Sustainable transformation of our urban open spaces

Sustainable transformation of our urban open spaces


The above-featured image is for illustration and is credit to Times of Malta.

Sustainable transformation of our urban open spaces

Access to nature and environments that provide a sense of refuge or relaxation are being sought.
By Sarah Scheiber
13 August 2023
Photo: Dawra Madwarna/Sarah Scheiber

Climate change, global warming and the exhaustion of fossil fuels have raised the sustainability agenda’s importance. In relation to urban design, sustainability refers to ways in which a city, community or development can meet economic, environmental, social and cultural needs.

Sustainability is not just about energy or resource efficiency but also about responding to community needs, that means, designing for people.

Open spaces are a central component of the urban landscape and, due to the impacts of climate change and demographic trends, are likely to become more, rather than less, important. How can we implement sustainability, and what does it mean in tangible terms when considering the planning and design of urban open spaces?

Numerous studies have shown that green open spaces in urban areas potentially provide several benefits concerning the three dimensions of sustainable development. These are social, environmental and economic aspects that should be considered in an integrated way. To achieve these benefits, various planning and design principles must be considered. Research on the planning and design of urban open spaces in Malta has shown that five principles require attention.

The first is creating recreational areas within urban areas. Recreational areas must be accessible to all – including those who do not drive. The closer we live to green open spaces, the more viable walking and using public transport is.



Research on the planning and design of urban open spaces in Malta has shown that five principles require attention



The second principle is thinking about a network and ensuring connectivity – improving street design for walking and cycling, and providing a network of high-quality public spaces facilitating public transport use. This can reduce many short car trips, making urban areas more accessible and attractive.

The third principle investigates maximising the presence of vegetation and its potential for multifunctionality. Integrating and increasing vegetation within urban open spaces improves air quality, creating comfortable microclimates and mitigating climate change impacts such as extreme flooding.

Local surveys have shown that access to nature and environments that provide a sense of refuge or relaxation are being sought in urban areas.

The fourth principle ensures socially inclusive processes and culturally responsive proposals. Engaging with local communities to respond to cultural preferences and create a sense of ownership for public spaces is essential for successful transformations.

The final principle calls for good governance: Creating a governance structure that ‘champions’ and drives the implementation of community participatory methodologies and cross-sectoral collaborations is an integral component.

Research has shown potential solutions to reclaim urban open spaces. All it takes is some re-thinking and being open to implementing innovative solutions.

Sarah Scheiber is an urban designer, spatial planner and a lecturer.

Sound Bites

  • Vegetation in urban areas improves air quality. Leaf surfaces absorb nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, while particulate matter deposited on leaves is absorbed into the ground as they fall or are washed by rain. Urban canyons (high densities/tall buildings) create concentrated pollution. Research shows that increased planting (green roofs, trees, etc) increases deposition of nitrogen oxides and particulates.
  • Active lifestyles are essential for physical health. Neighbourhood parks are typically too small to support aerobic activity such as walking or jogging required for adults. Neighbourhood walkability is thus crucial for supporting daily physical activity.  One study showed that walkable green spaces, including tree-lined streets, in urban residential areas increased longevity for the elderly. Additionally, access to nature reduces stress and improves general well-being.

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  • Trees/vegetation could result in shaded surfaces being 11-25°C cooler than peak temperatures of unshaded surfaces and reducing peak summer temperatures by 1 to 5°C.
  • Tree pits can be designed as stormwater catchments, thereby reducing rainwater run-off in dense urban areas.
  • Typically, streets makeup 80 per cent of public space in cities and thus also need to provide for social activity, not just transportation.

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Workers are bedrock for achieving sustainability


Published by The Peninsula on 10 Aug 2023 is a Qatari official recounting how Workers are the bedrock for achieving sustainability.

The above-featured image is for illustration and is of Linkedin.

Workers are bedrock for achieving sustainability: NHRC Secretary-General


NHRC Secretary-General H E Sultan bin Hassan Al Jamali with workers during the seminar.

Doha, Qatar: Secretary-General of the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) H E Sultan bin Hassan Al Jamali stressed that workers are one of the significant social and economic components in the Qatari society as they are an essential pillar of sustainable development, pointing to the importance of preserving, protecting, and promoting their rights.

This came during his speech at the opening of the seminar organised by the NHRC for workers from the Nepalese community within the framework of the campaign that it launched on August 1 and will continue until September 1 on the prevention of the dangers of heat stress.

Al Jamali pointed out that the workers’ attendance of such events and their interactive participation in them means their awareness and knowledge in the first place of the importance of learning about the dangers of heat stress in this summer time, which would raise the level of awareness of workers and employers to reduce these risks posed by high temperature and humidity during work.

Al Jamali praised the great efforts made by the state to protect workers from all violations that affect their rights, including working in open spaces during the summer.

He said that out of the NHRC’s educational and awareness role, we must recall these efforts and urge commitment to them on both sides of the workers and employers.

In turn, head of the Nepalese community in Qatar Ramesh Pata said that the labor-intensive communities are in dire need of such activities that raise awareness of their rights endorsed by the state.

He added that they are keen to attend such campaigns in the coming days, which confirm the keenness of the State of Qatar and its institutions, including the NHRC, to support social protection for workers.

Ramesh thanked the NHRC for its support for the Nepalese community by allocating an office for the community within the offices of the communities at its headquarters, which he considered to overcome any difficulties facing workers in communicating with them.

The Seminar witnessed a lecture by legal expert at the NHRC Hala Al Ali on the laws and decisions issued by the State of Qatar to protect workers from the dangers of heat stress in open workplaces during the summer period.

For his part, official of the Nepalese community Office at the headquarters of the NHRC gave a presentation on the most important directives for workers to avoid the dangers of working in open places during summer times and high humidity.



A Transboundary Groundwater Agreement


A transboundary groundwater agreement between two adjoining countries in the Middle East could be a first in the MENA region.  Here are some thoughts. 

The above-featured image is for illustration and is of MEED.

Al Disi aquifer is an essential source of fresh water for the area between Jordan and Saudi Arabia, especially for this part of the land’s high temperature and dry climate. It is due to its efficiency in sustainable water development with the environmental and ecological balance. This aquifer lies in a massive area of almost all of Jordan and extends to the size of Tabuk in Saudi Arabia, compromising a confined groundwater aquifer.   At the beginning of 1977, Saudi Arabia and Jordan started to extract water from the aquifer for different purposes. This situation had been changed in the early 80s when most of the water production from Disi was taken to the City of Aqaba, which depended on this water source mainly for municipal and local consumption at that period. The city of Aqaba is assumed to be an area of free trade that depends on many economic activities like tourism and investments, and from that era, the government and many research groups in Jordan knew the economic and ecological value of this source and both governments in 1983 started to use this water excessively in agriculture. For example, a Jordanian farming corporation (Rum Farms) increased its water abstraction from the Disi aquifer from 1.2 MCM (Million Cubic Meters) per year in the 80s to 55 MCM/year in 2001.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia increased its consumption from 50 MCM/per year in the 80s to 91 MCM in 2004 for agricultural use. The Government of Jordan changed its plans from using the aquifer water in irrigation and farming to providing water for domestic and municipal use in Amman in 2013 due to the increased pressure on water resources and the extreme shortage of drinking water. The government of Jordan undertook this project without the consent of its Saudi counterpart across the border. This negligence caused the World Bank not to support this project.

The importance of the Agreement of Al Disi Aquifer

This aquifer agreement represents one of the contemporary approaches to transboundary underground water management that focuses on allocating water abstraction in particular areas and avoiding vulnerable ones, which supports water management. The aquifer agreement is significant on the national, regional, and international levels due to the new perspective of water management that depends on the water allocation management approach, which recommends abstracting water from safe and economic locations.

At the national level, the agreement represents the ultimate solution for the two countries over-abstraction of the ground transboundary water. It can achieve many benefits for both parties and reduce the climate change impacts on water and ecosystems in general significantly, that each country, according to this agreement, has the right to utilize its water for domestic and municipal use; in this case, Jordan may continue to convey the groundwater in Al Disi-Amman Conveyance project also it is one step towards the sustainable water by cooperation in water utilization at the political level, which was violated by individual work of both parties by the private irrigation projects in the 80s causing overdraft for the groundwater in that area  On the other hand, it is an evolution from unsustainable water projects, like the conveyance project of transferring water to Amman, to more transboundary cooperational water projects that use the water sustainably, especially that by the aquifer agreement that has many customary principles like no significant harm and equitable utilization.

At the international level, the aquifer agreement is considered a new international bilateral transboundary water agreement that contributes to the cooperation in underground water management between the two countries. The agreement is regarded as one of the leading transboundary groundwater bilateral agreements in binding the abstraction from a ‘protected area’ while defining the safe areas for pumping water, called’ management area’. The groundwater abstracted should be used for domestic purposes. Also, the agreement is very efficient in coordinating and technically managing the abstraction and use by the two parties of the joint committee, which control the safety, water amounts, and quality should be supervised, maybe in turn, through select experts and technical specialists from both countries to help in coordinating. According to many experts, like Elia M. Tapia-Villaseñor 1,*ORCID and Sharon B. Megda, the agreement between the two countries is considered a form of negotiation between informal parties at the political level and, therefore, could not be regarded as an absolute bilateral transboundary agreement.

At the regional level, the Disi agreement is still the new initiation for developing the regional cooperation agreement that might be a model in that area. Like the Guarani aquifer agreement in Latin America, it is believed to be the first attempt to power the parties to negotiate the critical and cooperative issue. Also, this agreement may be the initiative for the water unified management that relies on the technical problems by binding abstraction from the protected area whilst permitting to utilize from the management area, similar to those technical provisions in the Geneva aquifer. The fossil aquifer Al Disi like many transboundary aquifers between countries, like Northwestern Sahara Aquifer SASS, Tunisian and Nubian Sandstone between Egypt and Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System underneath Chad, Egypt, Libya, and Sudan, the World’s most significant non-renewable aquifer. These aquifers are essential to balance the sustainable development of nature. Furthermore, this aquifer is the only transboundary aquifer to have control over sediments when pumping water.


What are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?


What are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? The answer to this is given by myclimate. The republication of such an article is meant to help serve the obvious reason of vulgarising as much as possible this notion of sustainability in all its various items.


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are common, universal goals for member states of the United Nations to transform the world into a fairer, more prosperous and peaceful society until 2030. They were adopted in September 2015 as successors to the Millennium Goals.



The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with their 169 targets, form the core of the 2030 Agenda. They balance the economic, social and ecological dimensions of sustainable development. With the SDGs, all states, not only developing countries, are called upon to end poverty, achieve gender equality, improve health and education, make cities more sustainable, combat climate change, protect forests and much more. In addition, incentives are to be created to encourage non-governmental actors to make an increasingly active contribution to sustainable development.

The transparent measurement and presentation of SDG contributions are of particular importance to myclimate – we want to counteract an increasing trend of SDG washing. Learn more about how we measure the sustainable development of our climate protection projects in the form of the SDGs.

The climate protection projects myclimate contribute to the achievement of the SDGs in many dimensions.


End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Composting Avoids Methane Emissions in Indonesia



Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Efficient Cook Stoves save Habitat for the last of the Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda

Solar Panels for Education and Quality of Life in Ethiopia


Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Savings Groups Enable Women to Afford an Efficient Cook Stove in Siaya, Kenya


Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Ceramic Purifiers for Clean Drinking Water in Laos

Safe water through the power of the sun in Uganda


Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Solar Energy for Education and Jobs in Tanzania

Biogas Plants for 9,000 Families in India


Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Less Deforestation of the Rainforest due to Efficient Cook Stoves in Kenya

Animal Manure Produces Clean Biogas in Indonesia


Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Innovative myclimate Software tools

Energy and Climate Laboratory



Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Cableway Replaces Diesel Buses in Colombia

Ecological Waste Management Creates Jobs in Nairobi, Kenya


Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Corporate Carbon Footprint

Energy and Climate Pioneers


Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

All myclimate activities


Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Blue Forests for Coral Reef Protection


Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Electricity from FSC Wood Waste in the Amazon, Brazil

Community Reforestation in Nicaragua


Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Savings Groups Enable Women to Afford an Efficient Cook Stove


Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Protection of Tanzanian Forests for Indigenous People, Wildlife and the Climate


More Information about: how myclimate measure contributions to the SDGs?



Call for including UN sustainable development goals in syllabus


The following article is on how a call to include the UN sustainable development goals in the Swat region of Pakistan’s education system.  Here it is.

The above-featured image is for illustration and is credit to Change for Children

Call for including UN sustainable development goals in syllabus

SWAT: Educationists have stressed the need for integrating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the system of education.

They said that the SDGs offered a holistic approach to learning, fostered real-world relevance and promoted inter-disciplinary education.

They were addressing a teacher training session on sustainable development in the classroom called “Education for Global Citizenship and Sustainability” at a local college. A large number of teachers, educationists and students from different parts of Swat, Malakand, Dir and Buner participated in the training.

The speakers said that teachers of both public and private educational institutions should have knowledge of SDGs to include them in their lessons. “This will not only empower students to become agents of positive change and foster a sense of global citizenship but will also promote the professional development of teachers,” said Younas Khan, a trainer.

At the training session, teachers and students were given a variety of tasks covering the SDGs including quality education, gender equality, climate action, living on land, sustainable cities and communities, inexpensive and clean energy and the need to create hands-on projects with their answers.

Tauqeer Ahmad, a teacher, said that by incorporating the SDGs into the educational system, schools could play a crucial role in cultivating informed and engaged global citizens, who could understand the importance of sustainable development and take action to create a better future for all. “We have to shift our focus from the outdated syllabus and join hands with developed countries to meet the challenges of the day,” he added.

Noor an eighth grader said about the training that “they had a different type of learning as their teachers involved them in the topic. “We were also introduced to the 17 SDGs of the United Nations,” he added.

The students also presented their projects to the educationists and teachers at the end of the training.

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2023