ZAWYA‘s INVESTMENT on 13 May, 2020 reports that Egypt presses on with new capital in the desert amid virus outbreak. Officials see mega-projects as key source of jobs .
By Aidan Lewis and Mahmoud Mourad, Reuters News
CAIRO- While Egypt’s economy has stumbled due to the coronavirus outbreak, construction at a new capital taking shape east of Cairo is continuing at full throttle after a short pause to adjust working practices, officials say.
The level of activity at the desert site – where trucks rumble down newly built roads and cranes swing over unfinished apartment blocks – reflects the new city’s political importance even as the government grapples with the pandemic.
Known as the New Administrative Capital, it is the biggest of a series of mega-projects championed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as a source of growth and jobs.
Soon after coronavirus began to spread, Sisi postponed moving the first civil servants to the new city and moved back the opening of a national museum adjoining the pyramids to next year.
Productivity dipped as companies adapted to health guidelines and some labourers stayed home.
But officials have sought to keep the mega-projects going to protect jobs, and after 10 days of slowdown construction had fully resumed at the new capital with a shift system, said Amr Khattab, spokesman for the Housing Ministry, which along with the military owns the company building the city.
“The proportion of the labour force that is present on site doesn’t exceed 70%, so that the workers don’t get too close,” he said as he showed off the R5 neighbourhood, which includes about 24,000 housing units. “We work less intensively, but we do two shifts.”
Sisi, who publicly quizzes officials responsible for infrastructure projects about timetables and costs, launched the new capital in 2015.
Designed as a high-tech smart city that will house 6.5 million people and relieve congestion in Cairo, it includes government and business districts, a giant park, and a diplomatic quarter as yet unbuilt.
One senior official said last year the cost of the whole project was about $58 billion. While some Egyptians see the new capital as a source of pride, others see it as extravagant and built to benefit a cocooned elite.
‘RUNNING ON TIME’
“We have clear instructions from his excellency the president that the postponement of the opening is not a delay to the project,” said Khattab. “The project is running on time.”
Disinfection and other protective measures were visible at the construction site 45km (30 miles) east of the Nile, though some workers were only ordered to don masks when journalists started filming and others drove by crammed into a minibus. Egypt has confirmed more than 10,000 coronavirus cases, but none at the new capital.
Delays in payments to contractors and to imported supplies were additional risks, said Shams Eldin Youssef, a member of Egypt’s union for construction contractors. Khattab said the government had contractors’ payments in hand.
The Housing Ministry expects to deliver two residential districts by late 2021, while the business district should be finished by early 2022, said Ahmed al-Araby, deputy head of the new capital’s development authority. Private developers and the army are building six other neighbourhoods.
In the government district, which Khattab said was 90% complete, ministry buildings fronted with vertical strips of white stone and darkened glass lead to an open area being planted with palm trees and mini obelisks in front of a domed parliament building.
To one side a large, low-rise presidential palace is under construction.
Sisi has urged people seeking work to head to new cities being built around the country, including the new capital, which Khattab said employs some 250,000 workers.
Critics have questioned the diversion of resources away from existing cities, including Cairo, parts of which are in slow decay.
“The question about how rational this is – whether it makes sense economically, whether it is doable, whether it’s the best course of action – this question is not even asked,” Ezzedine Fishere, an Egyptian writer and senior lecturer at Dartmouth College in the United States, said by phone.
On the other side of Cairo at the new museum next to the Giza pyramids, work has also been continuing at a slower pace.
In mid-April staffing levels sank to about 40%, with plans to recover gradually to 100%, said General Atef Muftah, who oversees the project.
An update on Egypt’s New Administrative Capital is here offered by Futurology
Once considered a farfetched possibility by skeptics, global warming and climate change are now surfacing as palpable realities of the day. From wildfires in Australia to melting glaciers in Iceland, the year 2020 bid farewell to the hottest ever decade recorded on the planet. Fortunately, though, measures are being taken across all industries to curb our modern world’s carbon footprint, and the case of building and construction sector is no different.
According to a recent UNEP-supported report titled 2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, construction sector in 2019 continued its notorious position as the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in 39% of the energy and process-related carbon emissions recorded during the year. The report further states that whilst as many as 136 countries have expressed intentions to work towards sustainable buildings, only a few have elaborated on tangible actions strategized to achieve such plans.
The global building stock is forecasted to grow twofold by 2050 as a direct consequence of increasing urbanization. If left unchecked, GHG emissions resulting from the building industry can rise to 50% of the global carbon emissions in the next three decades. While technological innovations have given way to reduced energy consumption, increasing cooling demand emerging from hot regions have overshadowed a significant positive trajectory. That said, countries across the world are increasingly targeting the urban built environment as a part of their national strategy towards a low-carbon future.
Within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Qatar houses one of the highest collections of sustainable buildings. Concluding 2019, the country saw completion of more than 50 projects certified under the Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) – MENA’s first performance-based assessment system for green buildings. Based on their overall sustainability credentials, projects registered under GSAS can achieve up to 5 Stars, representing the highest levels of sustainable features in terms of design and build. The award of final rating and certificates follows a comprehensive process whereby auditors from the Gulf Organisation for Research & Development (GORD) analyze several aspects of projects at multiple stages throughout the construction phase.
For the year 2019, here are some green projects successfully completed under GSAS.
During 2019, many recipients of outstanding sustainability ratings were linked with Qatar Rail’s Doha Metro project. With Mesheireb Station achieving the highest rating of 5 Stars, another 17 metro stations and 2 stabling yards at different locations within Doha received 4 Stars for their environmentally friendly design and build aspects. Doha Metro is by far the world’s first metro project with accredited sustainable certification specific to rating railway stations. This has been achieved through GSAS’ unique Railways Scheme that is used for rating the sustainability and ecological impacts of new main station buildings, including spaces that serve various functions of a metro station. According to Consolidated Contractors Company, sustainability of the project has been achieved through responsible site development, water saving, energy efficiency, materials selection, cultural and economic value support and innovation in design. Stations awarded GSAS accreditation during 2019 included those located in Msheireb Downtown, Ras Bu Abboud, Al Sadd, Al Sudan, Bin Mahmoud, Qatar University, Hamad International Airport Terminal 1, Al Doha Al Jadeda, Umm Ghuwailina, Ras Bu Fontas, Economic Zone, Al Wakrah, Al Bidda, Corniche, Hamad Hospital, Al Riffa, The White Palace and Education City.
Lusail City Projects:
A number of projects receiving green certifications during 2019 represented Lusail City – Qatar’s first smart city covering 38 square kilometers, that has mandated GSAS to ensure sustainability of all of its buildings. A flagship project of Qatari Diar, Lusail City has been dubbed as the “largest single sustainable development” ever undertaken in the State of Qatar. Use of native flora and water efficient landscaping mechanisms are some ways the city conserves water. Its integrated transport system reduces GHG emissions resulting from private vehicles. The city’s urban connectivity has been achieved through light rail, ample pedestrian walkways, bicycle tracks and park-and-ride facilities at the public transport stations. With a capacity to reduce up to 65 million tons of CO2 per annum, Lusail’s district cooling plant boasts of being one of the largest in the world. Other green credentials benefiting the entire city include a pneumatic waste collection system, sewage treatment plant and an interconnected natural gas network designed to cut down energy consumption.
Within Lusail, Marina Yacht Club Al Khaliji Tower received the highest sustainability rating of 4 Stars during 2019 followed by another 8 commercial, residential and mixed-use developments receiving 4, 3 and 2 stars. Once complete, the city will have the capacity to accommodate 200,000 residents, 170,000 employees and 80,000 visitors without significant impact on the environment.
Sustainable development is one of the four key pillars of Qatar National Vision 2030, a fact that has provided a natural impetus for public projects to be designed and constructed sustainably. Now, all government projects within Qatar are now mandated to pursue and achieve sustainability under GSAS certification system. To this end, health centers in Al Waab, Al Wajbah, Muaither and Qatar University were successfully completed with 3 Stars sustainability rating during 2019 under the supervision of Public Works Authority ‘Ashghal’. Interestingly, all projects undertaken by Ashghal have been designed and built following sustainability principles – a fact that has been reiterated by Ashghal’s President, Dr. Eng. Saad bin Ahmad Al Muhannadi, who recently emphasized that “Ashghal is implementing GSAS standards in all its public buildings in Qatar, specifically in educational and health buildings.” In the light of these comments, one can safely assume that the upcoming stock of health centers in Qatar will continue to have sustainability at the core of their design and construction.
Hamad Port Project Facilities:
Increasing Doha’s total port capacity, Hamad Port Project started operations in 2016. However, construction has been underway to develop new facilities aimed at enhancing the port’s functional efficiency. The year 2019 witnessed completion of multiple facilities inside the new port with sustainability certification. From accommodation and mosques to civil defense and business center buildings, 19 projects under the umbrella of Hamad Port received sustainability rating between 3 and 2 Stars. Development of the new port has followed comprehensive mechanisms aimed at preserving the environment. For instance, 39,117 mangroves, 14,252 sqm of sea grass and 11,595 hard corals were relocated prior to the construction phase. The relocated flora and fauna are being continuously monitored and have so far proven to be surviving.
Taking green sports infrastructure to another level, Al Janoub Stadium received GSAS 4 Stars during 2019, and rightly so. Soon to be a venue for FIFA 2022 World Cup games, the stadium consumes 30 percent less water in terms of international plumbing codes. More than 15% of its permanent building materials are made from recycled content and more than 85% of the waste generated during construction was processed to be reused or recycled, making it one of the most sustainable stadiums worldwide. Apart from Al Janoub, Qatar University’s Sports and Events Complex was another distinguishing project that received 4 Stars under GSAS Design & Build scheme.
From Toronto to Tokyo, the challenges faced by cities today are often remarkably similar: climate change, rising housing costs, traffic, economic polarization, unemployment. To tackle these problems, new technology companies and industries have been sprouting and scaling up with innovative digital solutions like ride sharing and home sharing. Without a doubt, the city of the future must be digital. It must be smart. It must work for everyone.
This is a trend civic leaders everywhere need to embrace wholeheartedly. But building a truly operational smart city is going to take a village, and then some. It won’t happen overnight, but progress is already under way.
As tech broadens its urban footprint, there will be more and more potential for conflict between innovation and citizen priorities like privacy and inclusive growth. Last month, we were reminded of that in Toronto, where planning authorities from three levels of government released a 1,500-page plan by Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs meant to pave the way for a futuristic waterfront development. Months in the making, the plan met with considerablyless than universal acclaim.
But whether it’s with Sidewalk or other tech partners, the imperative to resolve these conflicts becomes even stronger for cities like Toronto. If they’re playing this game to win, civic leaders need to minimize the damage and maximize the benefits for the people they represent. They need to develop co-ordinated innovation plans that prioritize transparency, public engagement, data privacy and collaboration.
The Sidewalk Labs plan is full of tech-forward proposals for new transit, green buildings and affordable housing, optimized by sensors, algorithms and mountains of data. But even the best intentions of a business or a city can be misconstrued when leaders fail to be transparent about their plans. Openness and engagement are critical for building legitimacy and social license.
Sidewalk says it consulted 21,000 Toronto citizens while developing its proposal. But somecritics have already complained that the big decisions were made behind closed doors, with too many public platitudes and not enough debate about issues raised by citizens, city staff and the region’s already thriving innovation ecosystem.
In defense of Sidewalk Labs and Alphabet, their roots are in Internet services. They are relative newcomers to the give and take of community consultation. But they are definitely now hearing how citizens would prefer to be engaged and consulted.
As for the public planners, they have a number of excellent examples to draw from. In Barcelona, for example, the city government opened up its data sets to citizens to encourage shared use among private, public and academic sectors. And in Pittsburgh, which has become a hub for the testing of autonomous vehicles, the city provided open forum opportunities for the public to raise questions, concerns and issues directly with civic decision-makers.
Other forward-looking cities, such as San Francisco, Singapore, Helsinki and Glasgow, are already using digital technology and smart sensors to build futuristic urban services that can serve as real-world case studies for Toronto and others. However, to achieve true success, city officials need to earn residents’ trust and confidence that they are following and adapting best practices.
Access to shared data is crucial to informing and improving tech-enabled urban innovation. But it could also fuel a technologically driven move toward surveillance capitalism or a surveillance state – profiteering or big brother instead of trust and security.
The Sidewalk proposal respects the principles of responsible use of data and artificial intelligence. It outlines principles for guiding the smart-city project’s ethical handling of citizen data and secure use of emerging technologies like facial recognition. But these principles aren’t yet accompanied by clear, enforceable standards.
Members of the MaRS Discovery District recently co-authored an open-source report with fellow design and data governance experts, outlining how privacy conflicts could be addressed by an ethical digital trust. A digital trust ought to be transparently governed by independent, representative third-party trustees. Its trustees should be mandated to make data-use decisions in the public interest: how data could be gathered, how anonymity could be ensured, how requests for use should be dealt with.
They come with big questions to be resolved. But if a digital trust were developed for the Sidewalk project, it could be adapted and reused in other cities around the world, as civic leaders everywhere grapple with innovation plans of their own.
The private sector creates jobs and economic growth. Academia and education offers ideas, research and a sustainable flow of tech-savvy workers. The public sector provide policy guidance and accountability. Non-profits mobilize public awareness and surplus capital.
As Toronto is learning, it isn’t always easy to get buy-in, because every player in every sector has its own priorities. But civic leaders should be trying to pull all these innovation levers to overcome urban challenges, because when the mission is right, collaboration creates more than the sum of its parts.
One civic example we like to point to is New York, where the development of the High Line park and the rezoning of the West Chelsea Special District created a “halo effect.” A $260-million investment increased property values, boosted city tax revenues by $900-million and brought four million tourists per year to a formerly underused neighborhood.
A mission-oriented innovation ecosystem connects the dots between entrepreneurs and customers, academia and corporates, capital and talent, policymakers and activists, physical and digital infrastructure – and systems financing models can help us predict and more equitably distribute the returns. Organizations like Civic Capital Lab (disclaimer: a MaRS partner) work to repurpose projects like the High Line into real-life frameworks for other cities and communities.
That kind of planning works because the challenges cities face are so similar. When civic leaders are properly prepared to make the best of modern tech-driven innovation, there’s no problem they can’t overcome.
The real estate market in Egypt’s capital Cairo continues its rapid growth with the construction of large-scale projects stimulating economic expansion and driving demand for Grade A office projects, according to Savills, a leading real estate services provider in the Middle East.
There is a systematic shift of tenants towards newer developments away from the erstwhile central business hubs in Central Cairo, towards modern speculative and purpose-built developments across New Cairo in the East and Sheikh Zayed City in the West, stated Savills in its latest report that analyses the Cairo Metropolitan Area (CMA) office market for the first half.
Demand is also driven by new market entrants – both domestic and global – along with expansion and consolidation exercise, it stated.
The city’s strong demographic vantage in terms of young, educated and comparatively low-cost workforce and a further improvement in global investor confidence towards the economy in the medium-to-long term will continue to drive demand for office real estate in the city, it added.
Head of Egypt Catesby Langer-Paget said: “As Egypt’s macro-economic situation continues to improve on account of prudent policy measures, our recent research shows that the demand for office space in Cairo has increased, driven by a mix of relocation, expansion and expansion led consolidation exercise.”
The sustained demand for office space has led to a spurt in project launches and completions over the past few quarters. This increase in the availability of Grade A options has created a short-to-medium term pressure on rental values across most markets.
However, headline rental values continue to remain stable but we have noticed enhanced flexibility among landlords with regards to incentives and lease terms. During H1 2019, rents for Grade A stock across Heliopolis ranged between E£300 – E£350 / sqm / month while in New Cairo and Sheikh Zayed City it ranged between E£350 – 400 / sqm / month.
“We noticed strong interest from the pharmaceutical sector, technology, banking and financial services and media firms to occupy Grade A space within the city,” stated Langer-Paget.
“In terms of new supply, no new projects were completed during the current review period. However, to meet this growing demand, we anticipate approximatively 155,500 sqm of Grade A space to be handed over across key areas such as New Cairo and Nasr City over the next six months,” he added.
In effect, three ways cities can help feed the world . . . without costing the Earth, per Silvio Caputo, University of Kent seem to be one of the few options remaining for life on earth to carry on.
Climate change is underway, and human activities such as urbanisation, industrialisation and food production are key contributors. Food production alone accounts for around 25% of global carbon emissions. Ironically, the changing weather patterns and more frequent extreme weather events resulting from climate change also put the world’s food supplies at risk.
Food production drives deforestation, meaning there are fewer trees to absorb carbon dioxide, which contributes to the greenhouse effect. What’s more, the fertilisers and pesticides used to protect crops have caused a dramatic decline in insect populations, and in soil fertility, by affecting the microbial organisms that enrich the soil and enable plants to gain nutrients.
At the same time, the world population is rising and there are expected to be more than 9.5 billion people on Earth by 2050. In response to these projections, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is campaigning for a 60% increase in food production by 2050, by intensifying agriculture to be more productive and use fewer resources, all without increasing the amount of farm land.
It’s not yet clear exactly how this “intensification” should happen. Alternative methods, such as organic farming, are respectful of soil ecology and insect life and can restore soil fertility. But they cannot, at present, produce as much food as industrial agriculture.
Yet the idea that we need more food is debatable. Although, according to the FAO, there are 821m people globally suffering from hunger, the world produces 50% more food than is needed to feed the global population. Another estimate from biologist and author Colin Tudge suggests that the current food production can feed as many as 14 billion people. But one third of this food is wasted because of distorted supply systems, unjust food distribution and unhealthy and unsustainable diets.
So, the efforts of experts in the food sector should not concentrate on agriculture intensification, but rather on strategies to change patterns of consumption and waste at a local and global level. My own research on urban agriculture and sustainable cities suggests there are three main areas where effective changes can be made.
1. Recycling food waste
Food consumption needs to become “circular”. This means that organic waste such as food scraps does not go to landfill, but is instead transformed into compost (which will be needed in a transition to organic agriculture) and biogas.
At present, organic waste is only recycled to a small extent, with some countries such as Germany and the Netherlands leading, while others including Italy and Belgium lag behind. But there are new technologies emerging to make this process easier.
For example, the Local Energy Adventure Partnership (LEAP) has created an anaerobic digester designed for an urban context: this machine can transform organic waste from residential or commercial buildings into compost and biogas that can fuel urban food growing.
Some experts also suggest that some food waste – if treated properly – could be used as animal fodder: a practice currently forbidden on hygiene grounds. If reinstated, this measure could reduce the environmental impact of grain cultivation, as less is grown to feed livestock.
2. Urban farming
Another option is to decrease demand for agricultural land by growing food in cities, where more people need it, thereby reducing the distances food has to travel. This would also allow producers to map and match consumers’ demand more effectively, by producing close to the places where food is consumed.
There is a lot of research on urban agriculture and how cities can support it, spanning from vertical farms – hydroponic systems enabling cultivation on vertical surfaces – to principles for planning cities that facilitate the use of land, rooftops and other spaces to grow food into a continuous green infrastructure.
In this area, too, it’s possible to find innovations designed to make urban farming easier and more sustainable. For example, The Farmhouse is a modular housing system suitable for vertical stacking that enables all residents to grow food. And Blockchain Domes is a patented system that uses excess heat from computer servers to provide optimal thermal conditions for greenhouses in colder climates.
3. Changing diets
The third option is to encourage people to change their diets. Growing middle-income groups in developing countries are consuming ever higher quantities of meat, cheese and eggs. In China, since 1990, consumption of beef and poultry has quadrupled. But the diet of farmed animals is heavy in grains, which instead could be used to feed people more efficiently. Also, cattle farming requires vast quantities of water and grassland, sometimes obtained through deforestation.
Getting people to eat less meat will help to ease the pressure on the world’s food system. In cities, governments, research institutions, communities and businesses can collaborate on food initiatives to give people healthier, cheaper and more sustainable choices – but this requires political will and organisation between different levels of government.
Clearly, each of these approaches has a limited scope of action, compared to agricultural techniques or strategies which can be deployed at an industrial level. But with so many promising proposals, there can be a many-pronged approach that that makes efficient use of the existing resources in cities, while also changing consumers’ habits. Together with these three changes, more effective policies for food justice and sovereignty can establish fairer food supply chains and more just distribution of food around the world.
There is no doubt that urbanisation trends and the ensuing acceleration of . . . lifestyle of many had a definite bearing on life on earth generally. The causes could perhaps be attributed to the recent additional availability of high earnings in the developing world’s peoples, and this had a direct impact if only by their sheer numbers on the whole planet. These trends got concentrated as elaborated on in the proposed article of Audrey de Nazelle, Lecturer in air pollution management, Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College London in certain regions only of the globe.
So, would urbanisation trends and the ensuing acceleration of . . . life generally, have a similar impact on all those ‘left behind’ other regions?
“It’s outrageous that we’ve reached a point where it’s healthier for some people to stay inside and not exercise, rather than walk outside and breathe polluted air” Image: REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski
Air pollution is now the fourth biggest killer in the world after smoking, high blood pressure and diet. It contributes to more than six million deaths every year. The majority of these are in poorer nations. Worryingly, air quality may become increasingly worse with rapidly expanding urbanization.
More than half the world’s population now live in cities. By 2050, this will reach two thirds. As more people move from rural areas to cities, there will be more cars on the roads, more traffic congestion hotspots near homes and workplaces, and less green space.
City dwellers are already suffering from fumes and smog on their daily commutes. It’s outrageous that we’ve reached a point where it’s healthier for some people to stay inside and not exercise, rather than walk outside and breathe polluted air.
Why do nations, political leaders, experts and campaigning organisations want to reduce air pollution? The main reason is to improve people’s health. But we can be bolder than simply mitigating this problem by trying to reduce particle concentrations. There is an exciting opportunity to go much further, and fundamentally rethink the way cities work.
Paradoxically, air pollution can spur us to transform public health and infrastructure, and change how we design cities in the future.
We currently spend a lot of time focusing on ways to reduce emissions or develop cleaner and more efficient fuels. Lawmakers apply taxes and levies or ban older cars in cities. The car industry is seeing a boom in hybrid and electric vehicles, which are much more environmentally friendly.
Of course, these solutions play an important role in cleaning up our urban air. But we are missing a huge opportunity to take a more holistic approach to the health and well-being of people living in cities.
For example, what if we rethought the purpose of our streets. Are they really just meant for cars to get from A to B? Or can we see them as a place to walk and cycle, where children play and neighbours meet?
Smog surrounds the Shard and St Paul’s Cathedral in London Image: REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett
By removing cars from cities, you are not just reducing emissions – there are countless other benefits. Researchers in London studied the health impacts of cutting emissions by two different methods. The first scenario used a technology-led policy, while the second promoted walking and cycling instead of driving.
Both scenarios resulted in similar levels of improved air quality. But the method which encouraged people to walk and cycle generated up to 30 times more benefits, due to health improvements from increased physical activity. I have carried out similar research in other cities and reached the same conclusions.
Sadly, current levels of air pollution may be putting people off from enjoying the outdoors and getting regular physical activity. A recent study in London compared the health effects of a walk in Hyde Park against one along Oxford Street. For people over 60, toxic air pollution cancelled out some of the benefits they got from the light physical activity.
And in some of the world’s most polluted cities, such as Delhi and Beijing, cycling for more than an hour every day can do more harm to you than good.
Smog over the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok, Thailand Image: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Some cities have announced car-free or car-less visions, including Milan, Copenhagen, Madrid and Paris. Oslo plans to ban all cars from its city centre permanently by 2019. Chengdu in China is designing a new residential area in which people will be able to walk everywhere easily, reducing the need for cars.
Although it was forgotten for a while, we do have some history of planning cities with public health in mind. The urban sanitarians in the mid-1850s called for new planning strategies that included more green space, better ventilation through streets and increased sunlight into homes, to combat the epidemics of the time – cholera and the plague.
These people made their mark on their respective cities through a conscious effort of planning for better health. We’re hoping to make similar strides again. Imperial’s Network of Excellence in Air Quality aims to identify the next big frontiers in air quality research, collaborating across disciplines to deliver new insights. Scientists and researchers from medicine, engineering, business and other disciplines are coming together to share expertise and find solutions to some of the biggest challenges.
My colleagues, Dr Marc Stettler, Dr Laure de Preux and I will be exploring some of these issues with peers and global leaders at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin in China later this year.
Like the urban sanitarians of nearly 200 years ago, we again have the opportunity to design our cities to improve public health. I have no doubt that we will get there, and that we will realize this new vision of what streets and neighbourhoods are for – a place for people to live in, not just cars. Why not start now, and start reaping the benefits
What is most challenging about leading public organizations in the MENA countries today? And do the challenges differ from those of around the world?
Sameh Wahba in this blog for the World Bank seems to be amazed by that is done, especially by how it is done in Japan. Of course, this is quite understandable on behalf of anybody native of the MENA region, let alone a well-educated blogger; Japan being in everyone’s eyes a success at all levels, has no equivalence in the Middle East nor in the world for that matter. Leadership that is the good one as professed these days in the world high education institutions has always been an issue in the Middle East since perhaps the advent of civilisation.
How do city leaders get things done? Learning from mayors in Japan
The picture above is of the competitive Cities Technical Deep Dive participants enjoying a walk through the Minato Mirai 21 area (with the Cosmo Clock in the background), which aims to concentrate high-value added activities and a high quality of life in an integrated urban core in downtown Yokohama. Photo Credit: TDLC
We spent the week as part of a Technical Deep Dive, studying and living the experience of two exceptional Japanese cities-Yokohama and Kobe. These cities have dealt with:
Industrialized at a rapid pace,
Responded to environmental challenges,
Reached the technological frontier,
Undergone a housing bubble,
And even went through a major disaster (the Kobe earthquake) and recovered from it.
WHAT needs to be done?
City leaders use a menu of interventions to increase competitiveness, including institutions and regulations, infrastructure and land, skills and innovation, and enterprise support and finance. Mayors directly influence several of these factors, and they work with regional and national level leaders to shape other levees.
A common theme was that long-term job growth was usually driven by tradable sectors. For instance, Kobe reclaimed land and crowded in investments into a life sciences cluster, to bridge medical research and commercialization. Over fifteen years, the cluster attracted over 500 companies, outperforming that in Singapore – a city of roughly six times the population. Yokohama invested in physical infrastructure, to restructure its economy – from port and heavy-industry led to frontier research and development.
HOW will it be done? City leaders recognize that an economic development strategy alone is insufficient. Implementation mechanisms and delivery systems are equally (and perhaps more) important to achieving the desired results. Both Japanese cities, Yokohama and Kobe, carefully and patiently built institutional capabilities to design, implement and manage. This included the ability to execute the basic tasks of projects – whether procurement, hiring, asset disposal or similar; The ability to accumulate knowledge – systematically noting what worked, adjusting plans and trying new ideas; and the ability to coordinate – to mobilize stakeholders to clear blocks when they arose in implementation.
The interaction with city leaders coupled with practical exchange across peers has presented World Bank teams with an overwhelmingly important question – what are the pathways to economic success across different types of cities? Given the huge differences in challenges, contexts and capabilities, what will it take to put city leaders in the driving seat of competitiveness? Our future efforts will continue to focus on helping cities better design, manage and implement policies, programs and projects. Understanding learning from Yokohama and Kobe’s experiences will help tackle the challenge.
“The way forward today is a community-driven, bottom-up approach where citizens are an integral part of designing and developing smart cities, and not a top-down policy with city leaders focusing on technology platforms alone,” said Bettina Tratz-Ryan research vice president, Gartner.
For smart citizens the focus is not just about the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and smart machines, but the enhancement of services and experience. Therefore, citizen-government dialogue is a key component that will ensure that the right issues are tackled.
To keep pace with the changing needs of citizens, and the development of new business, cities are now striving to become not just smart, but also innovative. Machine learning and chatbots are being used to engage citizens or assets with their environment. Cities are building business and technology policies to assess the opportunities offered by potentially disruptive technologies like AI for elderly care, autonomous driving or delivery bots. In addition, there are emerging use cases for blockchain for transactions and in record keeping.
Tratz-Ryan also noted that changes in citizen mindsets mean that governments must change their mindsets as well. “Government CIOs today need to look at creating innovation strategies to attract new industries and develop digital skills. They need to look at changing their spatial planning, road infrastructure, data and service management.”
Gartner analysts recommend three key factors CIOs in local government should keep in mind: Firstly, they need to understand the problems that directly impact citizens and apply technology to solve these problems. Then, they have to be mindful of the digital divide and pay equal attention to the issues of citizens with fewer IT skills. Incorporating technologies such as natural-language-powered virtual personal assistants is a step in this direction. Lastly, CIOs need to create open data strategies guaranteeing access to all interested parties in a city. Open data portals allow industries and universities — as well as interested citizens — unencumbered access.
“The key to CIO success is building objectives by developing key performance indicators (KPIs) that detect stakeholder priorities and measure success and impact. The UAE, especially Dubai, is a perfect example of how incorporating these guidelines help in the execution of the of the smart city framework,” said Tratz-Ryan.
By 2020, two-third of all smart city execution strategies will incorporate KPIs to visualise the impact of mobility-related urban services.
“Business strategies must clearly focus on the development of a seamless citizen service experience through digital access to information and government services. While preparing for the World Expo 2020, the Dubai government is focusing on creating thought leadership by implementing the most innovative technologies that create new modes of transportation (Hyperloop), energy generation (in conjunction with Masdar), or health and safety experiences,” added Tratz-Ryan.
As Green Building are more than just a Trend . . .
In the MENA countries, some concerns about sustainability started to be heard of back in the 1970s; in fact it was more of a follow-on trend than anything else. With the region’s increasing urbanisation impacting the environment, Green Building became an option for the real estates developers and management more particularly in the cities of the Gulf region where it somehow turned into a Trend, but Sustainability concerns is not about Green Building only, as reported by Top 10 GCC green building projects .
Consultants started indeed ringing the bell about the influencing factors that lie behind the lack of progress but that have to be addressed at the earliest. Lack of adequate legislation, due basically to the limited awareness of environmental issues generally could be the main reason.
Nevertheless some legislation that was sporadically taken in certain countries, apart from not being regionally coordinated, did not also confront the real issues and for lack of not taking account fully of the reality as it stands on the ground was across the board fairly ineffective.
The truth is that people slowly come to realise that we are having a devastating impact on the planet that we live on. In less than 2,000 years, human kind has led to the extinction to more species from the face of the earth than its entire existence. Considering that this is just a tiny bit of the overall time for which our planet exists, this is something that raises a lot of concerns. It’s obvious that people start to take initiatives through different LEED programs, sustainable development and through prioritising investments in different green initiatives. One of the most impactful fields is the construction. With this in mind, some things need to be pointed out.
Green Building – The Things to Consider
The truth is that green building, especially in Europe, has become something far more than just a simple development trend. And, of course, this is quite logical. It has paved the way for an approach which entails building homes and commercial constructions tailored to the demands of their time – not just to the demands of the occupants. And this is something that has to be particularly appreciated. The advantages are multiple.
It’s worth mentioning that it’s estimated that the lack of fresh drinking water is going to be one of the tremendous burdens for future generations, should we keep wasting it with the temps we are right now. Recycling rainwater, for example, can preserve potable water and yield tremendous amounts of water savings which is definitely to be considered.
Fossil fuel emissions contribute to development and furthering of the biggest environmental burden of our times – global warming. Harmful emissions directly impact the quality of the breathable air and bring in a lot of different threats to human’s health such as lung cancer and other respiratory issues.
Storm water Management
This is also something that you might want to account for. Green building as defined in the majority of the LEED Programs can help manage storm water runoff. The latter can cause waterway erosion as well as flooding. The most troublesome thing, however, is that it could introduce potentially dangerous pollutants to water sources, hence incentivising potential diseases outbreaks.
In any case, Europe is definitely riding the wave when it comes to sustainability, and you can easily observe this in a range of national and multinational projects. What is more, the Union is leading active policies, and it is actively funding initiatives in this particular regard through a range of different grants targeting both individuals and corporations. This is something particularly important. However, the same needs to be employed throughout the rest of the world as well. We can observe companies pioneering the field of sustainable development, and the examples here become more and more. This is definitely something particularly important, and it needs to be taken into proper consideration when it comes to it.
The Sustainable City of Ksar of Tafilelt of Beni-Isguen story was known to the local people since its inception. It has been rewarded last Monday in Marrakech, Morocco, by the 1st Sustainable City Prize, following an online vote called “Internet’s users Favourite City”, the Algerian Press Service (APS) reported on Wednesday citing officials of the Amidoul Foundation, initiator of the Ksar.
Amidoul Association A very special human experience, by its social, urban and ecological approaches . . .
The Ksar of Tafilelt, which was regarded as a very human experience in the northern edge of the Sahara and an eco-city in the desert, had more than 600 votes of the built environment professionals of the world, for having combined architecture, sustainable development, preservation of the environment and local lifestyle, said Moussa Amara, the Project Manager of the Ksar of Tafilelt.
This consecration was obtained as a result of the first edition of the Green City Solutions Awards competition, organized by the network Construction 21 that campaigns for the promotion of building and development of innovative and sustainable urban districts, at the COP 22 of Marrakech, as informed by Dr. Ahmed Nouh, president of the Amidoul Foundation.
The Ksar of Tafilelt has also been ranked second for the Grand Prize of the Sustainable City by an international jury, which considered it an example to follow and replicate in Algeria and elsewhere, said Dr. Nouh.
The ceremony of trophy handing over to the representatives of the Amidoul Foundation took place in Marrakech in presence of official delegations of the sector of water resources and the environment.
The Ksar of Tafilelt had already obtained, the first Arab League Prize for the environment in 2014 in the same city of Marrakech, Morocco.
Launched in 1997, this new Ksar, laid on a rocky 22 hectares site, provides 1,050 houses. It was designed for a better quality of life as based on the ancestral interpretation of the architectural heritage and the preservation of the local environment. It nestles on the top of a plateau that overlooks Beni Isguen palm grove and the M’Zab Valley.
Ksar Tafilelt nestles on the top of a plateau that overlooks Beni Isguen palmgrove and the M’Zab Valley
The initiators of the project made use of local materials (stone, lime and Palm trees wood) for the construction of the city buildings and amenities all as inspired by the surrounding Ksars’ old construction of the M’zab but combined with modernity in the houses interior.
New Ksar of Tafilelt is part of an ecological and social program as inspired by ancestral heritage contained in traditional Ksour of M’zab Valley classified in 1982 as universal heritage by UNESCO.
The experience of the Ksar of Tafilelt is considered by many specialists in the building industry as a reference in the preservation of architectural heritage combined with modernity, comfort and the bioclimatic and ecology.
Its initiators are working to implement the unique strategies for management of household waste, intensification and conservation of green areas, purification organic wastewater of the city as well as the agrementation of the daily life of the people by creating a park animal and plant of desert areas and natural. The vision that prevailed in the construction of this city whose special feature is the community spirit that motivated it, stems from the will to build integrated urban projects, sustainable, based on precise needs knowledge and the choice of solutions to outdoor areas to strengthen social cohesion.
They committed themselves to carry out all the work of household waste management by establishing a system of fixed collection and a system of recovery and recycling of waste, the creation of a system of biological treatment wastewater by macrophytes herbal plants and a solar public lighting system.
In a report titled SUSTAINABLE CITIES INDEX 2016 : Putting people at the heart of city sustainability, Arcadis, a global design and consultancy firm released this report on the most sustainable cities in the world. The PDF formatted report of Arcadis said it ranked 100 global cities across three sectors of sustainability — “People, planet and profit.”
In the same report however, Doha, Qatar is found as ‘not’ or the least environmentally sustainable form amongst the GCC countries. In effect, Doha came in at 72nd out of 100 cities in this year’s Sustainable Cities Index, compiled for Arcadis by UK-based economic consultancy Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). Last year, the country’s capital ranked 41st out of 50 cities in the same index.
Generally, the Middle East did not fare well on the global sustainability scale, and of the eight cities in the Middle East included in this year’s study, Doha fared the worst in the region because of its ‘green factors’ while ranking in the middle in terms of regional sustainability.
Dubai took the top spot and came in 52nd position globally, followed by its Emirati neighbour Abu Dhabi. Refer to the table below for the Middle East cities ranking in Arcadis’s report.
City and country
Middle East ranking
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Kuwait City, Kuwait
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Worldwide, European cities walked away with taking up 13 of the top 15 placements. The Swiss city of Zurich came in first place and Stockholm third, though Singapore came in second.
In the ‘planet’ category, cities were judged across seven factors such as Environmental risks, Energy, Green space, Air pollution, Greenhouse gas emissions, Waste management, Drinking water and sanitation.
But as put in Business Insider UK Arcadis in their report’s “profit sub-index”, ranked all the cities in the world in order of wealth and economic sustainability. “The 19 most wealthy and economically healthy cities in the world” have amongst them Dubai at the 4th position.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), a multinational professional services network headquartered in London, United Kingdom, surveyed major world cities and produced Another Ranking of Top World Cities that are generally metropolises of developed countries. The report was published on September 7th, 2016; we reproduce excerpts of it below.
London claims pole position for the second time in a row in a comprehensive benchmarking study of 30 leading business centres globally, boding well for its ability to withstand post–Brexit competition on a number of fronts. (more…)
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