Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Urban Heritage in Baghdad: Toward a Comprehensive Sustainable Framework

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Urban Heritage in Baghdad: Toward a Comprehensive Sustainable Framework

Article excerpt

Abstract

Architectural heritage is the most important legacy of civilisation and through it we can readily grasp the history of nations. Architects, urban planners and policymakers are now aware that historic cities require regulatory mechanisms if they are to maintain and enhance the fabric upon which their historicity and economic vitality is based. The historic areas in Baghdad, like those in Iraq, are suffering from declining infrastructure, a deteriorating environment, a lack of modern facilities, high unemployment rates, collapsing social impact and weakness in its urban institutions. Such pressures have brought into focus the extent to which sustainable development policies can contribute to the management of change in historic areas. A central objective of this investigation is to explore how the conservation-led regeneration of historic areas in Baghdad may be carried out in a way that promotes social, economic and environmental sustainability, and the full participation of all stakeholders. To achieve the research objective, the main theme, a hypothetical comprehensive model, and a plan and action plan are proposed. The conclusions reached demonstrate that to achieve the strategy of immediate sustainable conservation-led regeneration, the government should contribute to such conservation projects and support the formation of an institutional framework.

Keywords: urban heritage, sustainability, Baghdad

1. Introduction

Several interesting reasons underlie the decline of traditional residential neighbourhoods in Iraq, and the derivation of examples from Baghdad. There has been rapid growth in cities as well as population, alongside the destruction caused by giving way to the motor vehicle and to other land uses. Other changes are a rise in the standard of living and the development of new quarters of the city, the drain of the native population, and unclear planning policies towards the central areas (Al-Rahmani, 1986).

Iraq's heritage is being destroyed at a disturbingly rapid rate through several destructive processes. These have been identified as: large-scale engineering works, neglect and decay, the demolition and clearance of buildings and wide areas, ill-advised restoration work, looting and vandalism, and spatial intrusion and the removal of context.

A conference on sustainable communities in Iraq (2007) defined sustainability and made a distinction between immediate and ultimate sustainability. In the case of ultimate sustainability, this must balance the needs of both the present and the future, where rebuilding must not compromise the long-term environment or self-empowerment of Iraq. Conversely, immediate sustainability should understand, and be sensitive to, the critical nature of having a transparent process and the empowerment achieved by bringing in, and bringing forth, Iraqis. Ultimate sustainability in professional planning must be shaped by the major involvement of the newly empowered Iraqis, and the conference proposed the first step as being an assessment of the current status (Awotona, 2008).

The State of Iraq Cities Report (SICR) 2006-2007 reported that the structures of historic areas have been modified, with many buildings evolving toward commercial and government use. The city has many seriously deteriorated structures without infrastructure, leading to poor internal sanitation, drainage problems and effluences (UN-HABITAT, 2006-2007).

However, one developmental scheme was begun during 2010, when the Municipality of Baghdad approved the urban development of the Khedmyia historic area in Baghdad, which was completed by the Architectural and Planning Bureau. It presented twelve investment opportunities for modern projects in Baghdad. Yet, in spite of some of these projects being located in historic areas in Baghdad City Centre, such as the development of the streets of Haifa, Khlafaa, Omer, and the Bab Al-Sheikh area, these streets have received little attention (Baghdad Municipality, 2009). …

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