Long-term planning vital to develop sustainable cities

Urbanization is posing huge challenges to city planners across the world and these challenges are going to multiply, if the goal of improving quality of life is given a short shrift. Lack of vision and working with myopia will only aggravate the existing woes that urbanites are facing today. Estimates indicate that 70% of the global population will be urban in the next 40 years or so. This will naturally put enormous pressure on cities. And only a well-devised futuristic plan will be able to tackle the growing crowding. Urban planners have to shed short-term approach. Lopsided development will cause economic costs that will be difficult to offset in the long run.
There is a need to chalk out policies that aim to make cities sustainable. What does this mean? It means developing cities that are decarbonized and energy-efficient. Reducing car dependence, providing dependable public transport system to commuters, constructing green buildings that follow climate-conscious designs, tackling water shortages by proper recycling, tapping renewables like solar and wind to produce energy and using land in such a way that it impacts environment as little as possible – these are some of the ways that can lead us towards sustainable development and sustainable cities. Masdar is a glowing example of how the concept of a sustainable city can be turned into a reality.
To start with, every city needs to have a comprehensive transport masterplan that can reduce urban congestion. The policy makers have to keep the urban dweller in mind, and not the car, while they make their plan. The plan should wean the citizens away from their private vehicles. This can be done by strengthening the public transport network. Urban mobility has to go beyond car, and give importance to pedestrians and cyclists. Getting beyond fossil fuels will make the urban air clean.
Most of the cities today are concrete jungles. But they don’t have to be necessarily so. There are ways to make these jungles green so that they don’t leave any carbon footprints. The building material should follow guidelines that are based on the particular climatic conditions of a place. These buildings can use solar power and practice rainwater harvesting too. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) has already launched the Shams Dubai initiative that encourages consumers to generate their own eco-friendly energy by installing photovoltaic panels. It is giving push to solar power in line with Dubai’s commitment to source 75% of its energy from renewable sources. Building management systems that adhere to environmental benchmarks such as Abu Dhabi’s Pearl rating system can play a vital role in ensuring that a city doesn’t ignore the pollution impact amid its development trail.
It is imperative that the world’s cities urbanize wisely, taking a holistic and integrated approach. Visionary leaders can bring about a change in the mindset of urban developers. As cities grow and mature, the policy makers have to mature too.
The UAE has recognized the importance of smart cities. Smart cities offer good quality of life that forms the core of happiness index of a nation. Good quality of life also translates into economic advantage as more and more investors get attracted to the city.
The current development and urbanization challenges are massive indeed, but with proper planning and strategy, the world’s cities can look beautiful and be sustainable too.

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