In the future, an increasing number of people are expected to migrate towards urban centers, which raises an important concern: where will this growing urban population be absorbed? Will they settle in existing mega cities, in new cities, or in ever-expanding medium-sized urban centers?
Statistical projections indicate that the majority of this new urbanized population will be hosted in existing small- to medium- sized cities, begging the questions: how can innovative governance serve to achieve ‘sustainable’ growth, and more specifically, what are the implications of rapid urban growth for the governance of urban infrastructures?
Urban population growth will inevitably increase demand for basic urban services such as housing, mobility, energy, clean water, waste treatment, and green areas. Increasing the efficiency and/or capacity of existing infrastructures through infrastructural development could satisfy this demand. Another significant governance challenge is presented when the temporal element is considered, namely shifting demands for basic urban services.
In medium-sized cities, migration is a major factor in population in growth. In contrast to normal population growth, which exhibits continuous and modest mortality and birth rates (a maximum of 5% per year), the increase in population size due to migration occurs at a very fast, and usually discontinuous pace. An important implication of which is that the demand for basic urban services can shift in irregular patterns over very short periods. On the other hand, new infrastructural development is usually very cost and time intensive, and once built, structures have long life cycles.
As such, cities often find themselves needing to urgently provide more (or, in rare cases, less) services for their growing populations. In order to accomplish this, they need to fill their infrastructure gaps quickly. However, time and budget place major constraints on their abilities to develop sufficient infrastructures to satisfy new demands. When facing such a challenging situation, how should cities modify infrastructural development to include a long-term planning perspective in order to ensure the ‘sustainability’ of the entire system? How can cities avoid becoming involved in firefighting to provide temporary remedies for increasing demands instead of thinking about the sustainable development of the city’s infrastructure? What roles can technology and innovation play in tackling such challenges?
The two-week IGLUS Training Module in Sharjah-Dubai was held February 2015 in order to tackle these challenging questions. This was one of seven events in the IGLUS Global Training Series, and was organized by EPFL, Switzerland in collaboration with American University of Sharjah.
The aim of this two-week training program was to understand how cities can deal with the sustainability challenges they face with a special focus on the implications for governance of large urban infrastructures.
Over the last 20 years, Dubai has experienced one of the highest rates of population growth in the world. The population of the Dubai metropolitan area (including Sharjah) has risen from 700,000 to 3,500,000 people over the past two decades, and the city has developed a very aggressive growth strategy for the coming years. Along with this rapid population growth, the city-emirate of Dubai and the neighboring Sharjah have also demonstrated impressive development in terms of the construction of buildings and other infrastructures such as metro lines, highways, and water desalination stations.
The city’s achievements over the past two decades are impressive and undeniable, but some critics have questioned the sustainability of this rapid growth.
For this IGLUS Global Training series, experts from around the world gathered at the American University of Sharjah during this two-week training event in Sharjah and Dubai. We chose Dubai and Sharjah for this module because these are among the best cases to illustrate how the demand for more infrastructures can be addressed and what the implications of rapid population growth for sustainability are.
In the IGLUS-Dubai event, we discussed the growth experience of Dubai and Sharjah, as well as the link between the governance of urban infrastructures and the sustainability challenges encountered throughout this rapid growth. Numerous interesting initiatives to develop and implement sustainability frameworks in other cities in the region were also discussed.
Experts from EPFL, American University of Sharjah, Masdar Institute of Technology, UN-Habitat, World Bank, Veolia, DEWA, BCG, ARUP and several officials from different governmental bodies were present at the Sharjah – Dubai Module, where they discussed governance in periods of rapid growth and the challenges associated with ensuring sustainable development practices. More specifically, the following topics were covered in the IGLUS-Dubai module:
Participants in the IGLUS-Dubai module benefited from theoretical input as well as practice-oriented insights in order to assist them in resolving the challenges related to the governance of sustainable development in periods of rapid growth. Please click here to download the brochure and overall program of the Sharjah-Dubai 2015 training module. Our next IGLUS module in the Middle East will be held in Dubai in February 2016. For more information, please email email@example.com.