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Monday
Nov062017

Eco-Cities Up Close | 2013


Story: David South

Design and Layout: Solveig Rolfsdottir

Publication: Southern Innovator Issue 4: Cities and Urbanization

Publisher: United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)

Date: 2013

Eco-cities Up Close in Southern Innovator Issue 4.

An infographic showing planned and unplanned cities.

Meet Southern Innovator.

Southern Innovator Issue 4: Cities and Urbanization is published by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).

The first five issues of Southern Innovator. The highly influential magazine was distributed around the world and each issue was launched at the annual Global South-South Development (GSSD) Expo hosted by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).

© David South Consulting 2017 

Thursday
Jun252015

Global South Eco-cities Show How the Future Can Be

 

 

The world is currently undergoing a high-stress transition on a scale not seen since the great industrial revolution that swept Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today’s urban and industrial transition involves many more people and is taking place on a greater proportion of the planet. With rapid urbanization comes a demand for middle class lifestyles, with their high-energy usage and high consumption of raw materials.

This is stretching the planet’s resources to breaking point. And as many have pointed out, if the world’s population is to continue past today’s 7 billion to reach 9 billion and beyond, new ways of living are urgently required. Radical thinking will be necessary to match the contradictory goals of raising global living standards for the world’s poor with pressured resources and environmental conditions.

But there are innovative projects already under development to build a new generation of 21st-century cities that use less energy while offering their inhabitants a modern, high quality of life. Two examples are in China and the Middle East.

Both projects are seen as a way to earn income and establish viable business models to build the eco-cities of the future. Each project is seeking to develop the expertise and intellectual capacity to build functioning eco-cities elsewhere. In the case of the Masdar City project in the United Arab Emirates, international businesses are being encouraged to set up in Masdar City and to develop technologies that can be sold to other countries and cities – in short, to create a green technology hub akin to California’s hi-technology hub ‘Silicon Valley’. Masdar City is also being built in stages as investors are found to help with funding. Both projects hope to prove there is money to be made in being green and sustainable.

The Tianjin Eco-city (tianjinecocity.gov.sg) project is a joint venture between China and Singapore to build a 30 square kilometre city to house 350,000 residents.

Tianjin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tianjin) is a large industrial city southeast of China’s capital, Beijing. It is a place that wears the effects of its industrial expansion on the outside. Air pollution is significant and the city has a grimy layer of soot on most outdoor infrastructure.

China has received a fair bit of criticism for its polluted cities as the country has rapidly modernized in the past two decades. This sprint to be one of the world’s top economic powers has come at a cost to the environment. In this respect, China is not unusual or alone. Industrialization can be brutal and polluting, as Europe found out during its earlier industrial revolution.

But China is recognizing this can’t go on forever and is already piloting many initiatives to forge a more sustainable future and bring development and high living standards back in line with what the environment can handle.

Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city is the second large-scale collaboration between the Chinese government and Singapore. The first was the Suzhou Industrial Park (http://www.sipac.gov.cn/english/).The Tianjin project came up in 2007 as both countries contemplated the challenges of rapid urbanization and sustainable development.

The project’s vision, according to its website, is to be “a thriving city which is socially harmonious, environmentally-friendly and resource-efficient – a model for sustainable development.”

The philosophy behind the project is to find a way of living that is in harmony, with the environment, society and the economy. It is also about creating something that could be replicated elsewhere and be scaled up to a larger size.

The city is being built 40 kilometres from Tianjin centre and 150 kilometres from Beijing. It is located in the Tianjin Binhai New Area, considered one of the fastest growing places in China.

Construction is well underway and can be followed on the project’s website (http://www.tianjinecocity.gov.sg/gal.htm). It will be completed in 2020.

This year, the commercial street was completed and is ready for residents to move in.

Residents will be encouraged to avoid motorized transport and to either use public transport or people-powered transport such as bicycles and walking.

An eco-valley runs down the centre of the city and is meant to be a place for pedestrians and cyclists to enjoy.

The basic building block of the Eco-city – its version of a city block – is called the Eco Cell. Each Eco Cell measures 400 metres by 400 metres, a comfortable walking distance. Four Eco Cells make a neighbourhood. Several Eco Neighbourhoods make an Eco District and there are four Eco Districts in the Eco-city. It is a structure with two ideas in mind: to keep development always on a walkable, human scale and also to provide a formula for scaling up the size of the Eco-city as the number of residents increases.

It is a logical approach and seeks to address one of the most common problems with conventional cities: sprawling and unmanageable growth that quickly loses sight of human need.

Agreement was also reached on the standards that should be achieved for a wide variety of criteria, from air and water quality to vegetation, green building standards, and how much public space there should be per person.

An ambitious project in the United Arab Emirates is trying to become both the world’s top centre for eco cities and a living research centre for renewable energy. Masdar City (http://www.masdarcity.ae/en/)is planned to be a city for 40,000 people. It is billed as a high-density, pedestrian-friendly development where current and future renewable energy and clean technologies will be “marketed, researched, developed, tested and implemented.”

The city hopes to become home to hundreds of businesses, a research university and technology clusters.

This version of an eco-city is being built in three layers in the desert, 17 kilometres from the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi. The goal is to make a city with zero carbon emissions, powered entirely by renewable energy. It is an ambitious goal but there are examples in the world of cities that use significant renewable energy for their power, such as Reykjavik, Iceland in Northern Europe, which draws much of its energy from renewables and geothermal sources.

Masdar City is designed by world-famous British architect Norman Foster (fosterandpartners.com) and will be 6.5 square kilometres in size.

The design is highly innovative. The city will be erected on 6 metre high stilts to increase air circulation and reduce the heat coming from the desert floor. The city will be built on three levels or decks, to make a complete separation between transport and residential and public spaces.

The lowest deck will have a transportation system based on Personal Rapid Transport Pods. These look like insect eyes and are automated, controlled by touch screens, using magnetic sensors for propulsion. On top of this transport network will be the pedestrian streets, with businesses, shops and homes. No vehicles will be allowed there, and people will only be able to use bicycles or Segway (segway.com) people movers to get around. An overhead light railway system will run through the city centre, all the way to Abu Dhabi City.

“By layering the city, we can make the transport system super-efficient and the street level a much better experience,” Gerard Evenden, senior partner at Foster + Partners, told The Sunday Times. “There will be no car pollution, it will be safer and have more open spaces. Nobody has attempted anything like this.”

Masdar City is being built in stages as funding comes, with the goal of completion by 2016. It hopes to achieve its aspiration to be the most technologically advanced and environmentally friendly city in the world. As for water supplies in the desert, there is a plan: dew collected in the night and morning and a solar-powered desalination plant turning salt water into drinking water.

Electricity will come from a variety of sources. Solar panels will be on every roof and double as shade on alleyways. Non-organic waste will be recycled, while organic waste will be turned into fuel for power plants. Dirty water will be cleaned and then used to irrigate green spaces. Because of the design, the planners hope the city will just use a quarter of the energy of a conventional city.

To keep the city smart and the project on top of developments in renewable energy, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (http://www.masdar.ac.ae/) will specialize in renewable energy technology.

The cost for the city was pegged at US $22 billion in 2009.

The chief executive of Masdar – Abu Dhabi’s renewable-energy company – is Sultan Al Jaber. He sees the city as a beacon to show the way for the rest of the Emirate to convert from a highly inefficient consumer of energy to a pioneer in green technology.

“The problem with the renewable-energy industry is that it is too fragmented,” he told The Sunday Times. “This is where the idea for Masdar City came from. We said, ‘Let’s bring it all together within the same boundaries, like the Silicon Valley model (in California, USA).’”

The project needs to gather much of its funding as it progresses. The United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (http://cdm.unfccc.int/)is helping with financing. Companies can earn carbon credits if they help fund a low-carbon scheme in the global South. The sultan is ambitious and sees this as a “blueprint for the cities of the future.” It has been able to bring on board General Electric (GE) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to sponsor the university.

It is possible to visit Masdar City and take a tour (http://www.masdarcity.ae/en/105/visit-masdar-city/) and it is also possible to view online what has been built so far (http://www.masdarcity.ae/en/32/built-environment/).

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: June 2012

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP's South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South's innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=VLp5na3pgHIC&dq=development+challenges+june+2012&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsjune2012issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Wednesday
Jun242015

Model Cities Across the South Challenge Old Ways

 

Pioneering thinking about how resources are used and how people live their lives is taking place in the dynamic economies of the global South. Facing a vast population surge to urban areas, these include attempts to build “green” cities and low-waste, smart and digital communities.

These model cities are clever solutions for the world’s growing – and urbanizing – populations coping with a stressed and damaged environment. Unlike one-off technologies and ideas developed in isolation, the model cities approach starts from scratch. They become living laboratories on which research and development take place at the heart of the community, not just the preserve of aloof academics hidden away in labs.

This is critical work because the world is rapidly urbanizing and needs solutions to ensure this process does not lead to chaos and misery. How these cities turn out could hold the fate of humanity and much is at stake. According to a report by the International Institute for Environment and Development, Africa now has a larger urban population than North America and 25 of the world’s fastest growing big cities. Getting to grips with urban development will be critical for the future of the continent and the wellbeing of its people.

By 2025, Asia could have 10 or more cities with populations larger than 20 million (Far Eastern Economic Review). People will be living in densely populated cities and they will need to be smart cities if they are to work.

In the United Arab Emirates (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Dhabi), Masdar City (http://www.masdar.ae/en/home/index.aspx), is a model city not only being built, but being used as way to develop commercially successful environment technologies – renewable energy solutions and clean technologies – that will turn into future income for the city and Abu Dhabi.

The traditional approach in other countries has been to keep scientists and innovators disconnected from the living, breathing city. They toil away in labs or universities and only really get to test their technologies and theories after going through lengthy testing and approval by a city’s government. As Masdar’s website says, this city will develop “from research to commercial deployment – with the aim of creating scalable clean energy solutions.”

The planned community will be 6 square kilometres in size and wants to be “one of the most sustainable cities in the world”. Located 17 kilometres from Abu Dhabi, it hopes to be a pedestrian-friendly town home to 40,000 residents. At the heart of Masdar City is the Masdar Institute: a research university developed with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The students are the city’s first residents and a range of top international companies are planning to locate in there as well. German technology company Siemens will place its Middle East headquarters in Masdar and its Center of Excellence in Building Technologies R&D centre. Others joining them include GE, BASF, Schneider and the Korea Technopark Association.

The Surbana Urban Planning Group (www.surbana.com) spent five decades developing its experience with the rapid growth of Singapore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore): a city-state boasting the highest quality of life in Asia (Economist Intelligence Unit) which took itself from an impoverished city to one of the world’s leading export and manufacturing economies. Surbana built 26 planned townships in Singapore that now house 85 percent of the city’s 4.5 million residents. It specializes in designing, implementing and maintaining complex urban areas.

Singapore has pioneered a number of ways to house a large population within a small territory. This experience is now being put to work in China at the Tianjin Eco-City development (http://www.tianjinecocity.gov.sg/masterplan.htm). Known for high pollution levels due to heavy industry Tianjin will undergo a big change. The project aims to develop a template that can be used for other cities throughout China and around the world.

The 30-square-kilometre Tianjin Eco-City is being built around a wetland and river. The idea is to offer its residents an environment with easy access to recreational spaces and the natural environment. The transport system will avoid cars and instead use a light rail system as the main mode of transport. It should be home to 350,000 people.

Cleverly, each suburban area will have commercial sub-centres to enable as many people as possible to work locally and avoid the need to commute long distances. The Eco-City will be built by assembling “eco-cell” – like a bee’s honeycomb – neighbourhoods self-contained with schools, child care, commercial and work areas, and parks. This set up is geared to collecting a common mistake in other new developments that only consider housing, forgeting about how people work, shop and recreate.

There will be seven distinct neighbourhoods: Lifescape, Eco-Valley, Solarscape, Urbanscape, Windscape, Earthscape and Eco-Corridors (http://inhabitat.com/tianjin-eco-city-is-a-futuristic-green-landscape-for-350000-residents/). An “Eco-Valley” will run through the city as a green spine connecting north and south.

It is hoped the city will be completed by 2020. Just 10 minutes’ drive from the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (http://en.investteda.org/) business parks, the residents should be well served for jobs.

In South Korea, the Digital Media City in Seoul (http://dmc.seoul.go.kr/eng/index.do) bills itself as a “harmony of nature, high-tech, and culture”. The Seoul municipal government devised the DMC in the 1990s to capitalize on the economic and social benefits of being the world’s most digitally wired nation.

The DMC project serves the nation’s larger goals of transitioning from a manufacturing to an innovation economy and promoting Seoul as an east-Asian hub for commerce. The DMC is about creating new business opportunities.

But this isn’t just about business and research and development: it is a comprehensive digital economy experience, with schools, housing for the affiliates of international firms, moderate and lower-income housing, commercial and convention facilities, entertainment zones, and the city’s central rail station are all located in or near the Digital Media City.

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: February 2011

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP's South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South's innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=aQj8Czh78dIC&dq=development+challenges+february+2011&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsfebruary2011issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Monday
Jun152015

South-South Cooperation for Cities in Asia

By David South

southasiadisasters.net July 2014

The coming wave of technological innovations aimed at global South cities will dominate civic debates whether people wish it to or not. Already, futuristic, 21st-century cities are being built around Asia from scratch. I had the privilege of visiting a couple of them in 2012 while researching the fourth issue of our magazine, Southern Innovator (http://www.scribd.com/SouthernInnovator). Each city had a different focus for its construction - one was seeking to be an "eco-city" and the other one called itself a "smart city," focused on becoming a regional business and technology hub. Both aimed to use the latest information technologies to make the way Asian cities operate on a day-to-day basis smarter - and greener.
 
Large information technology companies - including India's Infosys (infosys.com) - have their sights set on selling all sorts of technological solutions to common problems of urban living. This aspiring revolution is built on two foundations: One is the Internet of Things - in which everyday objects are connected to the Internet via microchips. The other is Big Data, the vast quantities of data being generated by all the mobile phones and other electronic devices people use these days.
 
Much of this new technology will be manufactured in Asia, and not just that - it will also be developed and designed in Asia, often to meet the challenges of urban Asia.
 
By their nature, cities are fluid places. People come and go for work and pleasure, and successful cities are magnets for people of all backgrounds seeking new opportunities. This fluidity puts stress on cities and leads to the constant complaints familiar to any urban dweller - inadequate transport, traffic jams, air pollution, poor housing, and a high cost of living.
 
If handled well and with imagination, new information technologies can ensure Asian cities do more than pay lip service to aspirations to improve human development. They can make cities resilient places - able to bounce back from disasters, whether man-made or natural.
 
During the late 1990s, I saw first-hand the pressures placed on one Asian city, Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar. The country endured the worst peacetime economic collapse since World War II while confronting the wrenching social and economic stresses of switching from a command economy during Communism to a free-market democracy. The city's population grew quickly as rural economies collapsed and poverty shot upwards. I can only imagine now how the response could have been different with the technologies available today.
 
In 2010, I interviewed one of the editors of the Cities for All book, Charlotte Mathivet (http://globalurbanist.com/2010/08/24/cities-for-all-shows-how-the-worlds-poor-are-building-ties-across-the-global-south), and she stressed the importance of South-South cooperation to ensuring cities are good places to live for everyone.
          
"A lot of social initiatives based on the right to the city are coming from these 'new cities of the South,'" Mathivet said. "The book highlights original social initiatives: protests and organizing of the urban poor, such as the pavement dwellers' movements in Mumbai where people with nothing, living on the pavements of a very big city, organise themselves to struggle for their collective rights, just as the park dwellers did in Osaka."
 
Recently, an Indian restaurant uploaded to the Internet a video of what it claimed to be the first drone delivering a pizza in an Indian city. While this may or may not be a practical solution to traffic congestion, the subsequent negative fallout - angry police and public officials - from this use of new technology highlights the promise and perils of innovating in the real world of Asian cities (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-27537120).
 
Micro electronics are becoming cheaper and more powerful by the month. Small businesses armed with a only laptop computer, access to the Internet and/or mobile phone networks, and cloud computing services, can offer very powerful business and public services solutions. And sharing solutions across the global South via information technologies has never been easier.

The U.S. Pentagon published various reports and studies in the 2000s forecasting a dark future for cities in the global South. As author Mike Davis revealed in his seminal work, Planet of Slums (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1844670228/nationbooks08), the Pentagon saw the developing world's cities as the "battlespace of the twenty-first century." It imagined sprawling, crime-ridden cities full of poverty and slums and needing tiny drones and robots darting back and forth, keeping an eye on everything and suppressing unrest. This threat-based view of future cities is one to be avoided. It is possible, through the right application of quick solutions to the challenges that arise as cities grow, to turn to cooperation across the cities of the global South to avoid this pessimistic fate.
 
- David South, Editor, Southern Innovator
United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.