, told Arab News.
“Planting cities reduces air pollution as plants undergo photosynthesis and absorb carbon dioxide gas,” she said.
“This will decrease the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, a poisonous gas that negatively affects air quality, mixed with dangerous car emissions, and heavily contributes to global warming. With more planted green areas, there will be less pollution.
“The more you plant, the better the weather, the cleaner the air and the more sustainable life will be in cities.”
Measuring 13.4 square kilometers, King Salman Park will be the world’s biggest park, with residential areas, hotels, and will also feature a Royal Arts Complex, theaters, museums, cinemas, sports venues, water features, restaurants and an 18-hole Royal Golf Course.
The park will also boast several landmark assets, including the Riyadh Fountains and a Vertical Garden. As an environmentally sustainable urban development, it will offer opportunities for the international community in arts, entertainment and culture.
One of the world’s largest urban greening projects, Green Riyadh will increase Riyadh’s green cover with 7.5 million trees.
The massive planting project will help increase the city’s green cover from 1.5 percent of Riyadh’s total area to 9.1 percent – that is approximately 541 square kilometers by 2030.
Salem Alghamdi, a professor at the College of Food and Agricultural Sciences, King Saud University, said the projects would make Riyadh “one of the greatest capital cities in the Middle East.”
“I believe now in Riyadh we are really having a new city,” he said, “with the Riyadh metro, the Qiddiya project and now this Green Riyadh project, these will add even more value.”
Green space availability will increase to 28 square meters per capita from the current 1.7 square meters per capita, compared to the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 9 square meters per capita.
Green Riyadh will help reduce average ambient temperature by 2C, and will use more than 1 million cubic meters of treated sewage daily for irrigation, for the sustainability of water resources in the city.
Sports Boulevard - a health and wellness destination in the heart of the city- will feature a 135 kilometer-long professional cycling track covering the city and the surrounding valleys, the first of its kind in the region.
Adding 3.5 million square meters of new open space across the city, this grand project will also feature a sports pavilion, riding stables and athletics tracks.
Riyadh Art will be the world’s largest government investment in public art and will establish the city as “a gallery without walls” through a world-class interactive public arts program.
With 1,000 artworks curated through 10 separate programs and an annual arts festival, this project will feature large-scale art works with the aim of drawing art lovers and creators from around the world.
Construction work is due to start in the second half of 2019.