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Eco-city

Info: 3187 words (13 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Environment

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The concept of “eco-city” is sometimes regarded as a utopian concept that is not possible to achieve in totality in the real world. Write an essay to present your understanding and evaluation of the concept, using appropriate examples for illustration.

The next new wave in city planning is “Eco-City” in response to global climate changes crisis. It is a relatively new concept, combining together ideas from several disciplines such as urban design, urban planning, transportation, health, housing, energy, economic development, natural habitats, public participation, and social justice (Register 1994). In simple word, Eco-city is settlement where it allows the citizen to live and work using minimum resources.

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In the past, most of the cities are small and within walk able distance till 1800. But the advent of industrial revolution changed all that, along with the many changes it bought about. The harnessing of steam engine make it possible for people and thing to move fast, that city which once was capable of handling itself could no longer sustain. The cities become crowded and that the living conditions become deplorable. So, the people moved to the suburbs. But along with the growth of suburban town and cities, the roads need to rebuild, housing needs increases along with consumptions of natural resources.

Although the Industrial Revolution is extremely beneficial for the human and it had other consequences which are detrimental to the environment in the longer term. In physical terms, the revolution included a dramatic switch from the reliance on organic materials and energy sources to inorganic sources-that is, from wood and thatch for construction to bricks and iron; from human, water, wind, and animal power to fossil fuels(White, R.R.,2001, Sustainable Development in Urban Areas: An Overview). At the same time, Industrial revolution brought about population growth as people live longer. People become wealthier and they required more “throughput” and created more waste. Economist Herman Daly describes this transformation as increasing “throughput” of the materials, energy, and water that people now required for their daily needs (Daly and Cobb 1990).

This caused accumulation of waste in the water, on the land, and in the air at very alarming rate. The natures of waste stream from human activities become complex and problematical due to chemical industry. Human and animals waste which are once broken down naturally by river became sewers. Everywhere rubbish dumps soon grew into vast nondegradable materials that soon fill many areas becoming a major feature of city in many parts of the world. The challenges from urbanization are becoming nightmare as more people are expected to move into city putting pressure on resources.

Ecocity originated in 1975 when Richard register and few friends founded Urban Ecology in Berkeley, California, as Non-profit organisation to make built our cities in balance with nature. According to Register (1994), the purpose of urban ecology was to build in Berkeley a “slow street” which is to have many trees along road, solar green houses, energy ordinance, establish good and efficient public transport, promoting pedestrainization as alternative to automobile, holding regular conference meeting with different stake holder.

But it was until the publications of Register’s visionary new book called Eco-city Berkeley in 1987, that the urban ecology gained momentum (Roseland, 2001). And the organisation’s new journal called The Urban Ecologist. The organisation held First International Eco-City Conference, in Berkeley in 1990 and ever since it held conference every year inviting people from around the world to discuss urban problems and to submit proposal for designing our cities based on ecological principles.[1]

In 1992, David Engwicht, an Australian community activist, published Towards an Eco-City, in which he talks about how city planners and engineers have virtually eliminated effective human interaction by buildings more roads, shopping malls, gutting communities and increasing dense traffic. For Engwicht, a city is a place for inventions of maximizing exchanging and having minimized travel distance. The book was later reissued in North America as Reclaiming Our Cities and Towns (1993). Engwicht talks about how city planners and engineers have eliminated effective human exchange by building more roads, taking commerce out of the cities into strip malls, gutting communities, and increasing traffic fatalities. A city is an invention for maximizing exchange and minimizing travel (Engwicht, 1993). He advocates eco-city where there is transaction of all sorts of goods, money, ideas, emotions, genetic material, etc and where people move freely via foot, bicycles, and mass transit and interact freely without fear of traffic and pollutions.

But it was until the 1960’s, the use of fossil fuels, chemically controlled agriculture, deforestation and depletion of marine resources was thought to be not in dangers. In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission), released a summary report called “our Common Future” which cause widespread concerns on world deepening environmental degradation(WCED 1987). And this pushed sustainable development on the forefront. Various industries and sector are also going for sustainable development. The issue of sustainable planning is also a concern for planner, urban designer, construction industries, development authority and the population at large.

Register, Engwicht and Urban Ecology certainly deserve credit for popularizing the term “eco-city” in the last decade, but the eco-city concept is strongly influenced by other movements as well(Roseland, 2001).

The mission of Urban Ecology is to create ecological cities based on the following 10 principles (Urban Ecology 1996b):

1. Revise land-use priorities to create compact, diverse, green, safe, pleasant, and vital mixed-use communities near transit nodes and other transportation facilities.

2. Revise transportation priorities to favor foot, bicycle, cart, and transit over autos, and to emphasize “access by proximity.”

3. Restore damaged urban environments, especially creeks, shore lines, ridgelines, and wetlands.

4. Create decent, affordable, safe, convenient, and racially and economically mixed housing.

5. Nurture social justice and create improved opportunities for women, people of color, and the disabled.

6. Support local agriculture, urban greening projects, and community gardening.

7. Promote recycling, innovative appropriate technology, and resource conservation while reducing pollution and hazardous wastes.

8. Work with businesses to support ecologically sound economic activity while discouraging pollution, waste, and the use and production of hazardous materials.

9. Promote voluntary simplicity and discourage excessive consumption of material goods.

10. Increase awareness of the local environment and bioregion through activist and educational projects that increase public awareness of ecological sustainability issues.

The practical application of these principles has not been really encouraging for many years until literature that promotes the ideas began to appear. It appears in different terminology as per the oreintations of the authors. The Authors include Designers, Practitioners, Visionaries and Activists, and the terminology includes everything from neotraditional town planning, pedestrian pockets, reurbanization, post-industrial suburbs, sustainable cities, green cities and eco-communities. The Designers category includes architects, planners, consultants, and related professionals whose main focus in on the costs of sprawl and sustainability by design.

The activists are most parts, writers, community activists and environmentalists who placed emphasis on community change within the context of society toward a more sustainable way from anti-ecological ways.

The practitioners and visionaries are between the above two. The Practitioners represent politicians, local government professionals (staff from development authority, environmental management, etc) whose emphasis is more public sectors decision-makers.

The Visionaries category includes agriculturists, economists, architects, planning theorists, and appropriate technologists. Visionaries’ literature is often directed toward professionals, academics, and other citizens concerned with issues such as energy conservation, appropriate technology, and community economic development.

Although, the authors’ orientation has discernible differences in analysis, emphasis, and strategy between the variations as shown in table-1, the “eco-city” theme is can encompass any and all of them.

Orientation

Focus

Means

Designers

Architects, plan-

New develop-

Reducing sprawl; design to

ners, consultants,

ments

encourage the revival of

and related profes-

public life (e.g., townscapes,

sionals

streetscapes, malls and squares)

Practitioners

Politicians, local

Existing settle-

Local initiatives to create

government profes-

ments, munici-

local sustainable develop-

sionals, citizens and community organi­zations

palities

ment action strategies

Visionaries

Agriculturists,

Communities of

Reducing resource waste;

economists, archi-

association and

energy efficiency, stressing

tects, planning the-

of interest, as

passive solar heating and

orists, and

well as of place

cooling; encouraging local

appropriate tech-

food production and reli-

nologists

ance on local resources; fos­tering creation of on-site jobs and neighborhood stores to revitalize commu­nities and eliminate waste­ful commuting

Activists

Writers and com-

Human-scale,

Decentralized, grass roots,

munity activists

sustainable set-

cooperative development

who consider them- tlements based

selves bioregional-

on ecological bal-

ists, social

ance, commu-

ecologists, and vari- nity self-reliance,

ous other kinds of

and participa-

environmentalists

tory democracy

TABLE 1 Comparisons of the Literature Catagories

Citizen organizations and municipal officials in cities and towns around the world have recently started experimenting on this eco-city concept to meet the social and environmental challenges (Roseland 1997, 1998). Chattanooga and the San Francisco Bay Area in the U.S., Ottawa, Hamilton-Wentworth, and Greater Toronto in Canada, and Curitiba in Brazil are some of the earliest cities where this concept has been successfully applied.

Curitiba, a small Brazilian city, is one of the most sustainable cities in the world. It has received international recognition for its integrated transportation and land-use planning, and for its waste management programs. The city’s success is due to strong leadership-city officials who focused on simple, flexible, and affordable solutions that can be done at the local level and adapted to changing conditions. Throughout the project, the government promoted a strong sense of public participation by looking at city problems, talk to the people, discuss the main issues, and only then reach for the pen (Rabinovitch 1996). Jonas Rabinovitch, adviser to Curitiba Mayor Jaime Lerner, believes the lesson to be learned from Curitiba is that creativity can substitute for financial resources (Rabinovitch 1996).

Emboldened by the success of the above projects, Designer and local government are planning for massive overhaul of traditional way of city planning. They are looking at a way to plan new cities incorporating the entire above concept.

China, one of the world most populous countries in the world, faced massive environmental problem. It has emerged as major industrial power but at a great cost. The environment degradation are so severe that it is a cause for concern in china and could have international repercussions. Since pollution know no boundaries. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides produce by China’s coal-fired power plants fall as acid rain on Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo. Suspended particulate over Los Angeles city originates in China, according to the Journal of Geophysical Research ( The New York Times.)

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The Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporation (SIIC) hired Arup in 2005, to design a city which would exclusively use sustainable energy (solar panels, wind turbines and bio-fuels), self-sufficient and reduce energy consumption by 66% in comparision to Shanghai. The eco-city of Dongtan, which is be located on the island of Chongming, not far from Shanghai will be one of the world largest eco-city to provide housing for 500,000 people from rural areas. The Dongtan city will cover about 8,800 hectares which is roughly equal to the size of Manhattan Island. Dongtan will have ecological footprint of 2.2 ha per person by means of a combination of behaviour change and energy efficiency which is very close to limit of sustainability of 1.9 ha set forth by World Wide Fund for Nature.

China is also partnering with Singapore to build eco-city in Tianjin based on three harmonies principles which are people-people, people-environment and people-economy. The 30-square-kilometer site is a wasted land and water scarcity area which will be built over a period of 15 years at a cost of around 50 billion yuan (S$10 billion). The criteria for selection of site are that it should be wasted land and water scarce area. First, restoring the jiyun river will be top priority for propose new city of 350,000. Renewable energy like solar and wind power, rainwater harvesting, wastewater treatment and desalination of sea water are some of the proposal.

United Arab Emirates has planned to build the world’s most sustainable city, called Masdar City, initiatives of Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company. It is an ambitious project which will cost $22 billion to build a new, zero-emissions city for 50,000 residents in Abu Dhabi. The project is launched in 2007 and is designed by world renowned British firm Foster + Partners, and received widespread coverage in the mainstream press. The propose new city will have new university, the Headquarters for Abu Dhabi’s Future Energy Company, special economic zones and an Innovation Center. According to the designer, Masdar eco-city is to be constructed in an energy efficient two-stage phase that depend on large photovoltaic power plant to meet energy needs, which later becomes the site for the city’s second phas.. The city is a car free, with a maximum walking distance of 200m to the nearest transport link and amenities. The streets are compact to encourage walking and are complemented by a personalised rapid transport system. Due to it compactness, the walkway and streets are shaded creating a pedestrian-friendly environment. The city will have wind, photovoltaic farms, research fields and plantations, so that it is entirely self-sustaining. Masdar City will be built in seven phases, the first of which is the Masdar Institute, which is set to be completed in 2010. The city’s phases will be progressively built over the next decade with the first phase reaching completion in 2013(Foster and Partner).

The idea of a city without any waste, landfill, car, self contained or without any carbon emission seem very desirable for a city but for some sceptic it a utopian dream which will never materialise. Sceptics are questioning whether totally designing a new city is possible incorporating all the eco-city concepts due to time and cost involved. They are concern that it might just be a strategy used to shield from environmental criticism while countries like China and UAE continue to grow along the same unsustainable path. Countries like China and UAE are in a position to fund such kind of projects and if it is successful it will create a precedent for other parts of the world as well.

Unfortunately, Dongtan eco-city never materialise. Although, Chinese President Hu Juntao and shanghai major has shown keen interest in the project, the first phase of construction which is to be ready for Shanghai expo 2010 has not even started. The Dongtan eco-city in spite of being a government endeavour has failed to materialise. The mayor of shanghai is caught in corruption charges too.

As for Masdar eco-city, work has already started for phase 1 as seen from fig 2 below. However, sceptics are concern that it might be just an isolated green in the desert where the rest of UAE proceed in the same line of big ecological footprint which is even bigger than United State. They are also apprehensive about the embodied energy used in buildings and infrastructure which are very high. The heavy dependent on technology for personal rapid transport and infrastructure is another issues. Since the technology for personal rapid transport is not fully developed and co-ordinating infrastructure with different agencies is difficult.

 

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