Looking forward to a future beyond oil, Saudi Arabia has unveiled plans to build a zero-carbon future city "with zero cars, zero streets and zero carbon emissions" to be located in NEOM, a larger high-tech cross border city constructed near the picturesque Red Sea coast in northwestern part of the country.
In a rare televised appearance, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on Sunday revealed that the new eco-city will be known as "The Line" and be able to house nearly a million people in "carbon-positive urban developments powered by 100 per cent clean energy", with zero cars and no streets.
"Why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development?" the Prince said. "We need to transform the concept of a conventional city into that of a futuristic one," he added.
World's most ambitious project
Stretching across a distance of some 170 kilometers long, the project is described to be a walkable "belt of hyper-connected future communities, without cars and roads and built around nature", according to a statement.
Apart from settling millions of people, the release said that the city would also create around 380,000 jobs by 2030. However, no details on the expected cost of the plan or the funding of the project were mentioned in the release.
As per reports, construction of the project is planned to begin in the first quarter of this year itself. No journey within 'The Line' will be longer than 20 minutes and the city would be built around "ultra-high-speed transit and autonomous mobility solutions," the statement said.
Answer to global challenges for next decades
Environment experts believe that the project is a direct response to some of the most pressing challenges encoutered by humanity today as well as in the coming decades, such as the legacy infrastructure, pollution, traffic, and human congestion.
"We need to transform the concept of a conventional city into that of a futuristic one," the Prince said. This is the first time in 150 years that a major urban development has been designed around people, not roads.
The city will have services such as schools, health centres and green spaces, as well as high-speed public transportation, within a five-minute walk, according to the release. Communities residing there will be cognitive, powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), continuously learning predictive ways to make life easier, creating time for both residents and businesses.
An estimated 90 per cent of available data will be harnessed to enhance infrastructure capabilities far beyond the 1 per cent typically utilized in existing smart cities. NEOM in itself redefines what a new future of Saudi Arabia may look like. It is planned to incorporate smart city technologies and also function as a tourist destination.
On January 29, 2019, Saudi Arabia announced setting up a closed joint-stock company named NEOM aiming to develop the economic zone of Neom. The first section of NEOM is expected to be completed by 2025. The project has an estimated cost of US$500 billion.