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Summer 2006

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Building a Nationwide Enterprise Geodatabase

Urban Planning Authority of Libya Leverages GIS

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The map above shows the four planning regions for Libya.
The utilization of GIS technology has proven crucial for Libya's nationwide planning project. The National Consulting Officers (NCO) planning departments and staff have been trained and can now use GIS efficiently. GIS provides the solution for storing and managing geographic and topographic information, and research can now be carried out with improved accuracy. The planning staff has an effective and user-friendly state-of-the-art tool for spatial data accessibility, efficient information retrieval, and flexible data sharing.

Libya covers more than 1,759,540 square kilometers (679,182 square miles), making it the 16th largest nation in the world. It is bounded to the north by the Mediterranean Sea and shares its border with Egypt and Sudan to the east, Niger and Chad to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west.

The country has a mostly dry, desert climate, though the northern regions enjoy a milder Mediterranean climate and there are a few scattered small oases. The Libyan desert is one of the most arid places on earth. In certain regions, decades may pass without rain; even in the highlands, rainfall happens sporadically.

The Libyan economy depends primarily upon revenues from the oil sector. These oil revenues, combined with Libya's small population, give Libya one of the most extensive and impressive levels of social security in the world. Libya has great potential, boasting a long undeveloped, unspoiled Mediterranean coastline; year-round sunshine; an abundance of millennia—old Greek and Roman architecture; and spectacular desert scenery—all within close proximity to Europe's major markets. Moreover, English and Italian are widely spoken in Libya's major cities.

The Urban Planning Authority (UPA), which is one of the pioneering agencies in using GIS technology in Libya, divides the country into four planning regions, assigning regions to NCOs as follows:

  • The Tripoli Region—National Consulting Bureau
  • The Fazan Region—Engineering Consulting Office for Utilities
  • The EI Khalij Region—Engineering Research and Consultation Bureau
  • The Ben Ghazi Region—Emara Engineering Consultants

UPA is also the main owner of a project called the Third Generation Planning Project, which aims at managing urban planning for all of Libya at different scales, such as regional, subregional, and detailed. The project covers the years between 2000 and 2025, centering substantial studies on social and natural resources, in addition to strategic projects—such as the Great Man-Made River Project, which is the largest water development scheme in the world and is being built to bring water from large aquifers under the Sahara Desert to coastal cities.

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Planners use GIS to store, manage, and display the urban development directions.
The Third Generation Planning Project provides comprehensive strategic plans for land-use decisions and urban planning for Libya throughout the specified period. Such plans offer guidance to decision makers, the planning commission, and the city councils in planning-related activities and provide a readable and handy reference to the development community and the general public.

The four NCOs rely on a variety of GIS tools and data collection techniques to sustain data maintenance. These tools enhance the overall project performance as they facilitate data accessibility, retrieval, and sharing. Considering GIS a key success factor for this project, the NCOs contracted Alkan Libya to be responsible for the GIS component of the project, providing the necessary GIS tools; performing professional services, including building an enterprise geodatabase for the Third Generation Planning Project; conducting the required training; and providing ongoing support.

The NCO GIS departments use ArcGIS technology (ArcInfo, ArcView), ArcSDE, and ArcIMS to administer the central geodatabase, integrate data with attributes, perform GIS functions, and publish spatial data on the Internet via map services. All the data, including various types of satellite images and aerial photos, is maintained within ArcSDE.

Building a unified spatially enabled geographic data model is the basic foundation for this project. The data model represents all agencies related to urban, utility, transportation, and socioeconomic studies, accompanied by details, relationships, connectivity rules, and the metadata structure. This model, the advanced querying, and geoprocessing capabilities of ArcGIS provided planners with a decision support tool for the project.

The central geodatabase repository enables all stakeholders, such as planners and researchers, to access spatial data relative to urban, environmental, socioeconomic, transportation, utility services, flood control, and public safety issues.

More Information

For more information, contact Haytham Abdel-Moniem, project manager (e-mail:

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