Urban Resilience and the Danger of Urbanization without Urbanism

Can we live sustainably and just in cities in the future? Will land flight make cities a hotspot for environmental degradation and social injustice?

We do not argue that we have the answer for these questions, however we have solutions on how we can possibly avoid cities becoming pollution & social injustice hotspots by changing how we design our cities in the future. This includes mobility access for all, mixed land use planning and rethinking building standards. FES MENA interviewed Karim Elgendy the co-author of the study 'Leveraging Urban Resilience' with Hussein Kisswani, and discussed improving the ability of a city to withstand different shocks and stresses, and to quickly return to normal function. In times of COVID-19, this publication is more relevant than ever.

FES MENA: Would you please explain to us the context of the urbanization in the MENA region?
Urbanization has been growing steadily across most of the region for the last few decades, while some countries of the region like many GCC countries were even 'born urban’ and have very high urban population ratios. Currently two thirds of the region’s population live in urban areas, which is significantly higher than the global average.

FES MENA: Why it’s important to understand the effects of urbanization in the region?
Urbanization trends tell us a lot about the expected future of the region’s cities and what cities need to prepare for today. What size will the city be by 2030 for example. The impacts of urbanization on land use, mobility, energy, water, and material resource consumption of any given city cannot be overstated. This is even more critical when we consider that when urban population of a city grows, its urban area grows at a much faster rate.

FES MENA: What are the dangers of urbanization without urbanism?
Urbanization is supposed to bring about certain economic, social, and environmental benefits by reducing the cost of mobility and communication, and improving economic efficiency. But they also have downsides such as congestion, resource competition and limited open spaces. When the benefits are not achieved proportionately, this leave the city with the downsides of urbanization.

FES MENA: How can we tackle the urban informalities issue?
The Urban informality should be tackled in a way that improves the welfare of residents of informal housing areas, and that supports the operational efficiency of the city. The best approach to doing so is gradual improvement, which includes incorporating and upgrading basic infrastructure and service at neighborhoods and district scales, as well as upgrades to residential units where they do not meet basic standards.

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