The distinctive rectilinear plan of the old city of Herat and the surviving fabric of residential and commercial quarters makes it unique in the region. It has undergone a dramatic transformation since 2002, largely as a result of uncontrolled construction, which often entails the destruction of historic homes or commercial buildings. In order to address this situation, a series of surveys were undertaken to track the rapid changes that continue to take place.
In parallel, efforts have been made to formulate appropriate plans for key neighbourhoods, in order to preserve the unique character of the old city. An Old City Commission, comprising representatives of key urban institutions, now oversees urban development and upgrading within the confines of the historic quarter, with support from AKTC. This has helped to develop an awareness of the need to safeguard and strengthen official capacity to promote appropriate processes of development in the historic fabric. In 2005, AKTC initiated a process of mapping of all property in the old city of Herat, which has taken place in parallel with the conservation of five important historic houses and 17 public buildings, along with provision of small-scale grants to more than 70 households. In parallel with these efforts, support has been provided for the conservation of two cisterns, several community mosques and private houses, as well as for upgrading of the infrastructure in two quarters of the old city. This work alone has generated more than 60,000 work/days of employment. Based on surveys of living conditions, investments have been made in repairs or reconstruction of 2,500 metres of drain and laying of more than 4,000 metres² of stone paving in pedestrian alleyways. Along with the removal of solid and liquid waste, these measures have benefited more than half the residents of the Old City. With technical support from AKTC, an Old City Commission now oversees urban development and upgrading within the confines of the historic quarter, as well as formulating neighbourhood plans and raising public awareness of the need for safeguarding in the Old City and beyond.