Smart city planning and sustainability issues have been in the spotlight with the recent announcement of a new infrastructure programme to transform South Africa’s cities. Environmental sustainability refers to the ability to cater to the needs of the current and future generations through the careful use of available natural resources.
With the rapid increase in population, urbanisation and global warming, the challenges faced by cities are also on the rise as limited resources must be shared with more and more people. To make sure that the ever increasing population can enjoy the benefits of urbanisation, our cities must learn to make smart use of the available resources.
Environmental sustainability is not alone
The issue of environmental sustainability is, however, closely interlinked with social and economic development. Unless the environment is managed wisely, the eco-system will be disturbed beyond repair. There are a number of intermeshed critical environmental issues that play a vital role in developing and tracking sustainability objectives.
A UNEP report issued earlier this year describes twenty one emerging issues connected with the global environment in the 21st century.
Growth of existing cities and the creation of smart cities
The increase in population has led to an unexpected growth in city buildings. According to the United Nations, the world’s cities must be ready to accommodate at least 2.9 billion extra people by the middle of this century. As existing cities grow, hundreds more will need to be built.
Naturally, building the ideal city is expensive. With this comes competition between cities, attracting new investments and striving to retain the existing flourishing businesses to ensure that their economy thrives. This competitive spirit will put economic, social and environmental sustainability to the test.
The good news is that many urban areas are already involved in implementing sustainability measures through the concept of smart cities.
Cities use 75% of energy, 60% of water and emit 80% of greenhouse gasses
At the basic level, sustainability simply means that our survival depends on the natural environment, which must be preserved through innovative programs. Since the challenges that come with sustainable development are many, the development programs must involve the city’s residents, businesses and government.
To meet the challenges of urbanisation, it is important to improve the infrastructure of cities and to ensure that the health and financial wellbeing of citizens are taken care of.