City Walker’s Chronicle
I wonder whether a proper balance between development and environment can ever be met. Even politicians prescribe this postulate as a campaign platform.
But what’s the correct proportion? Is it a 50-50 proposition with both development and environment taking the lead of policy and program of any society, or a perhaps with lesser configuration of 40-60, depending on the priority of the ruling regime?
Take the case of one of the foremost cities in the Philippines. It used to be a home for centuries old tries which were later on cut down to give way for high rise business and residential buildings. The construction of these structures comes with the extinction of the plants and trees planted along the major and minor roads. Now only few trees can be found within the city.
It’s a fine morning, and so I went walking along one of those major roads. Walking is no longer advisable along busy streets. The sidewalks are no different. They are as dangerous as the streets. They are dirty and filled with obstructions placed by vendors and workers from the nearest construction. Sidewalk vending is not illegal, of course. I think that no ordinance disallow it. However, the inconvenience that it causes to the walking public is really annoying. City officials will do well to give vendors specific spot in the city so that they continue with their livelihood without causing so much public inconvenience.
It’s funny that people try to grow trees after cutting the old ones to give way for these . People act in panic as if by planting thirty or more trees, they could still save what was already lost.
However, the problem is worse than they think. The pollution in the city cannot be arrested by turning to green cosmetics. More have to be done. Urban planners have to admit that the solution requires massive reordering of the city structure and the enforcement of sensible land use policies. Reviving the city demands political will on the part of the political leaders and the cooperation of the private sector which causes the major pollution and the congestion in the city space.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) predicted that there will be at least 21 Mega City in Asia in 2025. How Asia develop its cities is crucial to its survival. The reason is not difficult to understand. The ADB said that more than 120,000 people move into cities per day and about 500 million people were expected to live in urban squalor in the region.
According to the ADB:
“How Asia’s cities are developed in years to come will be the defining element in the region’s long-term prosperity and stability. In short, the quality and efficiency with which Asian cities are developed will make or break the region. Despite the problems, these rapidly growing cities are not simply home to urban squalor. They contain the vital ingredients to improve millions of people’s lives in the region. They are the engines of growth that drive prosperity in Asia and lead to solutions (see https://www.adb.org/green-cities/).”
The ADB then ask the question: How would you like your city to be like in 10 years?
People in the Vietnamese City of Vinh Yen answer the question by defining the characteristics of the city:
“Green" "Clean" "Fresh" "Peaceful" "In harmony with nature" “More trees” “More small parks” “More spaces for children” “Fewer cars” “Convenient” “Modern”
The ADB noted that the people in Vinh Yen in Viet Nam are not unique in their aspirations for a livable city. According to the study
“Throughout Asia, people are recognizing that cities serve a function beyond business and economic growth. They are places where people live, children go to school, and families spend time together. The quality of the air, water and land in these cities has a direct impact on millions of people.”
The need to transform Asia’s cities into healthy, livable areas sustainable for decades is undeniable. According to the ADB, this transformation requires a complete rethinking of how urban areas are developed and managed. City planners and developers need to push for the cleanliness of air, water and land to the forefront and to include public space for all residents of the city which include families, children, the elderly and the poor (see https://www.adb.org/green-cities/).
This gets me into thinking: So if this is what a livable city should be like, what kind of city are we living in?
With unmanageable traffic, congested sewage system, and stinking garbage, the cities we know are far from the ideal. We come to live in cities filled with all sorts of hazard to our health and well-being. Technology and innovation have not helped us solve these problems. Over the years efforts to rehabilitate the city ecosystem become more and more inefficient. And thus, it seems that these problems have become irreversible.
” Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city.”- (Charles Dickens)
Opps! It’s smog for us, not fog. That’s what we have. Cities are in disarray and with the chaos comes the foulest smells and the darkest smogs! This is what we are up against everyday.
People have stopped complaining. Many have come to accept that nothing could be done to alleviate the sufferings of the public. Some have become immune to the pollution and the chaos while a few others may actually be wishing that the next stage of evolution will factor in these conditions to the end that a new human kind will evolve with all the attributes and powers needed to survive the ongoing ecological apocalypse. Who knows?