The World Bank defines Eco city as “cities that enhance the well-being of citizens and society through integrated urban planning and management that harness the benefits of ecological systems and protect and nurture these assets for future generations”. Thus, an Eco city is an ecologically healthy city. In the 21st century, the world is progressing far and wide.
An Eco city is a human settlement modelled on the self-sustaining resilient structure and function of natural ecosystems. The Eco city provides healthy abundance to its inhabitants without consuming more (renewable) resources than it produces, without producing more waste than it can assimilate, and without being toxic to itself or neighbouring ecosystems. Its inhabitants’ ecological impact reflect planetary supportive lifestyles; its social order reflects fundamental principles of fairness, justice and reasonable equity.
— February 20th, 2010, Vancouver, Canada
How do you see your future city?
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. This seems very apt for a world today that is clearly progressing on unsustainable roads. To sustain the development, the measures need to be revised. This makes humanity work towards making the city eco-cities. An eco-city is one of the many milestones on the road to sustainable development.
Before 200 years, scarcely 2% lived in urban areas. Today, it has increased to proportionately equal and seems to grow in the same direction. Cities are vibrant but overpopulated; manufacturers of services and commodities but noisy; a canvas with fabulous wealth but ushering poverty simultaneously. Therefore, there is enough evidence to show that we are not progressing sustainably.
The 20th century saw the rise of concepts such as ‘Garden City’ by Ebenezer Howard, ‘Broadacre City of Tomorrow’ by Frank Lloyd Wright, and ‘Radiant City’ by Corbusier, to name a few. Clearly, each of these terms represents a specific set of concerns pertaining to specific contexts and specific points in time.
Urban Ecology, a non-profit organisation (1975) founded by a group of visionary architects and activists, including Richard Register, in Berkley, California, worked at the intersection of urban planning, ecology, and public transportation. It helped formulate design concepts around building environmentally healthier cities. Thus, the term ECO CITY was coined in his book, ‘Ecology Berkeley: Building Cities for a Healthy Future’.
Thus, eco-cities are cities that are taking decisive and creative action to meet the great economic, social, and ecological challenges of our time.
FEATURES OF AN ECO CITY
With the current growth being rapid and far-reachable irreversible change, an eco-city aims to reduce the city’s impact on the environment. The growth of a large population, energy consumption, waste management, emerging urban landscapes, and social diversity are part of the eco-city agenda.
1. Transforming the building we live in:
The buildings thus designed should be no longer energy consumers but energy producers. Development and use of energy-efficient appliances, making use of the building envelope to produce energy in the form of solar power, wind power, rainwater harvesting, and energy-efficient practices
Hence, it is an energy-positive building.
2. The modes of transportation
The transportation in Eco City is electric and, wherever possible, public. Transportation mostly takes up the most fuel consumption on earth. Thus, designing cities in order to reduce dependence on transportation and hence the concept of ‘walkability’. Essentially, anything needed in daily life (work, eat, and sleep) is available within a 15-minute walk from home. The idea of multimodal transport is the new black.
3. Implementing new networks of supplying electricity
- New networks are required to power transportation and buildings. ‘Smart grids’ often use technology to supply electricity. Smart grids combine generation, storage, and consumption. A central control system optimally coordinates them with each other and thus compensates for power fluctuations in the grid, particularly due to fluctuating renewable energies. A smart grid is equipped with information and communication technology (ICT). This enables real-time communication between utilities and consumers. In this way, a more dynamic interaction in the flow of energy is created, which in turn can contribute to a more sustainable and efficient power supply.
- Large-scale renewable energy systems can be integrated efficiently. This system also ensures that electricity rates are lowered.
LITTLE THINGS ADD UP TO HUGE DIFFERENCE – ACHIEVING AN ECO CITY.
These measures above must be respected while designing new cities. For the current global scenario of over 700 cities with more than 1 million people, there need to be some measures taken care of.
1. Redesigning the streets.
Reorganising spaces into motorised, walkable, and biking spaces will increase the efficiency of the transport system.
One such example is in Mumbai’s Byculla, where Mirza Ghalib Road (formerly known as Claire Road) is home to two schools: Christ Church School and St. Agnes High School. Bulb-outs are extensions to footpaths that help reduce the crossing distance and limit pedestrians’ exposure to moving vehicles. At this stretch, bulb-outs were provided at locations where children usually wait before crossing the street. These bulb-outs also help in reducing speeds by 2 km/h to 8 km/h.
2. Operating on self-contained economy that obtains resources locally.
This reduces the dependence on long-distance transportation. This principle is clearly displayed by the vernacular architecture.
Choosing local materials supports local economies as well. Moreover, it integrates with the local culture and becomes one with the place. Since it is easily available, it has higher durability, which ensures a lower carbon footprint. These have been time-tested and have proven to add up to Eco City.
3. Increase the dependency on the renewable sources of energy.
The haphazard use of energy resources has resulted in climate change. An eco-city is supposed to have controlled energy consumption and energy waste. Thus, it is required to revolutionise the current energy infrastructure from fossil fuel-based to renewable-based. The major sources include solar, wind, bioenergy, and geothermal energy. This saves money and minimises greenhouse gas emissions. The type of use of renewable sources depends on various geographical, social, economic, and political factors. Hence, a balance has to be struck in the use of energy.
The state of Gujarat is blessed with a long coast line of 1600 km, where the wind speeds are adequate for conversion into electrical energy. Gujarat Power Corporation Limited (GPCL) has already set up a total capacity of 20.70 MW wind mill power projects in various locations in Gujarat. GPCL has also planned another on-shore wind mill project.
4. Maintaining the water resources.
Rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge are some methods to reduce dependency on freshwater resources. It is significant to save freshwater on the ground. Thus, in order to conserve this reservoir, practices such as rainwater harvesting prove to be useful. In addition, using water-efficient technology such as grey water recycling helps optimise water usage in the building.
5. Restoring the environmentally damaged urban areas.
Restoration of lakes and riparian edges supports the micro-ecosystem of the land.
Afforestation on land that was swept away by forest fires can help recharge the forest cover.
Recycling and reusing waste in order to reduce the waste that goes into landfills. It also considers segregating waste.
Despite all its shortcomings, Indore is actually a step ahead of most Indian cities on the road to sustainability.
Since 2016, the IMC, Indore Municipal Corporation, has managed to achieve 100% household-waste segregation, eliminate garbage dumps, and convert waste into usable products.
It partnered with NGOs and private companies for an awareness campaign to change the behaviour of its citizens and to run waste management operations.
Support local agriculture produce and urban farming.
Local agriculture ensures the fastest delivery of the produce. Thus, there is a stark difference in the otherwise long route of transportation. It also reduces the environmental impact of the cold storage and saves on expenses.
Support future expansion of the cities and formulate policies to control the future growth.
The cities are to grow over time. Analysing past trends, urban planners also need to consider the environment and formulate policies that keep a check on the haphazard outgrowth of the city.
IS AN ECOCITY, A DREAM CITY?
Practical limits of an eco-city.
Richard Register once stated that “An Eco city is an ecologically healthy city. No such city exists”. This is absolutely true. Inserting an urban fabric into a growing one is difficult. The above features neglect the current ground scenario.
It sees the eco-city as the idea of the city as a business. Most eco-cities are considered to be technologically sound. This in turn demands a public-private partnership. This does not consider the present distribution of power in society.
Oversimplification of urban complexes. Human beings make up the urban fabric. The introduction of practices such as energy conservation is rigidly numeric. These do not consider the social and political aspects of the human race, which form the qualitative aspects.
The price of the eco-city. These environmental goals are difficult to achieve without technological advancement. Under this label, the eco-city becomes a luxury that is affordable to a handful. This may result in a sharp difference in the living conditions of people breathing the same air.
The cities are hotspots for serious environmental problems. Sustainable development is the need of the hour. We can’t solve this problem one bulb at a time. The creation of eco-cities—safe climate cities, resilient cities, and zero-carbon cities—will require strong, courageous leadership by the government and working in close partnership with households, communities, and businesses. The Eco City is based on the optimum usage of the land. It makes sure that brownfields are redeveloped. The Eco City is an inclusive city, trying to accommodate a range of users. This impacts social engagement and urban design, hence the quality of life. Thus, the choice is ours: How should we make choices to realize the city of our choices?
Content Writing And Research By: Ar. Maria Vahora