Global South Ur­ban­iza­tion Does Not Have to Harm Bio­di­ver­sity

Southern Innovator - - WASTE & RECYCLING -

Global ur­ban­iza­tion will have sig­nif­i­cant im­pli­ca­tions for bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tems if cur­rent trends con­tinue, harm­ing hu­man health and de­vel­op­ment, ac­cord­ing to a new as­sess­ment by the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity (CBD).

Cities and Bio­di­ver­sity Out­look – the first global anal­y­sis of how pro­jected pat­terns of ur­ban land ex­pan­sion will af­fect bio­di­ver­sity and cru­cial ecosys­tems – ar­gues that pro­mot­ing low-car­bon, re­source-ef­fi­cient ur­ban de­vel­op­ment can counter ur­ban­iza­tion’s ad­verse ef­fects on bio­di­ver­sity while im­prov­ing qual­ity of life.

“The way our cities are de­signed, the way peo­ple live in them and the pol­icy de­ci­sions of lo­cal author­i­ties will de­fine, to a large ex­tent, fu­ture global sus­tain­abil­ity,” said Braulio Dias, Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary of the CBD.

“The in­no­va­tion lies not so much in de­vel­op­ing new in­fras­truc­tural tech­nolo­gies and ap­proaches but to work with what we al­ready have. The re­sults of­ten re­quire fewer eco­nomic re­sources and are more sus­tain­able,” he added.

The re­port says that ur­ban ex­pan­sion is oc­cur­ring fast in ar­eas close to bio­di­ver­sity “hotspots” and coastal zones. And rapidly ur­ban­iz­ing re­gions, such as large and mid-size set­tle­ments in sub-sa­ha­ran Africa, In­dia and China, of­ten lack re­sources to im­ple­ment sus­tain­able ur­ban plan­ning.

But the study found that cities do not need to be in con­flict with plant and an­i­mal species and ecosys­tems. They can, in fact, pro­tect species, as is the case with Bel­gium, where 50 per cent of the coun­try’s flo­ral species are found in Brus­sels, or Poland, where 65 per cent of the coun­try’s bird species are found in War­saw.

At the Alexan­der von Hum­boldt Re­search In­sti­tute in Bo­gota, Colom­bia, re­searchers have been think­ing about mak­ing sure that the grow­ing cities of the fu­ture are not eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ters.

Ac­cord­ing to Jua­na­marino and Maria angélica me­jia at the In­sti­tute’s Bi­o­log­i­cal Re­sources Pol­icy Pro­gramme, which in­ves­ti­gates “Bio­di­ver­sity, Ecosys­tem Ser­vices and Ur­ban-re­gional En­vi­ron­ments”, how cities grow and de­velop must change.

They be­lieve that cities need to take into ac­count the re­sources that they re­quire to func­tion and the im­pact that this has on bio­di­ver­sity and ecosys­tems.

“The more peo­ple who ar­rive in cities, the more they de­mand goods and ser­vices (in a mas­sive way!): roads, hous­ing, in­fra­struc­ture, food, wa­ter, [cre­at­ing] an im­pres­sive amount of waste, chal­leng­ing tra­di­tional waste man­age­ment and san­i­ta­tion poli­cies,” said Marino. In short, “Cities en­hance con­sump­tion.”

The way our cities are de­signed, the way peo­ple live in them and the pol­icy de­ci­sions of lo­cal author­i­ties will de­fine, to a large ex­tent, fu­ture global sus­tain­abil­ity

The Hum­boldt re­searchers be­lieve that com­mon pat­terns can be seen across the global South, where ecosys­tems “sur­round­ing ur­ban ar­eas are de­for­ested and have sig­nif­i­cant lev­els of wa­ter and air pol­lu­tion; they also be­come deeply trans­formed by in­for­mal set­tle­ments.”

This process means that cities “lose their abil­ity to be re­silient, they be­come highly vul­ner­a­ble to global change and they de­crease their pro­duc­tion of ecosys­tem ser­vices to main­tain hu­man well-be­ing in cities.”

They ar­gue that hu­man set­tle­ments must be sus­tain­ably planned for, with eco­log­i­cal re­silience and hu­man well-be­ing. If this is not done, ar­eas suit­able for agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion and bio­di­ver­sity preser­va­tion will be harmed.

And they see in­no­va­tion as the way to do this. In­no­va­tion is crit­i­cal if cities and ur­ban ar­eas are to avoid wide­spread de­struc­tion of bio­di­ver­sity as ur­ban­iza­tion in­creases. – (De­cem­ber 2012)

Use nat­u­ral habi­tats in ur­ban ar­eas to cre­ate recre­ational spa­ces and pro­tect wildlife.

Make green spa­ces wel­com­ing by pro­vid­ing ser­vices such as potable wa­ter foun­tains.

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