Monday, 18 January 2021

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The promise of sustainable cities

Flickr Pedro Moura Pinheiro  2.0 Generic CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

31 October 2014 – Urban areas are expanding everywhere in the world, over half of the world’s population now living in cities. The trend is most striking in the developing world, as the numbers of the developing world’s population living in urban areas have expanded almost twice as fast as the total population growth.

Because of inadequate and unsustainable infrastructure, the expansion of cities is currently contributing to global challenges such as high levels of poverty, unemployment and environmental problems. It is therefore crucial to change course and lead urbanization towards a more sustainable path – which we highlight on the first ever International World Cities Day (WCD) on 31 October.

Flickr Inhabitat Blog Creative CommonsA better future for the world’s cities in both developed and developing world is not only essential – but also possible through innovative, creative solutions in urban policy and planning.

Flickr Harald Felgner 2.0 Generic CC BY-NC-SA 2.0An example of innovative sustainable urban planning is Masdar City in Abu Dhabi - the world’s first experiment to create a zero-carbon, zero-waste city in the desert. In the city, the temperature in the streets generally remains 15 to 20°C cooler than the surrounding desert. The temperature difference is due to Masdar's unique construction: a 45-meter high wind tower modeled on traditional Arab designs sucks air from above and pushes a cooling breeze through Masdar's streets. Masdar’s initial design has also banned automobiles, as travel will be accomplished via public mass transit and personal rapid transit (PRT) systems, with existing road and railways connecting to other locations outside the city.

Another ambitious example of green urban planning comes from Helsinki, Finland. The city’s goal is to transform its existing public transport system completely by the year 2025, to such an extent that it would make private car ownership pointless. This innovative plan will involve not only providing more buses, trains, or taxis, but a whole new transport infrastructure based on newest technology making all these services accessible through an online platform.

“The human future is largely an urban future”, says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message for the International Day. “We must get urbanization right, which means reducing greenhouse emissions, strengthening resilience, ensuring basic services, such as water and sanitation, and designing safe public streets and spaces for all to share. Liveable cities are crucial not only for city-dwellers but also for providing solutions to some of the key aspects of sustainable development.”

Related links:
World Cities Day Official Page
FAO on Greener Cities
Guardian article on Helsinki’s plan of urban mobility

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