The BBC‘s Could plastic roads make for a smoother ride? By Chermaine Lee is an eye-opener in one right way of ridding the World of those nasty tons of polymer derivatives that are encombering the World. When energy is transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables, it is more than reasonable to make fair use of that material. It would be even more useful if all those hydrocarbon related stranded assets have some usage in future infrastructural development. But that is another story.
On a road into New Delhi, countless cars a day speed over tonnes of plastic bags, bottle tops and discarded polystyrene cups. In a single kilometre, a driver covers one tonne of plastic waste. But far from being an unpleasant journey through a sea of litter, this road is smooth and well-maintained – in fact the plastic that each driver passes over isn’t visible to the naked eye. It is simply a part of the road.
This road, stretching from New Delhi to nearby Meerut, was laid using a system developed by Rajagopalan Vasudevan, a professor of chemistry at the Thiagarajar College of Engineering in India, which replaces 10% of a road’s bitumen with repurposed plastic waste.
India has been leading the world in experimenting with plastic-tar roads since the early 2000s. But a growing number of countries are beginning to follow suit. From Ghana to the Netherlands, building plastic into roads and pathways is helping to save carbon emissions, keep plastic from the oceans and landfill, and improve the life-expectancy of the average road.
It has the benefit of being a very simple process, requiring little high-tech machinery. First, the shredded plastic waste is scattered onto an aggregate of crushed stones and sand before being heated to about 170C – hot enough to melt the waste. The melted plastics then coat the aggregate in a thin layer. Then heated bitumen is added on top, which helps to solidify the aggregate, and the mixture is complete.
Many different types of plastics can be added to the mix: carrier bags, disposable cups, hard-to-recycle multi-layer films and polyethylene and polypropylene foams have all found their way into India’s roads, and they don’t have to be sorted or cleaned before shredding.
As well as ensuring these plastics don’t go to landfill, incinerator or the ocean, there is some evidence that the plastic also helps the road function better. Adding plastic to roads appears to slow their deterioration and minimise potholes. The plastic content improves the surface’s flexibility, and after 10 years Vasudevan’s earliest plastic roads showed no signs of potholes. Though as many of these roads are still relatively young, their long-term durability remains to be tested.
The plastic that goes into roads would otherwise go to landfill or the incinerator (Credit: MacRebur)
In the Netherlands, PlasticRoad built the world’s first recycled-plastic cycle path in 2018, and recorded its millionth crossing in late May 2020. The company shredded, sorted and cleaned plastic waste collected locally, before extracting polypropylene from the mix – the kind of plastic typically found in festival mugs, cosmetics packaging, bottle caps and plastic straws.
Unlike the plastic-tar roads laid in India, the UK and elsewhere, PlasticRoad doesn’t use any bitumen at all. “[PlasticRoad] consists almost entirely of recycled plastic, with only a very thin layer of mineral aggregate on the top deck,” says Anna Koudstaal, the company’s co-founder.
Each square metre of the plastic cycle path incorporates more than 25kg of recycled plastic waste, which cuts carbon emission by up to 52% compared to manufacturing a conventional tile-paved bike path, Koudstaal says.
Gurmel Ghataora, senior lecturer at the department of civil engineering at the University of Birmingham, agrees that using plastics in the lower surfaces of the road minimises the risk of generating additional microplastics. “It is inevitable that such particles may be generated [at surface level] due to traffic wear,” he says.
With India home to one of the world’s largest road networks, growing at a rate of nearly 10,000km of roads a year, the potential to put plastic waste to use is considerable. Though this technology is relatively new for India, and indeed the rest of the world, Vasudevan is confident that plastic roads will continue to gain popularity, not only for environmental reasons, but for their potential to make longer-lasting, more resilient roads.
The world’s growing cities are a critical fact of the 21st Century and represent one of the greatest challenges to the future. By the year 2050 cities with populations over three million will be more than double: from 70 today to over 150. When knowledge is perhaps the most important factor in the future of city’s economy, there is a growing interest in the concept of the “knowledge city”. Hence, what are the qualities of future cities becomes a crucial question. Leif Edvinsson defines Knowledge City as “a city that purposefully designed to encourage the nurturing of knowledge”.
Knowledge city is not just a city. It is a growing space of exchange and optimism in which each and every one can devote himself to personal and collective projects and aspirations in a climate of dynamism, harmony, and creativity. There are already several cities that identify themselves as knowledge cities or have strategic plans to become knowledge cities. The list includes the following cities, for example: Barcelona, Melbourne, Delft, and Palmerston North. On the contrary, Arabcities are building technological isolated projects to promote the same concept. An examination of projects like Egypt’ Smart Village and Dubai’s Internet City and Knowledge Village will be helpful in evaluating the knowledge status of contemporary Arab Cities.
I’ll argue in this paper that the concept of ‘Knowledge Cities ‘is rooted in the urban, cultural structure of traditional Arab cities. Therefore, an attempt to foster this concept in today’s Arab cities would not be possible by building isolated technological statement scattered around the city. Alternatively, the rise of the network society, global networks, linked cities, and existence of smart communities should construct the basis for shaping Arab Knowledge Cities. In addition, the paper will introduce the concept of “Urban Creativity Engines”, and examples of various types will be presented. I’ll argue that this is a more comprehensive concept for constructing and evaluating knowledge cities. Although this concept and its terminology is new, the paper will prove that there are many historical examples, regionally and internationally, of “knowledge cities” and “Innovation/Creativity Engines
Castells (1996 & 1998) has argued that a new type of society is rising in our contemporary cities due to the consequences of the information revolution. From a sociological point of view, Sassen (2000) has argued that cities in the information age should be reperceived as nodes of an immense network of commercial and political transactions.
The Emerging Knowledge Cities: International Attempts
There are already several cities that identify themselves as knowledge cities, or have strategic plans to become knowledge cities. These cutting edge cities are aiming to win competitive and cooperative advantage by pioneering a new environment and knowledge ecology for their citizens. The list includes some of these cities according to the Knowledge Cities Observatory (KCO) classifications: Melbourne, Australia – its strategic plan for 2010 emphasize the path towards enhancing its position as a knowledge city. Delft, the Netherlands – the city clustered its knowledge intensive projects included in the “delft knowledge city” initiative in 5 themes: soil & water, information technology, innovative transport systems, environmental technologies. Barcelona, Spain – the activity of Barcelona Forum 2004, which manifests the cultural perspective which Barcelona adopted as a main theme for its knowledge sensitivedevelopment. Accordingly, the city was chosen to host the founding meeting of the distinctive Knowledge Cities Observatory (KCO). Palmerston North, New Zealand – this relatively small city puts education in the heart of its “knowledge city” manifest. Monterrey City, Mexico – the new governor set the goal of becoming a knowledge city among his top 5 priorities.
Knowledge Cities/Zones: Regional Attempts
In an attempt to actualize the high-performance knowledge city different initiatives took place in the Middle Eastern cities. Experiences and lessons learned from real-world knowledge zone initiatives. On the contrary of the strategic planning of European and American cities, Arab cities are building technological isolated projects to promote the same concept of claiming its new identity as knowledge cities. An examination of projects like Egypt’ Smart Village and Dubai’s Internet City and newly lunched project Knowledge Village will be helpful in evaluating the knowledge status of contemporary Arab Cities.
Hager Harabech elaborates in Phys.Org how Amid Nile dam tensions, Egypt recalls Aswan 50 years on.
13 January 2021
Half a century since Egypt’s ground-breaking Aswan dam was inaugurated with much fanfare, harnessing the Nile for hydropower and irrigation, the giant barrier is still criticised for its human and environmental toll.
It is also a stark reminder—amid high tensions today as Addis Ababa fills its colossal Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) upstream—of just how volatile politics over the life-giving, but finite, Nile water resources can be.
The Aswan High Dam was spearheaded in the early 1950s by charismatic pan-Arabist president Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Egypt, where the river provides some 97 percent of water for more than 100 million people, is the final section of the Nile’s 6,650-kilometre (4,130-mile), 10-nation journey to the Mediterranean.
For millennia, the North African country was at the mercy of the seasonal rise and fall of the river, dependent on the rainfall in nations far upstream.
But the 111-metre-high and 3.6-kilometre-wide Aswan High Dam, dwarfing the far smaller Aswan Low Dam built under British rule in 1902, crucially gave Cairo power to regulate the flow.
It was a “very important hydro-political act”, said geographer and author Habib Ayeb, a Nile expert who has taught at universities in Cairo and Paris.
The dam was inaugurated on January 15, 1971, three months after Nasser’s death, by his successor Anwar al-Sadat.
For the first time, “an Egyptian president decided to manage the Nile within Egypt”, to develop agriculture and the economy in the country, Ayeb added.
For Egypt, an otherwise desert nation where 97 percent of the population lives along the green and fertile Nile banks, the dam revolutionised its relationship with the land.
“The dam offered a reprieve to Egyptians by giving them enough water… and protecting them from the hazards of floods, which could be absolutely catastrophic,” said Ayeb.
It also brought electricity to much of the country, a move Nasser said was key to developing the nation.
Abdel Hakim Hassanein, who overlooks the river from his home close to the dam, some 700 kilometres south of Cairo, praised its construction.
“We didn’t have electricity before, we used oil lamps,” the 68-year-old said, adding that work at the dem remains a key source of local jobs.
Ethiopia, the second most populous nation in Africa, today uses similar arguments, saying its 145-metre (475-foot) GERD Blue Nile barrier—set to be Africa’s largest hydro-electric dam—is vital to provide power for its 110 million people.
But Egypt, with the Arab world’s largest population, sees the GERD as an existential threat.
‘Belly of the desert’
In the 1960s, many Egyptians also saw the Aswan dam as a threat to their lives—in a different way.
The lake behind the dam flooded the homeland of Egypt’s Nubian people, forcing tens of thousands to leave.
“For the Nubians, the High Dam is a symbol of oppression,” said rights activist Fawzi Gayer. “It wiped out a civilisation.”
Gayer was born just after his family was relocated to a dusty town its Nubian residents call Abu Simbel “Displacement”.
“We’re talking about a community with a Nilotic identity that breathes the Nile… and we have been thrown into the belly of the desert,” said Gayer.
“The elderly died of shock.”
The Nubians’ long-running demand for a “right of return” was included in the 2014 constitution, but their lands have been swallowed by the 355-kilometre-long Lake Nasser, which stretches south into Sudan.
It was not only people who had to move; the waters threatened to drown the three-millenium-old Pharaonic temples at Abu Simbel, kickstarting a massive UNESCO-led rescue mission that took eight years.
The ancient complex, including giant stone carved statues, was dismantled and moved to a new location, in one of the world’s biggest archaeological rescue operations.
There were environmental consequences too.
The creation of the giant lake also upset the river’s delicate ecosystem, holding back the fertile silt deposits, causing erosion and increasing use of chemical fertilisers.
For Ayeb, the dam also “proved to be a political bomb”.
In building Aswan, Egypt and Sudan agreed a Nile water sharing deal, but did not include any other upstream nations, including Ethiopia.
“It created the foundations for the break-up of the Nile basin as a framework for a common good,” said Ayeb.
Today, Addis Ababa, Cairo and Khartoum are mired in long-running fractious talks over the filling and operation of the GERD dam.
But, according to Ayeb, the critical challenge for Egypt is the management of the water it gets at present.
“Even if Ethiopia stopped its dam, there wouldn’t be enough water,” he said, arguing Egypt should halt desert irrigation—where nearly half the water is lost by evaporation—and stop agricultural exports.
Ayeb believes Cairo needs a new water and agricultural policy entirely.
Saudi Arabia unveils THE LINE a linear development of smart cities connected without cars as reported by DesignBoom seems to be a significant step out of the fossil fuels grip on any mode of transport but only in this corner of the country.
Saudi Arabia has unveiled plans for THE LINE, a 170 kilometer (106 mile) belt of communities connected without the need for cars or roads. described as ‘a revolution in urban living’, the project has been put forward as a blueprint for how people can co-exist in harmony with the planet. THE LINE will be completely free of cars and streets, with residents given access to nature and all of their daily needs within a walking distance of five minutes. furthermore, the team behind the project says that the linear development of hyper-connected AI-enabled communities will be powered by 100% clean energy.
all images and video courtesy of NEOM
Located in NEOM, linking the coast of the red sea with the mountains and upper valleys of the north-west of Saudi Arabia, THE LINE was announced by his royal highness Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince and chairman of the NEOM company board of directors.‘By 2050, one billion people will have to relocate due to rising CO2 emissions and sea levels,’ says his royal highness. ‘90% of people breathe polluted air. why should we sacrifice nature for the sake of development? Why should seven million people die every year because of pollution? why should we lose one million people every year due to traffic accidents? and why should we accept wasting years of our lives commuting? therefore, we need to transform the concept of a conventional city into that of a futuristic one.’
Although walkability will define life on THE LINE, with all essential daily services within a short walk, ultra-high-speed transit and autonomous mobility solutions will make travel easier and give residents the opportunity to reclaim time to spend on health and well-being. It is expected that no journey will take longer than 20 minutes. the communities themselves will be powered by artificial intelligence and will continuously learn in order to ‘make life easier’ for both residents and businesses. It is estimated that 90% of available data will be harnessed to enhance infrastructure capabilities. from an environmental perspective, THE LINE will comprise carbon-positive urban developments powered by 100% clean energy.
NEOM is a region in northwest Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea being built from the ground up as a ‘living laboratory’. Eventually the location, comprising towns and cities, ports and enterprise zones, research centers, sports and entertainment venues, and tourist destinations, will be the home and workplace to more than a million residents from around the world. It is hoped that THE LINE will create 380,000 new jobs, spur economic diversification, and contribute SAR 180bn ($48bn USD) to domestic GDP by 2030. construction of THE LINE will get underway in early 2021.
Africa has the world’s fastest urban growth rates; by 2050, its cities will be home to an additional 950 million people, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
More than 40,000 people in Africa are expected to move into its cities every day for the next 20 years.
Unfortunately, however, African megacities such as Kinshasa, Cairo and Lagos are well known for poor planning and functioning and are already unable to accommodate their existing citizens in an orderly fashion, creating the urgent need for new cities to see the light.
“Two-thirds of Africa’s cities are yet to be built,” according to the London-based think tank International Growth Centre (IGC). The need for modern, as well as extensive urban infrastructure in a continent known for depleted government budgets and little access to international funding naturally, creates a void that several private and land developers are already filling.
“Africa has a fast-growing middle class and many dynamic people would prefer to live in a well-planned and well-organised city,” says Yomi Ademola, Nigeria country head for private land and property developer Rendeavour.
An estimated $100bn of public and private investments are planned in new city projects across the continent, according to IGC figures. Nigeria is leading the way, with five new city projects covering 25 million sq m.
Nigeria’s biggest initiatives include Eko Atlantic in Lagos (with a planned investment of up to $60bn), and Centenary City ($18.7bn) and Asokoro Island ($900m) in the capital, Abuja, according to the research company Estate Intel.
“Most African cities have not built infrastructure as quickly as their populations have grown. Our model is to decongest these crowded cities by situating our projects 20km to 30km away from city centres and building infrastructure that matches the needs of the people within and around the cities,” Mr Ademola says. “We put a great deal of emphasis on efficiency.”
Rendeavour — whose biggest investors include Stephen Jennings, the founder of Renaissance Capital, and Frank Mosier, the founder of Kazimir Partners, an emerging markets investment firm — is developing seven new cities across the continent: two in Nigeria (Alaro City and Jigna), another two in Ghana (Appolonia City and King City), and individual cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia and Kenya. Overall, they cover 120 million sq m in total.
“The new cities are often in high economic growth areas, close to new airports, new seaways and new highways, or located in special economic zones,” Mr Ademola says.
New cities are developed as private plots of land offering residential, industrial and commercial infrastructure, and often regulated by special rules introducing incentives to investment, like in the case of Rendeavour’s Alaro City, which has been developed within the Lekki Free Trade Zone in Nigeria’s biggest city Lagos.
As the developer of the masterplan, Rendeavour is responsible for providing a city’s vital infrastructure so that individuals can build their homes and companies can construct and run their businesses. It also provides the infrastructure to specialist developers of schools and hospitals, and of residential, commercial, retail and industrial properties. It can also offer ‘build-to-suit’ lease agreements.
“Our utilities are regulated. We have public roads that cross through our land. So, our relationship with policy-makers is focused on creating policies that attract and enhance investment, whether this be through a special economic zone or working with governments to upgrade existing infrastructure,” Mr Ademola says.
“We do not believe completely private cities could or should emerge, because it is impractical to be an ‘island’ separate from the surrounding environment. New cities need to be integrated with their surroundings.”
Eko Atlantic is one of the continent’s most ambitious privately developed projects, covering an area of 10 million sq m — roughly the size of Manhattan’s skyscraper district — including 5.6 million sq m of reclaimed land off Victoria Island, the leading financial district of Lagos. The total envisaged built-up area could add up to 26 million sq m, involving a total investment of up to $60bn. However, the average price of an apartment to purchase in pre-sale is $415,000, according to the portal Nigeria Property Centre — significantly outside of the budget of the average Nigerian, who earns $2200 a year.
By 2040, Eko Atlantic’s developer South Energyx, a subsidiary of the Nigeria-based Chagoury Group, expects 300,000 people to be living in the city and a further 250,000 people commuting to and from it.
The project’s original concession agreement dates back to 2006 and land started to be reclaimed in 2008. It is privately funded by South Energyx.
“Our vision has evolved from a new financial centre for Lagos to a new business centre for the city,” says Ronald Chagoury, vice-chairman of South Energyx Nigeria. “Not only do we now expect many financial institutions to locate in the city, but also multi-national and Nigerian companies seeking to set up a new head office.”
However, some experts believe that new cities for the continent’s rising middle and upper classes could be a distraction for national governments, as they could channel scarce economic resources to Africa’s elites.
“Building new smart cities in the hope people will follow may be a high-risk gamble that most African governments cannot afford,” says Astrid Haas, policy director of the IGC. “A surer bet is to study where people are already moving, which means where future urbanisation is likely to happen. Laying the foundations for this urbanisation to happen in an orderly and well-managed fashion, such as delineating basic road systems and investing in basic infrastructure before settlement takes place, will go a long way to harness the potential of Africa’s urbanisation.”
Mr Chagoury, however, believes the benefits of projects like Eko Atlantic can spread across the board.
“It is true that some of the independent property developers in Eko Atlantic have decided to construct luxury apartments, but we do not regard our city as ‘elitist’,” he says.
“Over a 25-year period, we envisage up to 2 million people living and working in the city. Other property developers plan to construct smaller apartments at a lower entry price that can be financed by low-cost mortgages. We believe Eko Atlantic has immense potential as it caters for the Nigerian market, which has the continent’s biggest economy.
“Multinationals that want to penetrate the Nigerian market must have a local head office and our city offers a good location for them.”
With thousands of people across the continent moving to urban areas daily, the need for functioning urban infrastructure has never been greater. New cities and their private developers will help meet some of that demand, provided their projects do not become wishful thinking for a limited elite.
Originally posted on News: A study by French website Mediapart and Radio France Internationale (RFI) and two other French investigation sites in coordination with Dutch site Lighthouse Reports has revealed that French Rafael warplanes sold to Egypt had been used to support Khalifa Haftar’s forces in their military operations in Libya. The study said the…
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