Green lessons from the Olympics bids
Last week UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) congratulated
all the countries that bid for the 2012 Olympics for their concern for
the environment as elaborated in each country's proposal.
Britainís Kelly Holmes (C) reacts to the announcement that London
will host the 2012 Olympics, in Trafalgar Square in London, July
6, 2005. The London team overhauled long-time favourites Paris as
well as Madrid, Moscow and New York to win the race to stage the
lucrative sports extravaganza. REUTERS
"The fact that all the candidates featured the environment so
prominently in their bids showed their commitment to the concept of
sustainable cities," said Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director in a press
"It is also testament to how the environment has truly been adopted
as the third pillar of Olympism, alongside sport and culture," he said.
The press release further said that, all the short-listed cities made
pledges related to increasing the use of renewable energy, reducing
carbon emissions, minimizing waste and promoting ecologically friendly
venue design and sustainable transport and tourism.
This is a welcome sign for the future. The fact that the world's
large cities are waking up to the reality of environmental
sustainability after years of unsustainable growth and energy
consumption is indeed a change for the mega metropolises of the world.
The growth of cities is an inevitable environmental disaster and creates
huge problems that need to be addressed. It is cities that suffer most
from pollution of air and waterways.
It is cities that suffer the lack of green spaces and stagger under
the weight of huge energy bills. Cities attract people to its fold and
these people then demand services like water, electricity, drainage,
sewage, good transportation, recreation etc. So cities grow outward, and
upward, and more expensive to maintain.
More expensive, especially, in an environmental sense. Those who live
in cities inadvertently consume a huge amount of resources as opposed to
those living in rural village areas.
To have the more developed nations rethinking their models of city
development and considering better alternatives to the present days
urban hell-holes provides a good example to the rest of us.
In developing countries, population migration patterns point to an
increasing trend towards urbanisation. More and more people want to move
to towns and cities as agriculture fails to provide sufficient
livelihoods to the rural populace.
This is a reality even in Sri Lanka, where the present urban
population stands around 35-40 per cent. In 2050 an estimated 70 per
cent of our countrys population will live in urban centres and large
townships in the districts, preferring wage labour or jobs to the
traditional occupation of farming. This is huge shift and the problems
that will ensue are not small either.
Todays cities are bad enough in terms of environmental mismanagement
and resource waste, imagine this problem doubling as cities expand to
accommodate the migrants who will in turn demand more services from the
already-stretched local authorities.
Therefore it would be pertinent for our urban planners to look at the
new aspects of planning that have been incorporated in the Olympics bids
to get an idea of what a future city should strive towards.
To get an idea of the means of incorporating sustainable development
concepts into a living, breathing, growing urban centre. To provide us
with an idea of what kind of renewable energy resources are proposed and
the elements of the ecologically-friendly designs are that the UNEP is
so happy about.
These lessons would be valuable in a country where environmental
problems would be manageable if there is a serious attempt at managing
them in a proper, long-term manner.