TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE CITIES
By Francis Mandaza & Neo Batakathi
The last decade has seen a massive urban sprawl owing to rural-urban migration in Zimbabwe as well as in Africa. Interestingly, in Zimbabwe, the city planning aspect has not changed much to provide sufficient social services and infrastructure to match the new demand. The vehicle population has been increasing exponentially raising traffic congestion challenges that stifle economic activities. The need for building and engendering sustainable cities, that are dynamic and resilient cannot be overemphasized as many cities are vulnerable to climate and natural disasters. Rapid growth is a double-edged sword, on the other hand, it brings opportunities but also comes with social, economic, and environmental challenges.
Important global institutions have enacted the concept of sustainable cities and communities. This is only one element of the Global Cities Agenda 2030. In 2015, United Nations General Assembly issued their Sustainable Development Goals to be met by the year 2030. Since then, governments all over the world have adopted various sustainability goals in their local government policies. Corporations are a key cog in developing nations such as Zimbabwe in building cities that are environmentally, socially, and economically efficient as their new corporate social responsibility.
Findings from a survey conducted by GobalGoals.org indicate that one billion of the world’s population are urbanites. Another subset consists of one and a half billion people living in counties that have repeated cycles of violence. The global population of communities that have been severely affected by natural disasters has tripled since 2013. An analysis of related surveys has shown that the burden of disasters, regional conflicts, crime and violence falls disproportionately on the poor. If corporates take a more agile position toward building environmentally clean and efficient communities; communities that are resilient to natural and socio-economic shocks; communities that welcome the marginalized and lastly economically productive communities as stipulated by the World Bank’s Urban, Disaster Risk Management, Resilience and Land Global Practice (GPURL).
Sustainable cities are smart cities that are resilient to natural disasters and pandemics. Local authorities are the immediate and relevant champions of sustainability issues. Every city must have a comprehensive and responsive disaster management plan to secure its habitats. Recent disasters like Cyclone Idai and of course the global Covid19 pandemic are still fresh in our minds, and most local authorities were caught flat footed. Embracing sustainable cities is therefore embracing safety of human life.
Nevertheless, “Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can co-exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations,” defines United States’ Environment Protect Agency (EPA). This definition will make it easier to break down the sustainability framework into achievable corporate activities.
What does a sustainable city entail?
- Trafficability and Accessibility of Cities
Cities aiming for sustainability can build paths, bike bridges and sidewalks, which encourage citizens to walk, ride, or commute using public transport. This in turn reduces traffic congestion, reduces harmful emissions, and generally enhances air quality, health, and wellness.
Smart cities have automated traffic controllers that manages traffic congestion. Safer cities have smart ICT driven solutions for mitigating crime and dealing with offenders. In progressive cities, traffic offenses are detected through CCTV enhanced enforcement systems. The dangerous high speed chases witnessed in Zimbabwe between enforcement officers and offenders that normally end in tragedy have no place in sustainable cities.
2. Promote Green Economy
Cities targeting carbon neutrality must include Electric Vehicle charging stations in their sustainable city planning. Urban areas can incentivize the construction of these stations, and planners can team up with developers to map out appropriate locations for charging stations. The results will be low transport costs, reduced carbon emissions and lesser expenditure on traffic management infrastructure. Renewable Energy is a key component of sustainable cities. Moving towards cleaner sources of energy like solar, gas and wind is an act of self-protection for human kind and future generations.
3.Provide Public Access to Green spaces
Infrastructure designs and urban landscaping can go a long way toward enhancing public resources and making cities more environmentally vibrant. Some of the benefits of this feature include habitable urban centers; assistance for a varied ecosystem, including birds, bees and butterflies; improved mental health for residents and improved intracity mobility.
City Parking adopted Julius Nyerere Way road island for beautification as part of efforts to renew the city and provide the right ambience and aesthetics fit for sustainable city. Again, corporates could do more in every city to augment government efforts.
4. Improve Water Conservation and Waste Management
Dubai is counted as a self-sustainable city owing to its investments in renewable energy. The city is powered by clean energy produced by recycling water and waste, has 60% green space irrigated with grim wastewater, and has banned single-use plastic bags (www.digi.com).
Cities can enhance water conservation and waste management through sustainable urban planning. With water shortages increasing globally, technology to monitor water systems and provide leak detection is crucial, along with incentives for citizens and businesses to save water.
Equally, waste disposal processes can be adjusted to fit into the bigger economy. Programs to minimize waste by recycling, composting, and repurposing materials have proven to help cities such as Dubai to attain sustainable waste management.
Ideally, a sustainable city has fewer water shortages; has enough water for recreational purposes, reduced waste, and less environmental pollution
5. Implement Green Architecture
Paris, France is reported to be leading in green building technology, implementing practices such as using materials that capture and release solar heat to aid in the heating and cooling of buildings.
Green architects are learning innovative ways to reduce resource use and lower greenhouse gas emissions — from using natural building materials and solar panels, to improving ventilation and insulation, planting more shade trees and installing smart HVAC systems.
In Harare, the iconic East Gate building was designed to allow natural weather control. It was designed like a mole hill that gives ventilation during the day and warms itself up during cooler nights. This architectural beauty designed by Zimbabwean architect Mike Pearce is one of the most environmentally friendly building, endowed with plants and vegetation, it was built with sustainability in mind.
6. Promote urban farming.
Food is the second most demanded city resource after energy. Urban farming enhances food production, reduces food insecurity, and mitigates the environmental effects of food transportation. Urban farming practices include vertical gardens, rooftop farming, community gardens, and the growing of food by schools and restaurants.
Companies depend largely on the sustainability of the communities in which they operate. With sustainability goals so vast, the scale at which they are tackled cannot be an issue of discussion. What should be discussed is whether your organization has begun to think, plan or budget around sustainable community responsibilities. Kudos to you if you have not only planned but acted on the plan. The world is fast changing, in as much as the rapid growth of world communities has brought more opportunities for corporates, the story doesn’t end there! A new era of serious corporate responsibility has begun and this time around corporates will reap exactly what they sow in their respective communities.