Toward Future Smart Cities – lessons from around the world

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Historically, the growth of cities and their development has always been haphazard. For instance, the growth of Nairobi was based on the needs of the then new railway line that ran through to the port of Mombasa. Later developments on water, sewerage and such like, were therefore retrospective and reactive. This was a global tendency, with very few exceptions.

However, in recent years we have witnessed more proactive approaches to building, redeveloping, re-styling and reforming cities worldwide. The term ‘smart cities’ emerged as a result of this new thinking. It is often applied to cities that employ smart and practical use of technology, to mainly, improve their infrastructural efficiencies and increase accessibility to basic amenities. Inadvertently, in a highly dynamic world, with an ever-surging populace and fast-depleting natural resources, ‘Smart Cities’ now incorporate the very crucial aspect of sustainability.

The cities of the future will center environmental conservation, sustainable consumption and restoration of natural resources. This means, unlike the historical haphazard growth of cities, every building, dam, site or road, will be well-thought out and installed with a view of accomplishing the above. Of course, there are many ways to achieve this, but I will zero in on two integral and interlinked components of a sustainable future that underline all efforts – Energy Efficiency and Waste Management. Why these two? Because there is no activity towards building cities that does not involve a significant amount of energy use, and inevitably, the same activity produces different types of waste.

Presently, cities in the world expend 80pc of the total energy found on earth. Similarly, total waste in the world is colossal. According to the World Bank, present Municipal Solid Waste generation is at 1.3 billion tonnes annually, numbers which are expected to double by the year 2025. In our country, both Energy and Waste are critical drivers of our development and yet somehow, we are still yet to reconfigure them into economic solutions for our advancement.

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