Interview: Sultan bin Hamdoon Al Harthi

How will transport network expansion facilitate efficiencies between Muscat’s business districts and complement the city’s ongoing development?

SULTAN BIN HAMDOON AL HARTHI: This is one of the most crucial issues we are facing. We are faced with accommodating the expansion of the existing city, the densities of the growing business districts, the airport development and the decommissioning of Matrah Port from a transport and logistics centre to an area catering to the tourism industry. The business district of Airport Heights and other industrial areas are also being integrated into the master plan to create new urban centres, which have more merit and efficiencies than a single downtown core.

As part of this plan, the municipality has an almost completed a study for a fully integrated and comprehensive traffic and transportation system that will connect the expanding business and residential districts up until 2030. This includes investigating all vehicular options as well as testing the feasibility of other transport possibilities such as light rail and tram systems, and as we add more marinas along the linear coastline, also sea taxis. We want to create stopovers that add value and ease the movement of people in and around the capital. Improved transport connections will be important for tourism as well, connecting the various integrated tourism complexes, such as Jebel Sifah, and other resorts along the coast. At the completion of the study, this programme will be initialised.

What is the municipality doing to ensure its development will meet the requirements of existing residents and future population growth?

AL HARTHI: The municipality is extremely focused on infrastructure networks to improve the connectivity of traffic, sewage, water and electric systems. The residents are the priority. Thus, the development strategy is based on the concept of liveability. All our efforts are geared towards the comfort and connectivity of our population. We are moving quickly to communicate and coordinate projects and awareness through the community, municipal council, Shura Council and other major government agencies.

We have also set up a contact centre, which has been operational since the second quarter of 2012 and is available for everyone to voice their issues and have direct contact with the municipality. The centre serves both citizens and visitors by ensuring that all issues will be resolved within the municipal processes and the person who registered the notice will always be contacted directly via text message.

All of this goes hand-in-hand with the strategy of developing parks and open spaces to create more social spaces in the city. There continues to be a lot of community input on this front. We will also be recycling grey water through the wastewater utility Haya Water to reduce waste of this effluent to essentially zero. We want the city to be green, but these developments must be carried out in an environmentally sound manner. This poses challenges because it is an urban centre that we desire to have international landscaping as well as sound water conservation methods.

How are the industrial needs and the requirements of the young Omani population living in Sohar and other urban centres being balanced?

AL HARTHI: One of the main objectives of the industrial planning of the major urban areas within the sultanate, was the creation of jobs for Omanis and the spread of sustainable social and economic development.

We have put forward Sohar 2030, a master plan for Sohar city, and this will accommodate a city with a working and living environment.

With the new airport and light rail proposal, our goal is to reduce congestion and pedestrianise cities, to improve liveability and create a higher index of living standards. Both Sohar and Muscat municipalities are working closely with the planning department on affordable housing. We wish to make housing and amenities accessible to everyone living within the boundaries of Muscat, Sohar and Oman’s other major urban centres.