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Sustainable Cities

What is Sustainable Cities

Cities around the world should become more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. The simultaneous attainment of financial, environmental, and social sustainability of urban services is an important requirement of development. 

Sustainable cities will play an essential role in developing societies that is safe, healthy, and emissions-free. These sustainable cities can be achieved through various means, such as:

Social Interactions

Humans are social creatures and thrive in urban spaces that foster social connections. Because of this, a shift to denser, urban living would provide an outlet for social interaction and conditions under which humans can prosper. It is estimated that over 50% of the world’s population now lives in cities and urban areas.

Contrary to common belief, urban systems can be more environmentally sustainable than rural or suburban living. With people and resources located so close to one another, it is possible to save energy and resources, such as food transportation and mass transit systems. Finally, cities benefit the economy by locating human capital in one relatively small geographic area where ideas can be generated.

Urban infill

Many cities are currently in a shift from the suburban sprawl model of development to a return to the urban dense living. This shift in the geographic distribution of population leads to a denser core of city residents. People living in higher densities not only give economies of scale but also allow for infrastructure to be more efficient.

Walkable urbanism

Walkable urbanism should be adopted while housing for a diverse population, walkable streets, positive public space, integrated civic and commercial centers, transit orientation, and accessible open space. It also advocates for the density and accessibility of commercial and government activity.

Urban Farming

Urban farming is the process of growing and distributing food, as well as raising animals, in and around a city or in an urban area, and is different from rural agriculture because it is integrated into the urban economic and ecological system.

Urban agriculture is embedded in the urban ecosystem. Such linkages include the use of urban residents as laborers, use of typical urban resources (like an organic waste as compost and urban wastewater for irrigation), direct links with urban consumers, direct impacts on urban ecology (positive and negative), being part of the urban food system, competing for land with other urban functions, being influenced by urban policies and plans, etc.

In urban agriculture, in the context of creating a sustainable city, the method of food cultivation saves energy in food transportation and saves. costs. In order for urban farming, cities must allot a common area for community gardens or farms, as well as a common area for a farmer’s market in which the foodstuffs grown within the city can be sold to the residents of the urban system.


Small scale/private farming plots or larger scale agricultural systems should also be located within the city or suburbs. This will reduce the distance food has to travel from field to fork.

Renewable energy

Maximum use of renewable sources, such as wind turbines, solar panels, or biogas created from sewage should be ensured. Zero-energy buildings and other energy conservation systems/devices should also be used.

Reduction in energy consumption:

Various methods to reduce the need for air conditioning (a massive energy demand), such as planting trees and lightening surface colors, natural ventilation systems, an increase in water features, and green spaces equaling at least 20 percent of the city’s surface. These measures counter the “heat island effect” caused by an abundance of tarmac and asphalt, which can make urban areas several degrees warmer than surrounding rural areas – as much as 60 degrees centigrades during the evening.

Emphasis on proximity

Created by eco-friendly urban planning, the concept of urban proximity is an essential element of current and future sustainable transportation systems. This requires that cities be built and added onto with appropriate population and landmark density so that destinations we reached with reduced time in transit.

This reduced time in transit allows for reduced fuel expenditure and also opens the door to alternative means of transportation such as bike riding and walking.

Furthermore, close proximity of residents and major landmarks allows for the creation of efficient public transportation by eliminating long sprawled out routes and reducing commute time. This in turn decreases the social cost to residents who choose to live in these cities by allowing them more time with families and friends instead of eliminating a part of their commute time.

New urbanism

The most clearly defined form of walkable urbanism is known as the Charter of New Urbanism. It is an approach for successfully reducing environmental impacts by altering the built environment to create and preserve smart cities which support sustainable transport.

Residents in compact urban neighborhoods drive fewer miles and significantly lower environmental impacts across a range of measures compared with those living in sprawling suburbs. The concept of circular flow land use management can also be introduced to promote sustainable land use patterns that strive for compact cities and a reduction of greenfield land take by urban sprawl.

Car-free cities

The concept of car-free cities or a city with large pedestrian areas should be a part of the design of a sustainable city. A large amount of the carbon footprint of a city is generated from cars so it is often considered being an integral part of the design of a sustainable city.

Sustainable Cities
Sustainable Cities

Public transport

Improved public transport and an increase in pedestrianization will reduce car emissions. This requires a radically different approach to city planning, with integrated business, industrial, and residential zones.

Roads may be designed to make driving difficult. Optimal building density should be adopted to make public transport viable but avoid the creation of urban heat islands. Solutions to decrease urban sprawl involve seeking new ways of allowing people to the closer to the workspace. Since the workplace tends to be in the city, downtown, or urban center, they are seeking a way to increase density by changing the antiquated attitudes many suburbanites have towards inner-city areas.


In a major focus of sustainable cities and society development, sustainable transportation attempts to reduce a city’s reliance and use of greenhouse emitting gases by utilizing eco-friendly urban planning, low environmental impact vehicles, and residential proximity to create an urban center that has greater environmental responsibility and social equity.

Currently, transportation systems account for nearly a quarter of the world’s energy consumption and carbon dioxide emission in order to reduce the environmental impact caused by transportation in metropolitan areas, sustainable transportation utilizes to create more healthy and productive urban centers. Sustainable transportation emphasizes the use of a diversity of fuel-efficient transportation vehicles in order to reduce greenhouse emissions. Using alternative energy cars should be encouraged. Also, the creation of centralized bikes and walking paths remains a staple of the sustainable transportation movement.

Transportation access

Due to the fact that car and fuel costs are often too expensive for lower-income urban residents, completing this aspect often revolves around efficient and accessible public transportation. In order to make public transportation more accessible, the cost of rides must be affordable and stations must be located no more than the walking distance in each part of the city.

As studies have shown, this accessibility creates a great increase in social and productive opportunities for city residents.

By allowing lower-income residents cheap and available transportation, it allows for individuals to seek employment opportunities all over the urban center rather than simply in the area in which they live. This in turn reduces unemployment and a number of associated social problems such as crime, drug use, and violence.

Contributed by PB Rastogi, Former Advisor to Ministry of Forests and Climate Change, India.

Green Buildings:

Green buildings can be an important part of infrastructure development and enable the creation of sustainable cities.

What is Green Building and why it needs to be equipped


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