Developing a sustainable city model for Port Louis

Published: 2017-10-27 12:40:33
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University of California, Santa Barbara
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ABSTRACT

Mauritius is one of the fastest growing countries in Africa and rising in popularity with a growing influx of tourists. The economy of the Island nation relies heavily on agriculture, tourism and the service sector with financial services, Information technology, and education emerging as the most crucial sectors.  However, the rapid growth and development that the country is experiencing have not been without challenges. Cities have witnessed a population increase of 330% in the last century alone, and yet the basic infrastructure is not keeping up with that pace. For Mauritius to fully actualize the Sustainable Development Goals, a reliable mechanism for realizing sustainable development in various key aspects of its urban population is required.  This proposal examines the various urban development and regeneration schemes that would create a sustainable model for Port Louis, the capital city of Mauritius. The primary focus will be on Water Harvesting and Management, Efficient Waste Management, and Sustainable Energy Usage.

Keywords: Water Harvesting, Waste Management, and Energy Usage.

 

OBJECTIVES

The project will focus on the approaches that shall be better suited to turn the city of Port Louis into a sustainable urban fabric. To realize this goal, the objectives of the study will be:

 1. To find out where Port Louis stands in relation to other cities on Sustainable Development Goals and urban sustainability.

2. To investigate the practical and proven urban sustainability models that have been applied with favorable results.

3. To determine the sets of regenerative and approaches that would be better suited for creating a sustainable city model for Port Louis.

4. To determine the potential benefits of regenerating the city.

 The study shall place a special emphasis on ‘plug and play’ solutions that are easier for policymakers to adopt.

 

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the Study

The ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’, commonly known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) refers to a set of aspirational global objectives fronted by the United Nations. The 17 goals were imitated through a process involving all the 193 member states of the UN in collaboration with the Global Civil Society to create an agenda for transforming and developing the world by the year 2030 (Moore, 2015).  The SDGs revolve around finding solutions to some of the pertinent challenges the world continually faces. Among the goals include improving health, alleviating poverty, combating climate change, protecting natural resources like oceans and forests, and creating sustainable cities.

The concept of sustainable development refers to the process of attaining socioeconomic progress without depleting existing natural resources. This entails moving towards achieving various human development objectives while also maintaining the ability of available natural systems to keep providing the natural resources upon which socioeconomic progress is based. The focus in sustainable development is on how contemporary communities can consume and utilize existing natural resources in a manner that considers the needs of future generations.

 Making cities sustainable

What constitutes a sustainable city? It is critical to illustrate some aspects of cities and urban areas that contribute towards efficient use of natural resources. According to the UN sustainability of cities can be achieved if there is significant attention to processes such as water harvesting and management, efficient waste management, and sustainable energy usage.

An important aspect of sustainability in modern cities is improving infrastructure. It is necessary for cities to put in place robust infrastructural foundations that can be able to withstand such natural occurrences. This will help protect the lives of people and make cities more resilient and efficient.

The second critical issue is improving mass transit or public transportation in urban areas. Masses of people in urban cities spend vast amounts of hours on traffic congestion, burning volumes of gasoline in traffic jams. As people move to cities and urban areas, the demand for public transport also increases. The International Energy Agency (IEA), postulates that road usage in some cities across the world could increase by six folds in the next few years. Traffic congestions, which have become a major factor in urban life in highly populated areas in the world, contribute significantly to environmental degradation through the greenhouse gas emissions.

Cities cannot be sustainable without efficient housing structures. In most of the cities in the developed world, it is estimated that houses contribute to about 40% of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere through processes such as cooling, heating, and powering houses and other buildings. A majority of the houses in cities do not have proper ventilation equipment, sufficient insulation, and sources of renewable energy. Investment in efficient houses and creation of better living conditions in cities can significantly contribute towards making cities sustainable.

 1.2 A case study of Mauritius

Mauritius, an island nation, is one of the fastest growing countries in the world today. From its independence from the British in 1968, Mauritius has risen from a low-income country to emerge as one of the most noticeable middle-income nations globally (N., 2006) (iv) (iv). Initially, the country’s economy was mostly reliant on agriculture, but it has quickly diversified as the country embarked on its rapid development strategy. Today, leading economic sectors in Mauritius include tourism, agriculture, industrial, and service sectors.

 The Urban Planning Situation in Port Louis

Challenges that Mauritius is currently facing;

a. The loss of water (around 50%) in their existing networks amounting to 1.4 billion in Rupees;

b. Loss of electricity through distribution and for purposes of reducing heat.

c. Loss of land and biodiversity through urban sprawl;

d. Lack of waste management systems;

e. An estimated 490,000 cars on the roads for 1.3 million inhabitants. Causing congestion.

      Port Louis, aerial view; urban infrastructure courtesy: Google maps

Port Louis sits next to a bay in the Indian Ocean on the East Coast of Africa. It is a densely populated area, having 12 % of the total Mauritian population. The population is projected to be well over 150,000 in five years. Given such figures, the current housing problem is expected to get worse as evidenced by the springing up of shanty towns on the mountain slopes surrounding the city. This brings with it the problem of inadequate infrastructure and service delivery. The poverty index is also on the rise with some area registering 15% poverty level, which is three times the country’s average.

 City Sprawl in Port Louis

Urban centres in the world make up to 4% of the land area on earth. However, these cities are home to more than 50% of the world’s population today. This percentage is expected to rise significantly to about 60% by 2030 given the current global urban migration patterns. This increase is largely contributed to by urban sprawl. Urban or city sprawl refers to the spreading of urban development’s like housing and market centres on undeveloped land near a city. In Port Louis specifically, the population has risen consistently due to the surrounding informal housing structures.

Ultra-high-density urbanism that has resulted from sprawl requires high energy reliance that sucks up the resources of a vast surrounding region. A compact city, such as Port Louis needs to be surrounded by agricultural lands for local food supply. High density or low-density dwelling is not a problem unless they are not well integrated with other densities. 

A geometrically integrated city ensures that sections of dense population and sections of resources such as water catchment, electricity generation and agriculture interact with each other conveniently at a cheaper cost. There should be designated zones of land for maintaining resources to sustain a dense urban population such as that of Port Louis. This can be achieved through effective government land policy to bar settlement in these regions.

sheldon

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