In this post
- Sustainable cities
- Challenges to sustainable cities
- Climate Change
- Urban development
- Migration & Displacement
As people move towards metropolitan cities for better job opportunities, and a better lifestyle, the need for better-planned cities also increases. The World Bank (WB) highlights that an increasing number of people are migrating to cities, most rapidly in Asia and Africa, to seek better livelihoods. It notes that by 2050, with the urban population doubling its current size, nearly 70 out 100 people in the world will live in cities. Globally, governments are battling with finding the right measures to control urban sprawling and have equitable services provided to citizens. However, not many countries have been successful in doing this. Fighting for sustainable city mapping has been especially challenging for countries embattled with violence, refugees, and migrants.
The speed and scale of urbanization bring tremendous challenges, for example, as noted by the WB, widening income gaps, worsening pollution, and aging buildings and bridges are all telltale signs that today’s cities are struggling to keep up with city dwellers’ growing dreams for a sustainable, prosperous future. What happens next is how the city’s socio-economic well-being starts speaking for itself when slums and shanties can be seen everywhere, on encroached land. Encroachments create administrative menace and can cost governments a lot of money in terms of unpaid taxes, which in turn depletes the resources needed to run the city.
Therefore, experts everywhere are now working towards ensuring city sustainability and livability which typically comprises a number of factors.
What Do We Mean By Sustainable Cities In 2021?
Creating sustainable cities and communities is the 11th United Nations Sustainable Development Goal. Highlighting the importance of sustainable cities, former UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said, “Our struggle for global sustainability will be won or lost in cities.” For any city to be sustainable or fully functional, it is imperative that it fulfils the following functions:
- Basic necessities such as education, food, water, and health services.
- Sustainable energy supply and efficient resource use.
- Infrastructural development and social services such as public transport
- Civic space
This coronavirus pandemic has proven to us that most of the cities around the world are not sustainable, especially in terms of healthcare and city layout. People’s access to these amenities and services is based on their socio-economic status. This coupled with the fact that 2020 was the year we witnessed the most devastating storms and floods, further highlight that our cities are older, while our challenges are now much newer.
Challenges To Sustainable Cities
Some cities have made significant headways in creating a self-sustaining environment, however, this is not without many challenges.
Climate change is one such challenge that is endangering the sustainability of cities, globally. With its unknown magnitude, there is no way of knowing the exact nature of the magnitude of the danger. Especially vulnerable to this are cities along the coast or rivers as extreme weather conditions are raising water levels. Flooded cities exacerbate challenges of an already-overwhelmed city administration, and make people’s access to health, education, commercial activities, and public goods difficult.
With rain, thunderstorm or floods, the first sector to be affected is energy. Without electricity, it becomes difficult to identify the most-affected areas, carry out rescue operations, and provide healthcare. In most cases, local governments also battle with finding the right mechanisms to remove the water, which if left for too long can distort infrastructure as well. Infrastructure is an important feature of any urban city, and the layout of the city has to be properly developed by the town planners.
The urban development plans are a rather laborious process, however, are essential for the health of a city. All public buildings and goods have to be made accessible to each citizen, therefore, the metropolitan area needs to be designed equitably. This means that the residents of each locality must have access to a park, educational institution, water filtration system, a market, mosque, health clinic, security, sewerage system etc. All of these amenities have to be in addition to infrastructure such as a properly-planned road network, and access to public transportation.
For most cities, fighting the disparity between neighbourhoods is something that is making equitable access to amenities and facilities a rather difficult task. With inequitable access to security, street crimes also increase which further adds to the problems of city administration. If not addressed at the right time, the violence can grow to endanger the lives of many people, and also make it much harder to solve in the long run.
Good quality urban infrastructure is especially needed if the metropolitan serves as an economic hub, houses industries or prominent government buildings. While most governments are able to provide robust infrastructure, what they fail to realise is that it needs to be maintained and improved as the population increases. The number of public transportation facilities needed 10 years from now will in no way be the same as it is right now. Regular upgradation, modernization, and expansion is needed in metropolitan areas to match the ever-increasing need of facilities. For this reason, a comprehensive, yet flexible national urbanization plan is needed, as more people migrate to the city centers.
Addressing Mass Migration & Displacement
Mass migrations towards city centers are true for most countries as metropolitan areas offer the greatest number of economic opportunities. However, displacement occurs when a particular region of a country is experiencing some forms of violence, and to escape it, people are displaced to other more peaceful regions that can offer job opportunities as well.
As these people are fleeing violence, and in most cases the government is also unable to provide adequate resources, they start to live in shanties. If violence persists, and the flow of people is not properly regulated, people start building slums that can be a real hazard to the overall organizational plan of the city. This then burdens infrastructure and public transportation, making it harder for security agencies to carry out their work.
In countries like Pakistan, which has hosted the greatest number of Afghan refugees for over three decades, external displacement is a bigger problem than rural-urban migration. This nature of displacement is much more different, and creates its own set of problems as the refugees have to be rehabilitated, entered into the system, provided access to the same set of facilities and amenities which obviously is hard to cater to.
If any country wishes to be on the path of rapid development and urbanization, it readily needs to expand its services as well, but with refugees and mass displacement, it is not possible to do so. Most people move towards urban city centers looking for opportunities. One possible way this can be avoided is if governments create better job opportunities in other cities as well. This can be a long term solution that will definitely go a long way in ensuring the health of metropolitan cities.
If you live in a metropolitan area and want to share your experience, write to us at email@example.com. For more information, keep checking Pakistan’s largest property blog, Zameen Blog, for all the latest information on Pakistan’s property.