Amman is wonderful, but overpopulated

amman jordan
Amman “is indisputably the heart of our country”, but other areas are in need of development too, writes Rasoul Kailani. (Photo: Unsplash)
From the culturally rich and historic streets of Jabal Amman to the modern mega malls of Abdali and Abdoun, Amman is a wonderfully diverse and cosmopolitan city, and it is indisputably the heart of our country. اضافة اعلان

That being said, both public and private institutions have put too much emphasis on this fact, which practically forces Jordanians from smaller provincial towns to migrate to Amman for a greater sense of opportunity.

The population of the city and its metropolis has increased from almost 900,000 in 1979, to 1.864 million in 1999, and today it sits at over four million.

Amman has grown more quickly than it can manage, with a whopping rate of almost 2,400 per

The city could not make the necessary adjustments in time to accommodate a large mix of economic migrants and refugees from war-torn neighboring countries, resulting in an overwhelmingly congested city.

Residents of Amman will testify that the roads barely fit the indescribable amount of cars that pass through them.

Yara Shahzadeh, an Amman-born interpreter who has lived there for the majority of her life has told me that it is very difficult to drive in the city and this has translated to the city’s actual living spaces as well.

“Villas and homes used to be common, you would never see apartment buildings before.

But I guess this happens with urban expansion,” Shahzadeh said. Areas to walk and bike in are scarce, and making the necessary space for more public transport is quite the challenge (although the “Fast Bus” is a slight improvement in this regard).

In this article, I wanted to look at the reasons for Amman’s overcrowding and how those problems could possibly be fixed.

For one, Jordan’s private sector is almost completely based in Amman. In a list of Jordan’s 26 most prominent companies, only four were based outside of Amman, an extremely disproportionate statistic given that 42 percent of Jordan’s population lives in and around the capital.

The newest one of these companies was founded in 1985, indicating that the exclusive focus on Amman has substantially increased in the last few decades.

Understandably, it would be difficult for private companies to set themselves up in smaller cities, but many larger municipalities in Jordan do not experience much private sector growth.

For example, Irbid has almost 1 million people living there, yet none of the 26 companies are based there.

This fact spurs Jordanians who want to “make it big” to move to the capital. The underlying reason for this is the disparity of funding between Amman and other cities in Jordan.

In 2016, the World Bank found that JD430 million were allocated to the Greater Amman Municipality. The following year, the municipal government of Zarqa, the third largest city in Jordan, received a mere JD28 million in funding, despite the fact that 635,160 people were there as of the last census.

Thus, the government must find a way to allocate and bring revenue into other parts of Jordan, lest its capital becomes too packed and unlivable.

Investing outside the capital

Although Jordan is a resource-poor nation, various solutions can spread opportunity, and in turn, people, into other governorates.

Maan, often overlooked as a small and isolated desert town, could be converted into a bustling metropolis if its governorate’s solar power was utilized.

Maan Governorate has a rate of solar capability that is almost unmatched by any other part of the country, as it is located in an area with near constant sunlight.

Even though Maan has the capability to provide solar energy for the entire region, it only provides around 5 percent of Jordan’s electrical energy.

If the government engages in the mass construction of solar plants there, many workers might be attracted to help build the project, with planners, administrators, and engineers moving in to supervise.

Such an endeavor could bring human and intellectual capital to the second lowest developed region in Jordan.

The job growth there will mean it would no longer be necessary for Maanis seeking opportunities to go to Amman, and it could also attract people out of Amman, allowing for a more spacious city.

The northern governorates of Jordan, namely Irbid, Ajloun, Jerash, and Balqa are known nationwide for their spectacular and green scenery, but little has been done to promote this specific aspect of that region on a global scale.

Should Jordan’s tourism board promote the beautiful mountains of the north to private companies, they could build resorts and infrastructure geared towards tourists, in turn providing job opportunities, financial growth, and a reason for residents in the area’s smaller towns to stay.

This is similar to the mountain retreats that exist in much of Europe or closer to home in Trabzon, Turkey, now an extremely popular destination.

The same phenomenon of reverse migration that is possible in Maan could occur there as more expansion requires more people.

A subway wouldn’t fix Amman

To reduce the amount of congestion in Amman, it is necessary to come up with an efficient method of public transportation.

Although the new “Fast Bus” is a start, it doesn’t make a terribly large amount of change.

For one, although there would be less vehicles on the road, there still would be vehicles on the road, and for Amman’s roads to clear up, a substantially large amount of people need to take a non-vehicular means of transport.

One might think a metro or subway system would solve this issue at first, but this seems unlikely to work in Amman’s case.

That is due to the fact that a city needs to be built around a subway system, rather than the other way around.

For instance, New York City possesses one of the longest subway systems in the world, built in 1904.

The very concept of a subway is synonymous with the city and a whopping 42 percent of all residents use the train as their main method of commuting.

Because of how long ago it was built, much of New York City was built with the subway in mind, making it an effective and convenient way of getting where one needs to be.

On the other hand, Cairo, another congested Middle Eastern capital, built a metro system in 1988 and while it is fairly expansive, most of the city was built before the metro was, meaning it is not as advantageous as New York’s system.

This is probably why only 2 percent of those living in Cairo actually use the metro as their main means of transportation.

Amman is already quite large, so a metro system would not really do much to clear up the city’s roads.

Instead, an interesting solution that has been implemented in much of Latin America might do the trick.

Medellin, Colombia, had the idea of making a metro cable its main means of transport. With stops around the city, it is cost-efficient, climate-friendly, and has significantly reduced congestion.

It has also made distant suburbs of the city more accessible and prosperous. This could have the effect of spreading people and opportunities away from the city center.

The system has become popular that it has been implemented in other Latin American cities, like Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Should Amman follow this example, the city and its people might benefit immensely.

In conclusion, in order to make Amman a city where people can once again move freely, solutions must be implemented within the city, as well as in other parts of Jordan in order to stem rapid growth.

Should these suggestions be followed, not only might Amman be a much more comfortable place to live in, but the other, often neglected areas of Jordan could see a large amount of growth and prosperity come their way.

Read more Opinion and Analysis