Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lagos : A Pre - Mature Megacity

Lagos is the centre of one of the largest urban areas in the world. With a population of around 1.4 million in 1970, its growth has been stupendous. The population is expected to surpass 20 million by 2015. Lagos is the commercial and industrial hubs of Nigeria, with a GNP triple that of any other West African country. Lagos has greatly benefited from Nigeria's natural resources in oil, natural gas, coal, fuel wood and water. Light industry dominated in post-independence Nigeria and petroleum-related industry became prevalent in the 1970's, which were the main reason for the cities tremendous growth.

Oil production, which began in the 1950's, increased seven-fold between 1965 and 1973, while world oil prices skyrocketed. By 1978, the metropolitan area accounted for 40% of the external trade of Nigeria, containing 40% of the national skilled population. The world recession in 1981, which caused a sharp fall in oil prices, sent Lagos reeling into debt and runaway inflation that persist at present.

Energy and water access, sewerage, transportation and housing have all been adversely affected by haphazard development of a geographically disjointed city. There is movement of 7 million passengers per day according to a United Nations study of which public bus system (Danfo and Molue) shares the major part. The other mode being motor cycle taxis – ‘Okada’ while train shares only around 10,000 passengers per day. The city faces intense traffic congestion which has affected the productivity of its citizen to a larger extent. The city has launched regulated bus rapid-transit system and has begun work to develop a reliable and affordable urban rail system as part of efforts to sort out its legendary snail-paced traffic. However, it is quite controversial to say that these steps will eventually fail if they are planned in isolation with a focus to just ease mobility structure of the city and its inhabitants.

Another problem lies in its sanitation and sewerage system. While the rapid growth of development has boosted the waste consumption and its disposal, lack of public awareness and infrastructure for waste disposal have proved to be significant as well.

Lagos sometimes assessed to as one of the filthiest capital city of the world could be developed efficiently and sustainable in some sense – the policies and regulations should be a mix of both short-term approach and long-term approach. According to a study, the major portion of the waste generated in Lagos is paper which can be equipped and disposed by means of incinerator, etc, which will make the urban system comparatively efficient. Various other such steps have been formulated by the government authorities in which certain days are fixed, for instance – last Saturday of every month is fixed dedicated for sanitation works and programs between 07:00 am to 10:00 am restricting the vehicular and pedestrian movement during the time span. These are some steps which will enhance the urban system on a short and quick term basis. Long-term approach is quite essential to build self-sustainable settlements of tomorrow especially for the developing megacities like Lagos which may include providing city related education to its citizens, building public awareness programs, hierarchical phased development to generate and withstand economy, studying the natural systems and so as to increase their involvement in the overall process of urbanization, etc,. 

Lagos has a bright future if the city developments will be directed based on multi-disciplinary aspect. Cross-sectoral planning may prove quite beneficial and it has a brighter chance in a sense that it has numerous examples of success and failure stories of various cities that the development should be done wisely in order to make Lagos one of the decent livable cities of the world in the coming decades

Images from nlewilderutopia and atlanticcities

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Waste Emergency : An Alarm for City Growth and its Efficiency

In our current globalized and urbanized world, waste production scale is also increasing with increasing per capita consumption. The level of the impact on environment of this increasing phenomenon may vary with the variation in different factors like geographical conditions, political will, lack of community participation, level of awareness of the society and others. This waste management system has been designed and controlled by various cities across the Globe which tends to minimize the effects caused in its treatment/disposal, but a large number of these urban settlements have failed to understand the short-term and the long-term impacts of the increasing waste production.

As a city grow – it undergoes various phases. The first phase may be the production of goods and materials to create employment opportunities which generally forms the basis of the city’s economy. Now the migration caused due to the increased opportunities leads to an increase in city waste production. The migrated population will meld themselves into the city’s itself developed sub-culture over a period of time and with the ever increasing advancements and increasing PPP (Purchasing Power Parity), the consumption is set to increase with an increase in total waste production. The next phase comes when the impact on environment of the city system is studied and worked on besides some social and economic impacts.

In 1994, an official waste emergency was called in Campania Region of Italy by the President of its Council of Ministers. The reason behind such thing as quoted in some research paper was the failure of the regional plan which was introduced in 1993. The garbage problem in Naples, Italy's third-largest city stretches back to the 1980s, when the mafia began to infiltrate large waste-disposal operations. A number of events took place for the enhancement of the condition which includes the setting up of waste treatment plants, incinerators, involvement of private sector, etc. Beginning on December 21, 2007, the municipal workers refused to pick up any further material; as a result, the waste had begun to appear as regular fixtures on the streets of Naples, posing severe health risks to the metropolitan population. As per an estimate, over 200,000 tonnes of waste still remained on the streets in 2008. A contract was signed with the Dutch company AVR, which manages the Rotterdam incinerator, to transfer Naples garbage to the Netherlands at the rate of one ship-load per week. The initial operations have been allocated to the ship Nordstern, which started its transfer in 2012. As per an article published in Wall Street Journal in Nov 2013, a new garbage crisis is exploding on the outskirts of this city long plagued by recurring trash-handling problems—this time fuelling toxic bonfires that have burned unchecked and worries about contaminated water and food supplies.

The lack of political will, overlapping of competences and confusion of roles, scarce monitoring and controlling, limited involvement of citizens in the political processes of waste management are some of the causes which led to the waste emergency in Naples.

These are issues which could have sorted out if the administrators would have vision for both the short-term regulations and impacts in the longer run. This is just a case of Naples – this increasing waste production in the urban ecosystems is being experienced in various cities and it has to be dealt in more wisely with calculating the aspects on a wider picture and its impacts and effects – on the citizens quality of life, on the environment degradation, on the social factors involved and the economic factors – cities with such examples will be the least preferred cities for economic development and also for in habitation by the human population.

The City as an entity has evolved into a very complex system and the complexity seem to be increasing every moment that passes by. The case  of Naples discussed above could be seen as an alarm for various city developments and planning should likewise be done which includes the lessons and failure issues from the past examples and also the vision has to be divided into various disciplines and a wider frame for the city and its developmental aspects studied generally need to be outlined wisely.  

Waste management is regulated by a set hierarchy which stretches from a least favored option to a most favored option: disposal, energy recovery, recycling, reuse, minimization, and prevention represent the six procedures utilized. 

The waste production depends on every individual of a country. There are hundreds of things which an individual pass through everyday and if the individual is aware of the processes that these things precede its production and after its use – he may make the decision of consuming any article/thing smartly which will have a larger impact in the long run.

It can be said that political/local authorities may not serve the purpose of providing a high quality life to its citizens alone. The community has to come in light. Alvin Toffler observes in “Anticipatory Democracy” ‘the political technology of the industrial age is no longer appropriate technology for the new civilization taking form around us. Our politics are obsolete’. Osborne stated – ‘therefore, the new direction should be to make public safety a community responsibility, transforming the police officer from an investigator and enforcer into a catalyst in a process of community self-help’. 

Images from telegraph and nytimes

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mega Cities : The Dense Human Settlements

With the advent growth in the rate of population with the process of urbanization running parallel to it and that too at an accelerated pace, especially in the developing nations, has led the population to concentrate densely in some urban regions which are generally termed to as ‘Megacities’. The rise of human civilizations from smaller units to the concepts of ‘megacities’ and ‘global cities’ has brought in some drastic changes to the settlement patterns of the race of humanity.

In terms of population a megacity can be defined as an urban region with a population more than 10 million. New York Metro area was the world’s largest urban agglomeration till Tokyo passed it in the 1950’s. Tokyo-Yokohama area with a population of around 37 million tops the current list of megacities followed by Jakarta, Seoul-Incheon, Delhi, Shanghai and Manila. The trend has dominatingly shifted to the developing world as far as in terms of number of megacities are concerned. The other three western urban regions except New York in the list of 28 megacities are Moscow, Los Angeles and Paris. The Asian region will experience the greatest share of population concentration as illustrated below.
Megacities have become the nodal point of Global economy which is generally characterized by dense settlements. There are some points which while preparing plans for these megacities should be kept in consideration for elongating the life span of these urban regions. The tendency for cities to prioritise economic development over environmental sustainability – to get rich first before worrying about becoming clean later – could be an environmental disaster in the context of megacities and at the scale that exists today.

Cities are a part of the various natural systems which have their carrying capacities – going beyond may prove degradation and result in the inefficiency of them over a period of them. For developing megacities it would be far more beneficial if they widens there aspect and vision while dealing with the planning exercise.

One other factor which is very significant is the geographical location of the cities – megacities lying on the various coastlines will be affected the most if the phenomenon of climate change and global warming is concerned. There have been studies relating the increase in the sea levels and cities like Mumbai have been predicted to get suffered from it drastically. The city authorities and departments have to take some crucial steps in this relation as these cities now holds in a handsome amount of economic cost of themselves.

‘Mature’ megacities in developed countries have considerable resources to spend on things like renewable energy, waste management, healthcare, transportation infrastructure, crime-fighting etc. Developing megacities, on the other hand, not only have fewer resources but are also characterised by social dynamics that, in combination with this comparative resource paucity, can further amplify risks: fast population growth, including a lot of immigration. Developing megacities though also have a brighter chance to learn from the mistakes performed by the mature cities in the past.

Governance also need to be varied differentially as these cities, structurally and behaviour-wise are different than the earlier metro cities of yesteryear and those in development. The governing authorities need to work dynamically to provide the best they can to their citizens.

Megacities are prone to emerging various risks – governance issues, ecological issues, issues related with the quality of life that a human deserves, social issues, economic issues to name a few. These cities are amongst the most dynamic places of this planet and hence their development process should be wisely outlined. Megacities also hold in a risk of Shrinking over a period of time.

The quicker flow of goods, knowledge and money in megacities has the potential to optimise efficiency, use resources more effectively and increase flexibility and adaptive capacity. The blog will try to cover the various aspects related with different megacities – there growth plans and roadmap, development policies and urban issues related with them in the coming posts. 

Images from bbc and wallpapersshop 

Friday, April 4, 2014

How Human Beings Colonized the Five Continents?

In 1871, Charles Darwin in his book ‘The Descent of Man’ suggested that humans have evolved from the same African ape ancestors that gave rise to the gorilla and the chimpanzee. Although little fossil evidence existed at that time to support Darwin’s case, numerous fossil discoveries made since then strongly support his hypothesis. The first humans or how the human race evolved is a matter of some interesting phases.

The earliest primate with two distinct qualities – grasping the fingers and binocular vision, evolved around 65 million years ago giving rise first to prosimians and then to monkeys. Other mammals do have binocular vision but the combination of the above two provided the ground for an ease in adaptation with the environment.

The earliest primates split into two further categories around 40 million year – prosimians (before monkeys) and anthropoids. The prosimians were nocturnal generally feeding on fruits and plants. The anthropoids, or higher primates, include monkeys, apes, and humans. Anthropoids are almost all diurnal—that is, active during the day—feeding mainly on fruits and leaves. Evolution favoured many changes in eye design, including colour vision, that were adaptations to daytime foraging. An expanded brain governs the improved senses, with the braincase forming a larger portion of the head. Anthropoids, like the relatively few diurnal prosimians, live in groups with complex social interactions.

Prosimian - Grasping Fingers and Binocular Vision

About 30 million years ago, some anthropoids migrated to South America, where they evolved in isolation. Around 25 million years ago, anthropoids that remained in Africa split into two lineages: one gave rise to the Old World monkeys and one gave rise to the Hominids. Hominids include the apes and the hominids (humans and their direct ancestors). Apes exhibit the most adaptable behaviour of any mammal except human beings. Once widespread in Africa and Asia, apes are rare today, living in relatively small areas. No apes ever occurred in North or South America.

Apes, including our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, arose from an ancestor common to Old World monkeys. The first hominids were australopithecines, of which there were several different kinds. The ability to walk upright on two legs marks the beginning of hominid evolution. One can draw the hominid family tree in two very different ways, either lumping variants together or splitting them into separate species. There may have been several species of early Homo, with brains significantly larger than those of australopithecines. The first hominid species to leave Africa was the relatively large-brained Homo erectus, the longest lived species of Homo. Modern humans evolved within the last 600,000 years, our own species within the last 200,000 years. Our species is unique in evolving culturally. Language and cultural adaptations have made the level of advancements to the extent we living in. Differences in populations in skin colour reflect adaptation to different environments, rather than genetic differentiation among populations.

How Human Beings Spread Across the World?

1. African Cradle
Most paleoanthropologists and geneticists agree that modern humans arose some 200,000 years ago in Africa. The earliest modern human fossils were found in Omo Kibish, Ethiopia. Sites in Israel hold the earliest evidence of modern humans outside Africa, but that group went no farther, dying out about 90,000 years ago.

2. Out of Africa
Genetic data show that a small group of modern humans left Africa for good 70,000 to 50,000 years ago and eventually replaced all earlier types of humans, such as Neanderthals. All non-Africans are the descendants of these travellers, who may have migrated around the top of the Red Sea or across its narrow southern opening.

3. The First Australians
Discoveries at two ancient sitesÑ artifacts from Malakunanja and fossils from Lake MungoÑ indicated that modern humans followed a coastal route along southern Asia and reached Australia nearly 50,000 years ago. Their descendants, Australian Aborigines, remained genetically isolated on that island continent until recently.

4. Early Europeans
 Paleoanthropologists long thought that the peopling of Europe followed a route from North Africa through the Levant. But genetic data show that the DNA of today's western Eurasians resembles that of people in India. It's possible that an inland migration from Asia seeded Europe between 40,000 and 30,000 years ago.

5. Populating Asia
Around 40,000 years ago, humans pushed into Central Asia and arrived on the grassy steppes north of the Himalaya. At the same time, they travelled through Southeast Asia and China, eventually reaching Japan and Siberia. Genetic clues indicate that humans in northern Asia eventually migrated to the Americas.

6. In to the New World
Exactly when the first people arrived in the Americas is still hotly debated. Genetic evidence suggests it was between 20,000 and 15,000 years ago, when sea levels were low and land connected Siberia to Alaska. Ice sheets would have covered the interior of North America, forcing the new arrivals to travel down the west coast.

Images from portalcienciapixdausluna and planet uwc