Innovative Trends to Make Cities more Sustainable
Published on: 16.09.2020
Although cities and urban areas are on the frontline of the COVID-19 response and recovery, the social and economic impact of the pandemic goes far beyond their boundaries. On the other hand, inequalities between urban and rural areas and even within cities have already been a problem before the pandemic outbreak. The latter pointed out the necessity of tackling such gaps. Deep-rooted inequalities in urban safety, public services, and infrastructure were amplified by the pandemic and increased the financial burden especially for the most vulnerable people.
Hence, there is a growing need for making cities and communities not only more sustainable and inclusive but also healthier.
A report on COVID-19 and Cities issued by the United Nations in July confirmed that an estimated 90 percent of all cases were reported in urban areas. With almost half of the world’s population living in cities, it sounds logical, even though there is no evidence to suggest that density is related to higher virus transmission. Yet many other factors can be related.
People who lack proper housing can’t be expected to adhere to all the COVID-19 hygiene guidelines. According to the UN, about 24-percent of the world’s urban population lives in slums and informal settlements. Without financial support or jobs, vulnerable people are at a higher risk of becoming homeless. On the other hand, numerous women and children have found themselves in abusive situations as they were unable to live their homes or cities because of mobility restrictions.
Long term air pollution has been correlated with a higher COVID-19 mortality rate.
While some surveys show that lockdowns caused significant improvements to air quality, others found a correlation between Covid-19 hotspots and areas with high levels of pollution concentrations.
Given the higher uncertainty of the situation new and existing trends are being tested to improve the air quality in densely populated cities. Such trends include:
Architects and engineers came up with the idea of planting trees in skyscrapers by calling them vertical forests or living towers. Some examples of such building projects can be found in Milan, Nanjing, Cancun, Cairo, Utrecht, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Cebu.
The main feature of a sponge city structure is to capture rainwater and to redistribute more slowly in cities that a prone to sudden floods because of storms or hurricanes. The buildings use natural materials that absorb water that is stored in wells and can be reused again.
Sponge cities were first implemented in China for more than 20 years ago.
Sponge cities have been launched in 20 locations in China, including the city of Wuhan.
The same model can be applied in other countries prone to flooding such as the US, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, etc.
15 or 20-minute Cities
The 15 or 20-minute city or neighborhood is a solution closely related to the post-COVID-19 local/economic recovery. When lockdowns were in place, people in some countries could get out for grocery shopping or essential activities only for a limited time. Hence the idea of 15-20 minute neighborhoods. People will be able to find everything they need in their local area by walking, biking, or public transport. The City of Melbourne incorporated the concept into their city planning.
Such models are usually approached by local authorities or big enterprises, but there is a lot to do also as an individual. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests five different ways to make cities more sustainable. The list includes simple actions such as urban agriculture, healthy diets, waste reduction, etc.
In the meantime, the pandemic has accelerated digital trends and innovation in making people’s lives easier while shop, work, study, get entertained, or get healthcare consulting without needing to leave the home. This is the moment to give a chance to any idea that can help the most of urban transition towards sustainability.
hence if you have an idea or a project that could make healthier cities and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, you have two weeks to join the 2020 Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition. Meanwhile, you can take free online training on social and sustainable entrepreneurship and create networks with a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs from all over the world.