Plan­ning bet­ter cities

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Cities, the Amer­i­can-Cana­dian au­thor Jane Ja­cobs once ob­served, are en­gines for na­tional pros­per­ity and eco­nomic growth. But in their cur­rent form, mod­ern cities are also cat­a­lysts of in­equal­ity and en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion. To­day, the share of city dwellers in poverty is grow­ing; 33% live in slums; and 75% of global car­bon diox­ide emis­sions orig­i­nate in metropoli­tan ar­eas. Statis­tics like these should give us pause: Are cities re­ally the best way to or­gan­ise hu­man life?

They can be, but only with sig­nif­i­cant ad­just­ments to how they are planned, built, and man­aged. For city-led growth to em­power a sus­tain­able, pros­per­ous fu­ture, govern­ments and de­vel­op­ers must rein­tro­duce a user-cen­tred ap­proach to ur­ban­i­sa­tion.

To­day, most cities fail to in­clude key stake­hold­ers in the plan­ning process, lead­ing to ex­clu­sion­ary de­vel­op­ment. Con­sider the ubiq­ui­tous hous­ing pro­ject on the edge of town, a char­ac­ter­is­tic of many poorly planned cities. Built in the mid­dle of nowhere, these multi-unit eye­sores are of­ten cut off from pub­lic trans­porta­tion and other ser­vices, com­pound­ing res­i­dents’ iso­la­tion from the ur­ban core.

But de­sign flaws like these, which have both eco­nomic and so­cial im­pli­ca­tions, are just the be­gin­ning. Even more wor­ry­ing to ur­ban plan­ning pro­fes­sion­als like us is that in many places, the en­tire plan­ning process – the way we think about cities, how they are used, and by whom – is flawed.

Even the world’s best-in­ten­tioned plan­ning de­part­ments do not al­ways put the pub­lic first. Part of this re­flects un­cer­tainty about who “owns” a city. Res­i­dents might call a city “theirs,” but govern­ment leaders of­ten act in ways that sug­gest oth­er­wise. For ex­am­ple, a govern­ment seek­ing to at­tract in­vest­ment might equate eco­nomic in­ter­ests with res­i­dents’ needs, and thus lower en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards or tax bur­dens for busi­nesses. Such de­ci­sions might, how­ever, lead to deur­ban­i­sa­tion, with peo­ple leav­ing cities as they be­come less liv­able.

The gap be­tween eco­nomic vi­a­bil­ity and en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity can be espe­cially wide. Con­sider the pro­duc­tion of tra­di­tional, gaso­line-pow­ered cars. Al­though this type of in­dus­try might power some cities’ growth to­day, the pub­lic’s grow­ing con­cern about CO2 emis­sions from these ve­hi­cles is spurring changes in con­sumer de­mand.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.