ِAssessing land use /cover changes under political transitions using remote sensing and geographic information systems
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Currently, half of the world‘s population live in an urban environment and urbanization is increasing rapidly. Consequently, the world will face a significant increase in demand for land in urban and peri-urban areas in order to satisfy the needs of urban residents for housing and other services. Thus, planners and urban managers need to understand the dynamic of land use change in order to reduce the negative impacts such changes on social, economic and environment of cities. This study aimed to explore and evaluate land use changes in the Ramallah area, a region which has experienced a significant increase in urban population during the last decade, mainly due to the political conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Satellite images from 1990 to 2003 were used to acquire land use/cover data. This study then, used Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques to monitor and evaluate land use changes for these periods. Based on the analysis, it was found that there was a close association between political transformations and land use changes in the Palestinian urban environment. The size of urban land use decreased or experienced no expansion during the occupation stage (1990-1996), experienced rapid urban expansion during the autonomy stage (1996-2000), and increased at a decreasing rate during the re-occupation stage (2000-2003). The findings could be used to help urban planners and managers to establish more control of future urban expansion and land use change in urban environments which experience political instability.