Shiraz - © ???

Shiraz - The Green City

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Icons use case study main actors

Main actors

City Government, National Government, Private Sector, other

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

Icons use case study duration


Ongoing since 2008/01

The project has contributed increasing green space and limiting the construction of unwanted settlements through reforestation.

Massive urbanization has occurred all over Iran. In Shiraz the population grew from 170,656 to 1,455,073 over 53 years. Population increase led to excessive construction projects causing poor living conditions, pollution, and high energy consumption. Therefore in 2008, the municipality started the project Shiraz – the Green City. The project’s main step is the reforestation of the city’s periphery. Furthermore, the city encourages inhabitants to plant on rooftops, and the private sector to construct projects according to the city’s development plan.

The project consists of four combined actions, which are the Urban Forest Development Project, roof parks, linear parks, and rooftop gardens. 2,876 hectares around the city were transformed into forests of olive trees. The municipality also created green spaces, recreational areas, linear parks along streets, and roof parks. The results vary from increasing the per capita green space rate to limiting the construction of unwanted settlements in the outskirts of the urban region.

Olive oil from the olive trees increased the municipal income. This project serves as a best practice example because of is professionalism and transferable instruments, and it increased the awareness about the benefits of planning and preserving tress in cities.

Sustainable Development Goals

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Shiraz, Iran

Size and population development
2011: 1,321,000, 1990: 935,000, 2025:1,643,000, 2010-2015: +1,7% / year

Population composition
majority of Persians with strong Jewish and Baha'i communities

Main functions
cultural, historical, and industrial centre

Main industries / business
electronics, metal, cement, fertilizers, textiles, and wood

Political structure
Mayoral system with an islamic City Council

Administrative structure
23 neighborhoods

Shiraz has a “green background”. The city was once famous for its parks and gardens, which moved due to other urban needs. The project faces three different categories of challenges and problems: ecological, economic, and social.

  • Ecology: A main problem in large cities is air and water pollution due to the industrial sector and private means of transportation. A city without trees is hardly able to provide healthy living conditions for their inhabitants. Therefore, the project’s main objective focuses on the environmental category by improving the air and water quality in Shiraz. Another ecological problem is the constant consumption of energy. By planting and preserving trees, the city of Shiraz tries to reduce energy consumption. The project should also reduce the intensity and volume of water runoff (by building roof gardens), urban flooding (by extending the green belt and controlling floods in the heights), and prevent soil erosion in the heights (by cultivating appropriate plant species).
  • Economy: The project’s economic goal aims to reduce energy costs and create municipal income by harvesting olives and olive oil from olive trees.
  • Social: The project aims to improve the social situation of marginalised people. Through the assumption that green areas improve social inclusion, the social objective aims to lower the crime rates and signalize to marginalised people that efforts are taking place to improve their living situation. The first target group of the project are all inhabitants of the city of Shiraz, with a special focus on marginalized people, who live in areas with high unemployment and crime rates. The second target group are the national and international tourists that visit Shiraz.

The Shiraz - the Green City project consists of four sub-projects, which are carried out simultaneously: the Urban Forest Development Project, the Roof Parks, the Linear Parks, and the Rooftop Gardens. Urban Forest Development Project: This project aims to plant trees in an area of 14,195 hectares in the heights and mountains surrounding the city. 2,876 hectares of land have already been planted and 600 hectares are already economically profitable. This economical success is achieved by planting high amounts of olive trees which produce olive oil that is sold by the municipality.

  • The Barme Shour Olive Plantation Project has been nominated by the International Olive Council as the biggest olive garden in the world. The costs for the Barme Shour Olive Garden are estimated at 28,892,019 USD. There are altogether eight planting projects within the Urban Forest Development Project. The majority of the planted trees are olive trees (13,500 hectares), but needle leaf trees and almond trees have also been planted. The total cost of all these planting projects is estimated at 87,867,883 USD.
  • Roof Parks: The lack of green space in the downtown area led the municipality of Shiraz to the idea of roof parks. The objective is to create recreational spaces within the city, mainly on the roof of multi-storey car parks. This would reduce the intensity of urban water runoff. There are six roof parks planned, of which two are already under construction. These two car parks, with an area of 5,000 sq. m., will be built by the municipality of Shiraz with estimated costs of 420,000 USD. The other four roof parks will be planned in cooperation with private sector entities. The total area of roof parks is estimated to be 23,560 sq. m. Estimated costs are not yet available.
  • Linear Parks: Linear parks will make the city ascetically beautiful and create a suitable appropriate path for pedestrians in which they can spend their free time. The first park was built along the Chamran Boulevard in 2008, covering an area of 10 hectares. Eight other linear parks have been built with a total area of 43 hectares (including the Chamran Boulevard). The total costs of this project were 7,950,000 USD.
  • Roof Gardens: The construction of roof gardens is another way of dealing with the limited space for green projects within the city. The municipality encourages construction companies and the public to use the method of roof gardens in their projects. The encouragement could be tax abatement, if the requirements of the municipality are fulfilled. The steering committee for the project, that is constituted by the members of the “Parks and Green Spaces Organization” of the municipality of Shiraz, works together with the local university.

The overall time frame for the project is from 2008 to 2018. The main stakeholders involved are the Shiraz Municipality, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Agriculture, the Agriculture Bank, and the Organization of Municipalities. Furthermore the partnerships with the private sector help to finance the project.

The total budget for the project is 101,035,883 USD. This budget is financed by different sources. The development budget of the Shiraz Municipality, the Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Agriculture contributed financial resources, as well as the Agriculture Bank and the Organization of Municipalities, who enabled loan facilities for the project. For example, the Agriculture Bank created loan facilities for the pressurized irrigation system. Furthermore, partnerships with the private sector help to finance the project. Private sector investors who intend to build a touristic attraction, which fits to the general plan of the project and confirms with the development plan of the city, are allowed to build without paying taxes. They only have to fulfil the condition of creating recreational spaces of public use. As an alternative, the municipality could receive the taxes to spend it on green space development.

The increased per capita green space from 13 sq. m. to 85 sq. m. (after the project is fully implemented) is one of the main results. Environmental pollution and heat islands are combated by creating peripheral and central green spaces. Another result is the prevention of “illegal” constructions and settlements around city borders. The intensity and volume of water runoff (by building roof gardens) and urban floods (by the expansion of the green belt and controlling the floods in the heights) are also positive results.

There are four categories of impacts:

  • Social impacts: By increasing the number of recreational spots (linear parks and mountain parks) more people can enjoy their free time in a way that minimizes psychological problems caused by urbanization. The possibility to exercise at the built sport facilities enhances citizens’ health and also positively impacts the youth, who are less likely to turn to drugs or commit crimes.
  • The cultural impact: When the project has been fully implemented, it will promote nature tourism.
  • The economic impacts: The building of green spaces and roof gardens minimizes the costs that are usually caused by water runoff or urban floods. Over 80 percent of the oil consumed in the country is imported. By planting olive trees, the city will be able to produce olive oil and thereby be less dependent imports.
  • The urban impacts: The project increases the ground water resources and will produce 325,000 cubic meters of oxygen each day, which improves the air quality in the city.

Overall barriers for further implementation of the project can be the general political situation in Iran and the impacts it has on both the interior politics as well as the politics with other states (for example the impacts of an embargo). Another potential future barrier may be the situation of the “illegal” settlers around the city, for whom the city municipality has to build houses etc. It is unrealistic to combat this problem only by planting trees. This situation could also lead to further conflicts. The climatic situation could also be a barrier towards the implementation, especially the low amount of annual rainfall (307 millimetres). This barrier was recognized and handled by constructing a water transfer system which pumps the water of the Shiraz Plain to a height of 646 meters. Furthermore, the project focuses on citizen volunteers to plant trees on private property (roof gardens) due to lack of green spaces. This is a good way to involve the inhabitants of Shiraz to be part of the project, but it also could lead to problems, if there are no volunteers. The cultivation of olive trees in gigantic mono-cultures could also lead to ecological barriers.

The liaison between different authorities (state and local authorities) was recognized and led to a nation-wide law proposing similar projects (covering a total area of 40 thousand hectares) to be carried out in the Fars Province. There was also an agreement signed by other cities to follow this example. The roof garden project can easily be transferred to other public, governmental, or private buildings all over the country. For this purpose, a set of codes was defined to specify, which variety or species is suitable for intensive or extensive green space. If transferred, urban greening plans could also shape the characteristics of different cities involving the climatic differences in the planting of trees. The usage of olive trees for the greening of 13,500 hectares is a good idea to combine the ecological, economical, and social targets. There are greening projects all over the world, but the planting of food producing plants is not yet very common. There is a huge potential to overcome different through this strategy. The further development in the course of the project is the objective to turn Shiraz into a fully green city. The next steps will be to design and build the necessary buildings and provide the required facilities to create parks. The increased partnership with the private sector should increase tourism in the city. Another plan is to use the area where the forest development project is carried out as a place for sports such as grass skiing or archery.

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Camille Toggenburger
Berlin, Germany

Camille Toggenburger

Individual | Community and Content Manager | urban sustainability exchange

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