Saturday, 16 January 2016

Important Environmental Dates

There are several international environmental days that are celebrated annually to raise awareness about particular environmental issues as well as to show that you care for the environment, including:

·         February 2 - World Wetlands Day


·         March 3 – World Wildlife Day

      ·         March 21 - International Day of Forests and the Tree 

·         March 22 - World Water Day

·         April 13 - International Plant Appreciation Day

·         April 22 - Earth Day

·         May 22 - International Day for Biological Diversity

·         May 30 - Water a Flower Day

·         June 05 - World Environment Day

·         June 08 - World Oceans Day

·         June 17 - World Day to Combat Desertification

·         July 11 - World Population Day

·         September 16 - International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer

·         September 22 - World Car Free Day

·         September 25 - World Rivers Day

·         October 4 - World Animal Day

·         October 13 - International Day for Natural Disaster Reduction

·         October 16 - World Food Day


Cities have an abundance of potential where an economy can prosper. It is of utmost importance that cities must develop sustainably and also a balance must be sought between the city’s social, economic, and, important, environmental needs. However, this doesn’t always occur and urban settlements aren’t always effectively managed.

There were 7.2 Billion people worldwide in 2014; 6 billion were in less developed countries and 1.2 billion were in more developed countries. Today, half of the world’s population of 3.5 billion people is living in cities. According to United Nations, nearly 60 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030. By 2030, it is projected that 6 out of 10 people will reside in urban areas and the number will increase to 7 out of 10 people by 2050 (Khar Ee &Suet Leng 2014; Population Reference Bureau 2014).

Liveability is essentially about living a good, healthy, and sustainable life and about enjoyment, satisfaction, and fulfilment with one’s life. A liveable place is safe, clean, beautiful, economically vital, and affordable to a diverse population and efficiently administered, with functional infrastructure, ample parks, effective public transportation, and broad opportunities for employment. It also connotes a sense of community. Liveability refers to those spatial, social, and environmental characteristics and qualities that uniquely contribute to people's sense of personal and collective wellbeing and to their sense of satisfaction in being the residents of that particular settlement (UN Habitat 1996; Balsas 2004).

Measuring liveability of a city enables planners to see where the city’s weaknesses and strengths are. There are five dimensions of liveability, including vitality, sense, fit, access, and control. Balsas (2004) further notes and add a six element of “viability. These elements provide a context for discussion of the spatial, physical, social, and political organisation of various types of urban development”. Other aspects of liveability can also be subjective based on the fact how an individual perceive their satisfaction and happiness.

Zarin & Tarantash (2011) note that neighbourhood liveability includes density, walkability, transportation availability, land use and distribution, housing choice and affordability, leisure use spaces & opportunities, and special amenities and place qualities.

How an all-inclusive, resilient, liveable, and authentic city should look like. Source: The Philips Center for Health and Wellbeing [sa].

In order to counteract the various liveability problems that a city so often experience, it is important that there exist policies, guidelines and benchmarks in order to ensure that cities are sustainable and healthy. Several documents are valuable in the liveability realm, including:

1)    The Habitat Agenda (referring to Chapter IV: B. Adequate shelter for all and C. Sustainable  human settlements development in an urbanizing world).

2)    Agenda 21 (under the section Promoting Sustainable Human Settlement Development)

3)    Economist Intelligence Unit's Liveability ranking

4)    Mercer's Quality of Living Reports

5)    Monocle's Most Liveable Cities Index

The Habitat Agenda (referring to Chapter IV: B. Adequate shelter for all and C. Sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world) of the UN was selected. This enables local governments to adopt similar approaches and adapt it to their own needs and development problems. It deals with (UN Habitat Agenda 1996) adequate shelter for all; sustainable land use; Population and sustainable human settlements development; social development; environmentally sustainable, healthy and liveable human settlements; and sustainable transport and communication systems. This is an extremely useful and valuable document in order to achieve sustainable human settlements and in particular liveable cities. Local governments can use it as a universal benchmark and apply and modify it to suit its individual issues, especially in a developing cities which faces other, more pressing socio-economic problems. Under section 135 of the Habitat Agenda (UN Habitat 1996), it gives guidelines about liveability as it influences the quality of life.

Achieving sustainable human settlements. Because liveability includes the good, effective shelter, transports services, and other basic services, the Agenda 21 (under the section Promoting Sustainable Human Settlement Development) can also provide very good policies and benchmark for liveability purposes. It is an important blueprint that must be used nationally and locally by governments and organisations. Related objectives include: providing adequate shelter for all; promoting sustainable land-use planning and management; promoting the integrated provision of environmental infrastructure: water, sanitation, drainage, and solid-waste management; promoting sustainable energy and transport systems in human settlements; and promoting sustainable construction industry activities.

Two extensively known measures of liveability are the Economist Intelligence Unit's Liveability ranking and Mercer's Quality of Living Reports. They have, on a global scale, provide a valuable measurement of certain criteria of how good a city is and how liveable it really is. They calculate liveability of cities from around the world, using both subjective life-satisfaction as well as objective quality of life measurements. The EIU Liveability ranking assesses stability; healthcare; culture and environment; education; and infrastructure which are essential in good liveability (EIU Liveability ranking 2015).

Monocle's Most Liveable Cities Index include Safety/Crime, Climate/Sunshine, Connectivity, Public Transportation, Quality of Architecture, Environmental Issues, and Access to Nature, and Urban Design. When these aspects are achieve it will lead to good liveability in a city.

Various geographical tools are readily available to deal with liveability issues.

Geodesign assist in providing a framework to organise methods in order to construct liveability indicators thoroughly and accurately. Geodesign combines geography with design by providing designers with robust tools that support rapid evaluation of design alternatives against the impacts of those designs. Globalization, population growth, climate change, and increasing demands for resources are serious problems. Geodesign is the solution. Geodesign can assist developers and planners to make a more liveable city and especially in local areas where geographical contexts differ considerably (Esri 2010).

Geospatial Technology (computer-based mapping techniques) look at spatial data to acquire, analyse, process, and report information by looking at the spatial organisation of people, places, and environments on the earth’s surface to assist in the decision-making process and solve energy supply and demand problems in human settlements. Spatial information on energy sources and usages in settlements are of importance as the population continuously grows. Different tools can assist in dealing with the aforementioned challenges (Esri 2010).

GIS spatially views and analyses information to depict patterns, see correlations, and come to conclusions and look at changes of spatial patterns over time. By understanding geography and people's relationship to location, we can make informed decisions about the way we live on our planet. GIS can deliver insights from data by identifying, displaying, analysing, and deciphering real-world problems. A geographic information system (GIS) is a technological tool for comprehending geography and making intelligent decisions (Esri 2010).

GIS, being a good spatial problem-solving tool, integrates hardware, software, and data for capturing, managing, analysing geographically referenced information (Elliot 2014). GIS’ ability to manage, integrate, analyse, and visualize very large and complex data is making it an essential platform for creating the sustainable cities of the future Patterns of distributed data mashups (both tabular and map) are increasingly being implemented in cities (Dangermond 2014).

Remote sensing (obtaining information from a distant to observe spectral, spatial, and temporal resolution) as a technology is valuable because electricity demand continuous greatly in South Africa and is especially a problem in rural, more inaccessible areas and can be used as a point layer to spatially plot different class features that will require electrification in the future e.g. a dense informal area.

GIS functionalities, including spatial and database management and analysis, and cartography can help as a solution for geographic problem-solving in particular when it is complex. For example, it can configure a transportation network. Because residents in cities are so vulnerable and at risk of hazards, GIS can help to analyse potential risks and integrate it into the planning phase.

In terms of population and walkability, GIS maps can measure the number of residents within a convenient walk of a specific facility. GIS helps to assist in understanding the geographical world. It can demonstrate how differently an issue affects different populations or geographical areas e.g. in an informal and formal settlement (Esri 2008; Esri 2010). GIS can also show the accessibility of a certain area. It is possible to measure the distance to the city centre and where open spaces are located and compare it to the total urban area. Population density measures the compactness of an urban area and is done by comparing the population with the urban area. Remote sensing and GIS can be combined to look at where urban poverty occurs. So too can QOL be analysed in a city through GIS. GIS data can also so built environment according to their tabular attributes as well as help with research on walking and other physical activities in a city.

Various categories exists where improvements can be made and will be thoroughly considered in order for a city, on the long haul, to be a sustainable, liveable, and resilient city. This also means that the overall wellbeing of the residents will be significantly improved. A balance between economic, environmental, and social necessities must be reached.

It is thus vitally important that human settlement strategies should mainly focus on establishing viable integrated communities, which are both social and economic sound, and conveniently located close to economic opportunities and important amenities as well as have affordable transport to do so. Human settlements must be economically resilient and environmentally sound in order to become sustainable. In order for a city to become an all-inclusive, healthy, and sustainable city, it will be important to improve resident’s quality of life by looking at the following aspects:

Land use
The zoning must be changed so that it can become mixed-use. Affordable, accessible land can help to prevent poverty and assist migrants. When designing new settlements, it is important that it is closely located to transport corridors, thereby ensuring that people live a dignified and healthy life.

Safety and vulnerability
Vulnerable groups must be given maximum attention and to break down the barriers to shelter, education, work and other basic services. To limit criminal activity, social and recreational activities must be in place. All people must be able to live and thrive in a comfortable and safe and healthy environment. Criminal activities can be curbed by providing plenty of employment opportunities, transport, education, and housing.

Housing development must take place and integrate public transport services and an integration of basic services should take place, by way of locating economic and social facilities and amenities (leading to socio-economic interaction) close to a residential area so that it will make the built environment in close proximity to where people work and relax. This will ensure all community members will have equal access to such amenities and facilities. Housing must be supplied to all people in a community at an accelerate pace in order to provide for the huge backlog by making more space available, properly upgrading existing structures, and must be affordable, of good quality and be supplied with thorough basic services. Housing must also be equitable and energy-efficient and available to all ages, and races. It must also be fiscally sustainable. It is important that all people’s needs are fully met. These houses must be integrated with existing infrastructure of a settlement and well-located (close to important amenities) and well-managed.

Connectivity/Transportation uses
It is important to promote connectivity across the whole region and curb transportation gaps. Congestion must be limited and that fuel efficiency take place. It must be affordable, reliant, fast, frequent, and efficient. It must use as little resources as possible while simultaneously limiting air, water, noise emissions, and waste. Transport options must also become more economically and must be of a high quality. Roads must be widen or the number of cars must be reduced.

Social amenities and important facilities must be accessible within a few minutes’ walk. Mobility helps to minimise the distance covered and make less accessible places more easily accessible. Accessibility is so important in order to effortlessly reach goods and services. Walkability and the improvement thereof relates to land use, street design, and affordability. Streets and paths must be connected to all facilities and activities. More jobs must available close to the very dense residential areas.

Public Participation
Public participation must be at the forefront of planning and the decision-making process and promote community involvement for this process to become more inclusive. Interested and affected parties must be fully part of the spatial planning as this will lead to social Integration.

Built environment
Streets, buildings, and spaces must be integrated, green and inclusive of all people. Buildings must be disaster-resistant, durable, and sturdy. Renewable building materials must be mostly used.

Green spaces
It is important to encourage more green space as well as green infrastructure. Alternative technologies (e.g. Solar Water Heaters, grey water recycling and solar and energy efficient lighting to informal settlements) must be explored in order to increases sustainable resource use. Energy poverty must be addressed adequately.

Cities are urban sprawls which face a lot of challenges in terms of integrating sustainability and liveability. Several developing cities face serious liveability issues. But, it is possible to make it a more sustainable, liveable, and equitable city through improvements in the transport, walkability, housing, and vulnerability and safety sections. This will enable people not only to live a happy life but also a prosperous one. Liveability is of utmost importance in a city, when the liveability is good, the quality of life is good. Liveability is essentially about living a good, healthy, and sustainable life. When the liveability is poor, it impedes people’s quality of life and their ability to lead a prosperous and happy life. Several geographical tools are useful as a solution for these problems as well as international and national documents are available as benchmarks to fully equip a city in order to live sustainably.

Balsas, C.R.L. 2004. Measuring the livability of an urban centre: an exploratory study of key performance indicators. Planning Practice & Research, 19:1, 101-110.

ESRI. 2010. Best practices: GIS for Renewable Energy.

ESRI. 2008. GIS Best Practices: Essays on Geography and GIS.

EIU. A Summary of the Liveability Ranking and Overview August 2015.

Khar Ee, C.O. & Suet Leng, K. Issues and challenges of a liveable and creative city: The case of Penang, Malaysia. 2014. Geografia Online: Malaysian Journal of Society and Space 10 issue 3 (33-43) 33.

Population Reference Bureau. 2014. World Population Data Sheet.

The Habitat Agenda Goals and Principles, Commitments and the Global Plan of Action.

The Philips Center for Health and Wellbeing. [Sa]. A livable and lovable city? Insight Series on Livable Cities Nr. 1.

UNEP. 2007. Liveable Cities The Benefits Of Urban Environmental Planning A Cities Alliance Study on Good Practices and Useful Tools.

United Nations. 1996. The Habitat Agenda: Chapter IV: C. Sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world.