A New Zoning Plan for Damascus?

The city of Damascus has seen three zoning plans: the first issued in 1937, followed by another in 1968 and another in 2001. Since 2015, there has been talk of issuing new zoning plans yet again.

This year marks nearly two decades since the last zoning plans were issued for Damascus. The 2001 plans included zoning programmes to determine the city’s future needs, based on the population size and density. Planners had expected the population of Damascus to reach around seven million people by 2020.

The plan was prepared by the General Company for Engineering Studies (GCES), which is affiliated with the Ministry of Public Works and Housing. It included 205 housing complexes and covered an area of 30,000 hectares, expanding the city limits of Damascus into parts of the immediate surrounding countryside known as the Damascus urban belt. The built-up areas of the city in 2001 reached 5,200 hectares, of which 4,800 hectares were residential zones.

However, the estimates set out in 2001 were not achieved. The administrative limits of Damascus still extend over only about 10,000 hectares, with a population of 1.7 million people, according to semi-official estimates from 2019.

Although the war that followed the 2011 uprising halted implementation of the 2001 zoning plans, previous plans also suffered from disruption, poor implementation, and a lack of population studies. Issuance of the 2001 plan was itself delayed by 17 years. Previously, the plans drawn up by French engineer Michel Ecochard and issued in 1968 took into account a projected population increase only until 1984. The Ecochard plans proposed distributing additional housing in zoning areas that were being prepared. They also proposed areas for expropriation for the purpose of building low-income housing but did not specify the locations. Ecochard also added areas for future expansion both within and outside the administrative limits of Damascus.

Preceding the Ecochard plans were the first public zoning plans for Damascus, issued in 1937 during the French mandate period and drawn by the French engineer Henry de Jouvenel. Two years later, in 1939, the first building code based on the plans was issued. Decree No. 97 for 1948 set up a new construction system based on modifications introduced during the WWII era, themselves based on the 1939 system and the 1937 Jouvenel plans.

Urban expansion in Damascus, 1932-2020


Source: Fabrice Balanche