RIYADH: Saudi Arabia seeks to create a sustainable environment for urban dwellers as the cities are growing rapidly and urban population is nearly 83 percent of the total population now, Municipal and Rural Affairs Minister Abdul Lateef Al-Asheikh has said.

The minister was speaking during the inauguration of the First Saudi Urban Forum 2016 (SUF-2016), organized under the patronage of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, here on Tuesday
The event was attended by local and international personalities. Joan Clos, the executive director of UN-Habitat was also present.
Addressing the event, under the theme “Modern Trends in Urban Planning,” the minister said the rapid expansion of cities is exerting pressure on infrastructure facilities and services, along with the emergence of traffic congestion and environmental pollution.
“These factors create additional challenges for government departments, which require more effort and appropriate programs.”
Al-Asheikh said that under the leadership of King Salman and his vision to advance strategic planning, rapid urbanization is taking place in our cities. Saudi Arabia has played a leading international role in this regard, he added.
In his opening remark, Abdulrahman bin Hassan Al-Sheikh, the chairman of the organizing committee, said the number of Saudi cities jumped from 58 in 1970 to 285 in 2015. “This growth in urbanization was due to abundant economic resources and population increase leading to the migration of people from small towns to cities.”
He said the event will provide a venue for all professionals, decision-makers and stakeholders interested in the future of Saudi cities to discuss the current trends in planning, environment, legislation, urban management and community engagement. They will also review the best international practices.
“We expect to have a positive impact on the planning and management of Saudi cities, transforming them into more sustainable and vibrant cities and realizing the aspirations and expectations of people and decision-makers,” he said.