BAHRAIN is drawing up a national master plan of new industrial areas, towns, roads and other developments.
The zoning blueprint will make the country more attractive to investors by developing the right things in the right areas, say officials.
A team of international urban planners, headed by US company Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), has been appointed by the government to study future needs.
The BD3.5 million study will be completed in two phases over two years.
In preparation, a National Planning Development Strategy was launched yesterday by the Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Housing and Urban Development Committee (HUDC).
Both are chaired by Crown Prince and BDF Commander-in-Chief Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa .
The project is part of Bahrain's pioneering re-forms, Municipalities and Agriculture Minister Ali Saleh Al Saleh said at the launch ceremony, at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa.
"The new strategy will address and integrate economic, social, physical and environmental development of the country," he said.
"The master plan will determine all land uses and zoning of all planned and unplanned pieces of land, to direct future growth for the next 20 years and insure a viable and vibrant future, within a robust framework."
Bahrain must make critical decisions in the next few years to assure its continued growth and success in the 21st century, said Mr Al Saleh.
The strategy will be based on the development of the following four plans:
A Physical Plan Strategy: A plan is needed that can organise and direct urban growth to accommodate population and the changing economic profile of the kingdom. It must direct public infrastructure improvements to encourage appropriate investments. It must also strengthen cities and villages to provide the highest quality of life.
An Economic Strategy: The plan will build on the current initiatives to identify new business sectors that will become a key part of the kingdom's future. This will be carried out in co-ordination with the EDB.
An Environmental Strategy: The plan will explore ways to protect the kingdom's environment and preserve air, land and water quality.
A Social Development Strategy: The plan will support Bahrain's desire to offer the best shared public services and amenities and retain the kingdom's unique culture.
The project will provide a strategic framework for the building of new urban cities and blocks that were announced by His Majesty King Hamad," said Mr Al Saleh.
"The Economic Reforms workshop held at Shaikh Hamad Palace on February 24, under the patronage of the Crown Prince, emphasised the importance of establishing a comprehensive plan for land use in the kingdom.
HUDC secretary general Mamoon Almoayyed said the plan would be organised into three main stages, starting with the appraisal of current conditions and ending with the preparation of an implementation plan.
The team consists of core consultants SOM for planning, urban design and architecture, DTZ for economics and market strategies, Atkins for engineering-infrastructure and environment and Bahraini firm Mohammed Salahuddin Consulting Engineering Bureau (MSCEB) for local liaison work.
Specialist consultants are JMP Consultants for transport planning and Battle McCarthy for sustainability and landscape.
Mr Almoayyed said the study would result in a master plan, guiding principles, economic summary of future market projections, sustainable development strategy and environment plan, new town planning, and housing strategies.
SOM partner Philip Enquist said the master plan would fit with the economic, educational and labour reforms initiated in Bahrain.
Mr Enquist said the study team would work within the context of the EDB initiatives.
"The Kingdom has to think even bigger now," he added.
SOM partner George Efstathiou said his group would bring in its decades of experience and expertise in the area of urban planning and architecture, adapting it to local conditions.
SOM, established in Chicago in 1936, has won 900 national and international design awards.