Today, it is recognized that social, cultural, economic and environmental considerations are completely interconnected. In the city context, this means that sustainable urban development is not a choice but a necessity if cities are to meet the needs of their citizens. Urban centers must be socially equitable, culturally aligned, economically successful and environmentally sustainable if cities are indeed to be the home of humanity’s future.
Successful city development cannot operate efficiently in isolation from its environment. It must balance social, cultural, economic and environmental needs. A successful city must offer investors security, infrastructure and efficiency, and should also put the needs of its citizens at the forefront of all its planning activities. Poor urban planning and management can have grave results for the urban economy, the environment and society.
Poorly managed urban settlements will be unable to keep pace with urban expansion, and unserviced slums will proliferate, bringing with them poor health, poverty, social unrest and economic inefficiency. Environmental hazards are responsible for the most common causes of ill-health and mortality among the urban poor.
Local governments have an enormous influence on how urban-environment relationships develop, and on how their cities interact with their hinterlands and with the wider global community. Effective local governance can make cities more competitive, more efficient and more attractive to investors and workers by promoting the sustainable development of the urban environment.
Sustainable development is multi-dimensional. It requires an understanding ofcomplex and often conflicting relationships. These issues call for an integrated approach and an integration culture. A variety of strategic approaches to integrating the environment into the urban planning process exist. Environmental activities can be targeted at different levels.
No single recipe for managing change can be applied to all cities. Cities are affected by their location, their climate and natural features. Cities and urban settlements don’t operate in isolation—they are part of a national structure, subject to central government, strengthened or limited by regional and national infrastructure, budgetary policies, development priorities, decentralization policies.
Clean air is essential to a healthy environment.
Rivers and water bodies provide drinking water and act as natural pollution filters.
Biodiversity is essential for food, materials, medicine and improved quality of life, not just locally but also globally. Biospheres range far beyond the boundaries of a city, and urban activity in a single location can damage forests thousands of kilometres away, or disrupt migratory patterns. Biodiversity increases the resilience of ecosystems to environmental change.
Forests serve as watersheds, habitats, carbon sinks, leisure amenities and tourist destinations.
If managed sustainably, forests are also a source of energy and building materials.
Wetlands filter and process waste and act as a nursery for fisheries.
Sand dunes, coral reefs and mangroves protect cities from storm surges, prevent erosion and siltation, and in the case of the latter two act as nurseries for fisheries. Attractive coasts draw tourism.
Parks and greenbelts act as sinks for carbon dioxide (CO2) and counteract the heat island effect of large built-up areas. They also provide essential open space for urban residents, flora and fauna, counteract traffic noise and improve the general ‘liveability’ of a city.
The arguments for sustainable development are clear and universally accepted. For a city to grow and develop in the long term, it cannot disregard its environment. Theenvironment cuts across all sectors, income groups and management areas.
The foundation for Sustainable Urban Planning is building upon Clean Energy Technologies to stay on the sustainable energy path.
Key Elements of a Sustainable System
Consistent: the short term actions are compatible with long-term goals and the viability of the system;
Renewable: the system depends on renewable resources and operates using environmentally clean technologies;
Diverse: the more diverse a system is, the more able it is to adapt to needed change;
Inclusive: all elements of the system are valued and used for the good of both the individual parts and the whole;
Interdependent: each element of the system is both dependent on and depended on by several other elements; the greater the interconnection, the stronger the system.
Source:UN-Habitat & ICLEI