Explained: Beautification plans for Damascus

Despite widespread damage across many neighbourhoods of the Syrian capital, as well as delayed zoning plans for some areas and failure to issue plans for others, the Damascus governorate plans to launch what it calls beautification plans for the city. This comes as part of a government drive to establish the capital as a model residential city with a service sector centred around finance and business and the removal of workshops and other manufacturing establishments, according to official statements.

In statements published by state media, governorate officials said the beautification plans draw on the latest upscale urban models, affirming that the goal is to rid the city of “visual distortions.” It is unclear what exactly these beautification plans or "new city landscape plans" entail, or what their relationship is with the general Master Plan for Damascus that was released in 2001, which has yet to be implemented.

However, drawing on an overview of official media publications, the beautification plans appear to correspond with two previously announced projects: the Eastern Park project within the city’s general Master Plan, and the beautification and rehabilitation of the northern entrance to Damascus.

The Eastern Park project extends over 359 hectares along the Adawi Highway, and is slated to be a green park area, according to the Damascus general Master Plan from 2001. Today the area consists of orchards occupied by more than 3,000 families, with informal construction along the highway. The area was expropriated in 1975 under Decree No. 678, which also expropriated real estate in the neighbouring Basateen Abu Jarash real estate zone. Then in 2004 remaining parts of Basateen Abu Jarash were also expropriated.

The executive office of the Damascus governorate agreed in 2011 to rehabilitate the northern entrance to the city, from the Harasta suburb to the Fayhaa junction at the end of the Six of September Street. At the time,  the project was considered a precursor to the Eastern Park project, which would include removing informal occupants along the Six of September Street within 50 metres of the street.

However, it appears that the new beautification plans may extend beyond the goals of the Eastern Park and northern city entrance projects. Some official sources indicate that beautification plans could be extended to include demolition of the Qaboun Industrial Zone, and emphasised that car workshops in the capital would be transferred to the Dweir Car Expo centre.