Global Warming and Urban Planning in the 21st Century


Wajahat Sultan

Sponge City Model can help reduce urban flooding by up to 90 per cent.

Global Warming is an existential threat that directly impacts the major human settlements across the world. Due to uncontrollable defects of global warming, it is feared that it can risk the global economy as well as sinking entire cities like Karachi and Miami due to rising sea levels and cyclones. Global warming posited multifaceted problems ranging from geopolitical to aggravated economic issues. Urban planning is the systematic way forward as the urbanized population of Pakistan is rising at a faster pace. Urban planning includes technological innovation, sustainable development, and modern techniques to develop and sustain metropolitan cities in efficient ways.
Pakistan needs to leapfrog to new technology and management methods in urban planning for sustainable growth and countering the ominous threats of global warming. The first area under discussion is the Modern Biophilic Design City. To counter climate change, natural interaction is a prerequisite. Organic architecture in urbanism helps to decrease Carbon Dioxide emissions. In the Chinese city of Liuzhou, about 10,000 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide and 57 tonnes of micro-particles were avoided by the introduction of Biophilic Design. This design in urbanized communities stressed the natural architecture and natural environment in the congested mega malls and commercial areas. Stephen R Kellert in his book “Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practicing of Bringing Buildings to Life” argued that fostering beneficial interaction between people and nature in modern building landscapes reduced the anxiety level and increase creativity level in modern urbanized communities. In the modern days of the urban population, the deduction of greenery and organic architecture design is at a halt which steers the course of global warming in different variants. The Biophilic City Design facilitates the horizontal growth of urbanism and nature together.
The second point in sustainable urban planning is the sponge city model. It is a model introduced by Chinese researchers to manage the ecological infrastructure and drainage systems. Sponge City Model can help reduce urban flooding by up to 90 per cent. The sponge model focused to design urban pavement in such a way that can absorb the stormwater and then release it like a sponge after purifying it. The released water can be used for various purposes like agriculture and the construction of underground water tanks. During the monsoon season, many people die and infrastructural damage happens in mega cities of Pakistan. Karachi is more vulnerable to urban flooding due to rising sea levels and irregular weather conditions. The sponge model aids to prevent the excessive use of plastic pipes and channels. During rainfall and flood conditions, this pavement design and infrastructure model helps to absorb water in the ceilings and then use it for purposive means in the future. In China, 34-hectare “Qulin Storm Water Park” is the clear and successful manifestation of the Sponge Model City. Pakistani urban planners can learn to create such parks and recreational areas where the stormwater can be absorbed as well as provide a natural habitat to the population in the realm of global warming.
The third planning strategy is the Mix-Use Design Model. The spurring growth of population and urban neighbourhoods forced planners to design such adjustments in which all the essential units of life are integrated. Mix-Use design focuses on three or more uses in a single structure such as entertainment, parking, residence, and hotels. In Pakistan, it is high time to consider Mix-Design urban planning to prevent global warming. The availability of all the resources in one place helps to prevent unnecessary transport usage which causes global warming. New Urbanism Movement’s design to develop ecological and Sustainable Cities is helpful to reduce the momentum of a rising heat wave and abrupt seasonal changes. JR Towers in Nagoya Japan has something in the mix for everyone. The three towers are built together, which facilitates the bullet train as well as the local subway. It has office space and a hotel in the same tower. An exterior elevator provides easy access to the top fifteen stories. In Pakistan, there is no such trend of Mix-Design Buildings that could facilitate multiple facilities together in one building. The rise of Mix-Design Buildings can avoid the expanded communities in urban spaces which later deteriorate the climate of the cities. Planners must design megacities on the course of mix-use design.
Due to rapid Rural-Urban Migration, Pakistan is at the helm of decreasing agricultural yield. In 2020 Agriculture Yield declined to 18 per cent in Pakistan. Vertical Farming in megacities is the modern AgTech-based technique to grow more plants in small places. It can be done in warehouses and even buildings. In traditional societies, horizontal agriculture is widespread and focuses on expanded and large-scale area-based farming. In modern cities, planners can discern to produce more food and more agricultural resources in minimum space. The rising threats of global food shortage can also be combated through Precision and AgTech in cities where modern drones and GIS-based data can be utilized to increase fertility.
The last element of urban planning in the 21st Century can be discussed in the form of the 15 Minutes City Model. It is a type of urban planning in which the consumption of oil, fuel, and other fossil fuels lessen to prevent the harmful effects of Global Warming. In 15 minutes, all the residents, commercial and recreational building blocks as well as facilities are provided for access and not for mobility. The cities are designed to connect each part within mobility of 15 minutes so that unnecessary consumption can be avoided. Finally, the urban planning of the Pakistani cities should be concerned with the supply chain of food. 36 million tonnes of food for parties and hotels in Pakistan are wasted every year. The planning of cities should include the improved food supply chain and managing food to avoid food insecurity.
Climate change is exacerbated day by day due to the rising population in urban areas. The urban population is becoming unmanageable and ungovernable in the 21st Century. To avoid the ecological apocalypse, it needs an efficient plan to sustain our city’s eco-friendly and environmentally 21st Century. The metropolitan city planning committee must discern the prevalent eco-friendly techniques to avoid major global warming setbacks. It is high time for our city and regional planning departments and concerned authorities to introduce novelty in urban planning.

The writer is a published columnist.