Urban Growth Management Addresses Urban Challenges and Contributes in Urban Sustainability

By Syed Masiur Rahman
May 2005

The Author is Research Assistant at the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. → See also:

More than 80 million of people are added every year in the world [8]. Urban population is contributing much in this growth; almost 80 per cent of the world´s population growth within 1990-2010 will be in urban areas and most probably will be in developing world [10]. Growing trends of urbanization is worsening a number of problems, such as inadequate housing and urban services (water, sanitation, transport and so on), spiraling land prices and construction costs, proliferation of slums, pollution and deterioration of the urban environment [1]. The urban environmental problems can be synthesized into three main aspects: ”the over-consumption of energy and resources that exceed their production by the nature, the production of degraded energy, wastes and pollution more than the assimilative capacity of the ecosphere, and the lack of the necessary infrastructures to ensure health and well being of all citizens in cities of less developed countries” [8]. In urbanizing and urbanized countries as well, the city remains the main symbol of aspirations towards human civilization; equity, the provision of basic needs, opportunity and other social considerations are fundamental to the development of the sustainable city [4]. Cities must intensify their roles as engines of development and creators of wealth if their people are to survive and develop. As cities are the centers of technological transformations they have a critical role to play as purveyors of technical information, ideas and tools which are the central to increasing productivity, incomes, and ultimately the overall quality of urban and rural life [4]. In developing countries, the urban areas are forced to spend heavily on reactive environmental measures in order to survive from a strictly economic perspective. In urbanizing nations, the urban areas are supposed to plan and guide their operation and growth in a manner that optimizes the consumption of natural resources, and minimizes waste and environmental degradation, create the basis for investment in urgently needed social and economic development initiatives [4]. The challenge of sustainable development is to continue world economic development while maintaining the essential integrity of the Earth´s ecological systems and it is largely an urban challenge [5].

Sustainable development ensures equitable economic, social, cultural and technological development without polluting ecosystems and depleting natural resources. The proper management of natural resources without paying equal attention to the strengthening of human, capital and information resources will not lead to sustainable development [4]. Sustainable development cannot occur without carefully taking into account its human settlements [4]. Urban sustainability meets the needs of the present without compromising that of future urban generations. There are different perspectives in defining ”Urban Sustainability”. Register [7] emphasizes on ecological perspective in developing the concept of eco-city. Weiskel [11] supports an ecological perspective for major changes in urban areas. ”It is now clear that whether we will survive for very much longer as a species hinges on our capacity to engineer a durable transition to sustainable urban life”. [11] Newton and Taylor [12] bring another perspective in the urban sustainability:

... That the form of future urban activity and development may not be identified simply as an extension of existing trends and relationships. New technologies and a range of social and economic forces may emerge and be of a kind not evident from an extrapolation of past situations.
The objective of the futures survey was to identify those factors and trends which may result in events and impacts not previously foreseen and which are capable of changing the direction of urban development...

Newman [6] stated that the goal of sustainability in a city is to reduce the use of natural resources and production of wastes along with the improvement of its livability, which will cause the city to fit within the capacities of the local, regional and global ecosystems. The main challenge for the public sector in the area of urban growth and development is to ensure sustainability of urban development and manage urban growth to meet the needs of a growing population, which is taking place in an orderly and sustainable fashion [2]. In Canada, even in 1940s, provincial policies based on the conservation movement began to emphasize on managing growth. At that era, growth management was perceived as growth control - the slowing or stopping of development. In the 1980s and 1990s, growth management strategies emphasized on a coordinated and financially sustainable development process. Recent development in urban growth management intends to ensure public and private collaboration that must be responsive to both community goals and market interests. Growth management have been receiving growing focus in North America since 1940s. Identification of growth boundaries, and reliance on planning policies and set of strategies to affect comprehensive community building at the local, city and regional level contributed in the evolution of Growth management approach [3]. Growth management requires a multi-layered and flexible approach, collaboration and cooperation, significant commitment in both time and investment, and employs an arsenal of tools [3]. The set of strategies include all the urban form relationships, which make the open spaces and natural systems, healthy downtown, balanced movement systems successful [3]. The five critical components of a growth management strategy include:

Urban growth management should be effective in directing growth in a manner consistent with defined policy objectives for sustainable and balanced growth, and should anticipate and accommodate development needs that balance competing community building goals and coordinate local with regional-scale interests. Although individual urban areas need to develop its own, localized strategy for sustainable urban development, urban growth management should contain some generic key elements such as conservation of non-renewable resources, resource substitution and rehabilitation, control and treatment of waste emissions, and management of non-recyclable waste.



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