Tomorrow's Nablus

«We fully support Tomorrow’s Cities Hub, and we recognize its importance in achieving sustainable development and mitigating future risks. We consider the outcomes of this initiative of great importance, and we are confident that it will add planning tools and experiences aligned with the best global practices."

Eng. Majdi Al-Saleh, His Excellency the Minister of Local Government

 

Summary


With its unique topography and nestled between two Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, Nablus, the second largest city in Palestine in terms of population and land area, has always served as a cultural, commercial, and educational centre for all Palestinians throughout its rich history. Despite the significant unrest, economic challenges, and geopolitical constraints, with 45% of its governorate’s territory being under the control of Israel, the city has witnessed an unprecedented rapid growth in the built environment leading to more than 80% increase in the number of buildings between 1997 and 2017 Nablus is also witnessing a population surge, with an average annual growth rate of over 2%. This unprecedented growth is threatened by the potential devastating consequences multiple natural hazards, including earthquakes, landslides and flash floods, putting the lives of future generations and large groups of vulnerable and marginalised people at risk if no actions are taken by decision makers through a robust risk-sensitive and pro-poor urban planning framework.  

 

Nablus Demographic Data

 

Nablus Challenges

Hazards

Throughout its history, Nablus has been susceptible to multiple natural hazards that pose significant risks to its population and infrastructure, with earthquakes being the most critical due to its immediate vicinity to the active Dead Sea Transform Fault Zone.

 

Earthquakes

In 1927 a devastating ground-shaking event destroyed a large part of the historical city centre of Nablus and caused more than 300 casualties.

 

1927 Earthquake

Damage in Jerusalem's Old City following a July 11, 1927, earthquake. One of the first earthquakes on the Dead Sea Fault to be recorded by modern seismographic techniques, it reached 6.2 on the Richter scale. 
Credit: American Colony Collection.

Geological Context

Palestine geological context showing the Dead Sea Fault and estimated earthquake epicentres. 
Credit: Zohar, M., & Marco, S. (2012).

 

Landslides

Earthquakes also trigger landslides, such as the one that took place upon the 1927 Nablus Earthquake, which blocked the flow of Jordan river. Several landslides occurred in the following years, particularly in 1997, 2004, and 2018, which were induced by either ground shaking or rainfall.
 

Flooding

In the past few decades more frequent extreme weather conditions in Nablus and the West Bank in general are leading to higher rainfall intensity. This, combined with the interference with the natural infiltration process through unplanned expansion of engineered surfaces, has increased the potential of flash floods in different areas. In January 2013, Palestine was hit by a strong winter storm that brought intense rainfalls in a relatively short duration, which were followed by an unexpected flash flood that affected more than 12,000 people causing damage to their homes and agricultural lands, in addition to destroying 200 houses and displacing more than 650 people. Nablus was amongst the most affected cities in the West Bank.

 

Land-use Urban Planning

The city lacks organised urban planning and mainly expands in a spontaneous rather than planned fashion, depending on topography and jurisdiction. The latest approved master urban plan dates back to 2013 and it does not adequately address the real needs in terms of population growth, development, and urbanisation. Moreover, it disregards the inherent risks of natural hazards and the needs of different vulnerable and marginalised social groups in the Palestinian community.

 

Geopolitical and Jurisdictional Constraints

The extent and location of any future expansion/urbanisation is largely limited by the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority. In fact, nearly 45% of Nablus governorate land, even some areas inside the city itself, are classified as “C”, indicating that it is not under the control of Palestinians. These constraints make the expansion process restricted and relatively predictable.

 

Administrative Nablus

Jurisdiction distribution of Nablus. 

Area A - 18% fully controlled by Palestinians.

Area B - 38% partial control by Palestinians. 

Area C – 45% full control of Israel.

Marginalised and Vulnerable Groups

Palestinians have been experiencing several restrictions on their economic freedom, mobility, and natural resource control, which represent the main drivers of the high social vulnerability that could hinder the current and future community resilience. Nearly 16% of the population falls under the poverty line and 6% under the deep poverty. 23% of the population belong to age vulnerable groups (under 5 and over 65 years old).

The largest and most prominent socially vulnerability group in Nablus city constitute the Palestinians living in the refugee camps, who continue to suffer very poor conditions such as high unemployment, inadequate healthcare, and large population density. In fact, Nablus is home of three among the largest refugee camps at the entire West Bank level. These refugees represent 32% of the population within the Nablus municipality borders. 

 

Balata refuggee camp

The Balata refugee camp in Nablus is the largest refugee camp in the West Bank, housing some 30 000 people. Credit: Nati Shohat/FLASH90)

Building Codes and Construction Regulations

Poor construction quality, environmental degradation, and unregulated land use highlight critical gaps in the existing policies, standards, and technical capacities. Despite the recent growing awareness of disaster risk and role of community resilience, which has been demonstrated through enforcing seismic design by the Engineers Association in 2013 and consequently the government in 2018, the performance of numerous structures (mainly residential) built after these dates is still questionable. This stems from poor construction quality, improper site management, and lack of effective monitoring procedures, which could lead to remarkable differences between design and actual construction, putting the lives of hundreds of thousands under the risk of earthquake damage.
 

 

How can Tomorrow's Cities make a difference? 

Reduce disaster risk and enhance the resilience for future developments in the city and its neighbouring areas focusing on the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups through risk informed decision making and comprehensive landuse planning.

 

Main stakeholders

An-Najah National University is leading the work in collaboration with Nablus and Sarra Municipalities and including other key national stakeholders:

  • Ministry of Local Governance (MoLG)
  • Municipal Development and Lending Fund (MDLF)
  • National Center Disaster Risk Management (NDRRMC)
  • North Electricity Distribution Company (NEDCO)
Nablus Stories
Nablus
City:
Date:
29/01/2024

Nablus An-Najah National University Hosts Meeting with Officials and Decision-Makers

Mohammad Dwaikat, Jamal Dabbeek, Karim Aljawhari
FV
City:
Date:
28/09/2023

How Palestinian women are shaping the future of Nablus.

Sérgio Esperancinha
FV in Nablus
City:
Date:
18/07/2023

Future Visioning in Nablus, Palestine

Mohammad Dwaikat, Khadija Zanoun,
Group Photo Nablus
City:
Date:
31/05/2023

Nablus City, Palestine, joins Tomorrow's Cities

Karim Aljawhari
Title
Nablus Team
People
Person
Image
Jalal Al Dabbeek

Jalal Al Dabbeek

Job title
Full prof. Director for Urban Planning & Disaster Risk reduction Center, Nablus TC Project Leader.
Person
Image
Jamal Dabbeek

Jamal Dabbeek

Job title
Assistant Prof., Catastrophe modelling expert, (City Lead)
Person
Image
Karim AlJawhari

Karim AlJawhari

Job title
PhD candidate in Earthquake Engineering, Catastrophe modelling expert, (City Co-Lead)
Person
Image
Mohammad Dwaikat

Mohammad Dwaikat

Job title
Faculty Member, Communication Lead
Person
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Samah Saleh

Samah Saleh

Job title
Assistant Prof., Community service expert
Person
Image
Bilal Salameh

Bilal Salameh

Job title
Instructor, Community service expert Director of Community service center
Person
Image
Ali Abdelhamid

Ali Abdelhamid

Job title
Assistant Prof., Policy, and regional strategic planning expert Director of Urban and Regional Planning Unit
Person
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Eehab Hijazi

Eehab Hijazi

Job title
Associate Prof., Urban planner & GIS expert
Person
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Isam Jardaneh

Isam Jardaneh

Job title
Associate Prof., Landslides modeler
Person
Image
Shahed Ateeli

Shahed Ateeli

Job title
Assistant, Urban Planning Engineer
Person
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Sameer Shadeed

Sameer Shadeed

Job title
Associate Prof., Flood modeler
Person
Image
Ashraf Zaben

Ashraf Zaben

Job title
Assistant, Surveying Engineer
Person
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Hadeel Yameen

Hadeel Yameen

Job title
Assistant, Architectural Engineer
Person
Image
Amal Hudhud

Amal Hudhud

Job title
PhD, Head of strategic planning and Environmental control department