Some cities are working to improve the spaces in which we live

Father-Son Series: Biodiversity, ecosystem, urban heat, not just words around the world

Ashok Silwal

‘In recent days, you remember’, said the father, ‘we talked about why the aunt’s garden is a very beautiful idea. And I gave you a glossary trying to explain you some words like biodiversity, ecosystem, unban heat, soil sealing.’

‘Yes, dad, I remember, they are difficult words for me but now I know they indicate very important things, attitudes and decisions.’

‘I understand that they are somewhat abstract concepts, that you can’t represent yourself well, What do they mean in everyday life? They must lead to some change?’

‘Yes’, replied the child with eyes full of curiosity.

‘OK! Today I will tell you how some cities in the world are already working to improve the spaces in which we live.’

‘Wow! I like it!’

‘Then, listen!’

  1. Copenhagen is the capital of a European country called Denmark. In Copenhagen far fewer people live than in Kathmandu so maybe it is easier to make certain decisions. Anyway, the capital of Denmark is considered to be at the forefront for its innovations in favor the environment, in particular with regard to mobility. (Mobility means how people move to school, to work etc. Have you in mind the big traffic in Kathmandu?) In Copenhagen, there are 350 km of bicycle lane; about half of the trips around the city are done by bike. This use of the bicycle combined with electric car, with the habit of walking on foot, with ‘car sharing’ has contributed to greatly reduce pollution. To this, they added special attention to the waste problem, food, water, energy. For example, for producing energy, they use a lot the sun (solar panels) and the wind (wind turbines).
  2. In the Indian Ocean, there is an island called La Réunion with a town called La Possession. A district of this city was built in such a way as to make the wind circulate in the streets, this to avoid ‘urban heat’. The wind allows the heat to be dispersed. (As what happens with human body!) The streets where the wind circulates are cooler. Then the managers of the neighborhood work with technicians on the orientation of the streets, on the shape of the houses etc.

‘It must be nice to live in this neighborhood’, said the child, ‘you can run the kite every day!’

‘Yes! and not only ! Listen more!’

  1. A big Asian city-state, Singapore, is a model for the ‘green’. Vegetation absorbs carbon dioxide and makes the air fresher. The ‘tree house’ building has one of the largest vertical gardens in the world and the temperature inside the building is lower than 3 degrees. Irrigation is based on the recovery of rainwater, They also use solar panels a lot. It is fortunate to have a tropical climate which favors exotic plants. Singapore’s example is difficult to apply elsewhere because it is a rich city with strong government. (When it is decided that a plant should not be plucked, no one does!)
  2. In Latin America, in Santiago, the capital of Chile, sine 2017, the treatment of waste water produced by 7 million inhabitants is carried out in such a way to transform sewage sludge into resources such as fertilizer and electricity. This also produces biogas thanks to the fermentation of organic materials. Then it gives electricity to the city.
  3. In France, in a little town near Paris, the capital, a building that houses a school and a gym was inaugurated, designed with nature in mind. During the recreation, the children go up on the roof and play among the trees and with chickens!

It is not an orderly garden: some plants suffer from the heat and die, others recover; that’s how it works in nature. The facades are different from each other for the dust that settles there and the birds that nest there. The intent is to create a true biodiversity and not just limit to designing green areas.

So, some little stories around the world!

‘Did you like them?’

‘Yes, very much and I understood that many cities are working to improve the spaces in which we live: hanging gardens, cycle paths, wind that circulates.

‘I would like to visit these cities when I am older.’

‘Yes, I wish you with all my fatherly heart and in the meantime you can do something in your little one too: use less plastic for example or use games made with recycled material as at school with tires that are too old to run on the roads.


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