Module 7: Urbanization & Infrastructures

Module 7: Urbanization & Infrastructures

“Introduction … Urbanization and infrastructures … Ready to learn more?”
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  • Module 7: Urbanization & Infrastructures > 7.1. Introduction > Quick recap of the course
  • Module 7: Urbanization & Infrastructures > 7.2 Urbanization and infrastructures > Infrastructural challenges: turbulent times for cities
  • Module 7: Urbanization & Infrastructures > 7.2 Urbanization and infrastructures > Web lectures urban infrastructures

Module 7: Urbanization & Infrastructures > 7.1. Introduction > Quick recap of the course

  • Let me briefly summarize where we are at this point: In the previous weeks you have been introduced to the socio-technical complexity of infrastructures, and to the complex adaptive nature of infrastructure systems.
  • We have explained the concepts of infrastructure sector reform through liberalization, deregulation and re-regulation, privatization, and the introduction of competition.
  • You have seen that new developments were unleashed by such reforms, as well as by technological innovation – think, for example, of the trends towards convergence and digitization of infrastructure systems and services, towards internationalization and cross-sector interconnections.
  • Does all this mean that infrastructure systems are ‘fluid’, in the sense that they can accommodate any development, any change in user demands and societal priorities? My answer here is ambiguous; it is both yes and no.
  • In infrastructure planning and regulation, we have to strike a fine balance between protection of public values and accommodating societal change, without endangering stability.
  • You have learnt to appreciate standards as a stabilizing factor in infrastructure systems, and you have also seen that standards are of crucial importance for interconnectivity and interoperability.
  • In the world of infrastructures, many standards have been with us for more than a century, and the same goes for public values, such as accessibility, availability, affordability and acceptability.
  • You are now equipped with some modelling and simulation tools that enable you to experiment with decision variables, and that help you to acquire a deeper understanding of infrastructure system behaviour, and we have given you some clues about how to design an IT-architecture for infrastructure systems.
  • City’s are places where infrastructures physically meet and where synergistic effects can be achieved in the planning, construction and maintenance of infrastructures, and in resource efficiency.
  • Cities are the place where infrastructure systems branch out into multi-scale local distribution systems, that serve districts, neighbourhoods, streets and, at the capillary level, individual households and businesses.
  • In the two following video lectures, we will focus on infrastructure in an urban context, especially on energy and water infrastructure.
  • We will invite you to think about the challenges to be tackled by municipal governments, and the role of infrastructure in helping them to ensure and sustain an attractive and healthy living environment for their citizens, not only for the happy few, but for all of them.
  • What role can and should citizens themselves play in this endeavour? After all, their ideas and their expertise as users of infrastructure related services are an important resource to be tapped in developing infrastructure for the future prosperity of the city, for the wellbeing of those who work and live there, and for a healthy planet.

Module 7: Urbanization & Infrastructures > 7.2 Urbanization and infrastructures > Infrastructural challenges: turbulent times for cities

  • So what is it that makes cities so attractive? Has infrastructure something to do with it? Is it good or bad news that cities are growing, while rural areas are being depopulated? And what challenges do cities pose for infrastructure development, especially taking into account that the number of extremely large cities is increasing? Let us have a look at the pattern of urbanization worldwide.
  • In Argentina , 92% of the population is urban, and more than 35% of the population lives in the largest city, Buenos Aires, where more than 13.6 million people live.
  • An urban area or an urban agglomeration is the physical expression of a city – it is what you can see and touch: a concentration of built environment – homes, offices, industrial facilities, all types of infrastructure – which is clearly visible in a satellite view, especially at night.
  • The economic and functional expression of a city is the metropolitan area.
  • Metropolitan areas include one or more urban areas, as well as satellite cities, towns and intervening rural areas that are socio-economically tied to the urban core – as typically is measured by commuting patterns.
  • Without going into psychological explanations, I think it is clear that for most people, the opportunities that cities offer for social interaction, jobs, education, cultural activities and so on, outweigh the disadvantages of living in cities.
  • The work of Geoffrey West, Louis Bettencourt and others at the Santa Fe institute, shows that the productivity of cities increases with the size of the urban population.
  • The larger the city, the more innovation and wealth it produces per capita.
  • The productivity does not increase linearly with the size of the population, it increases in a supralinear fashion : doubling the size of the city systematically increases wealth and income with a scaling factor of 1.15.
  • In other words, doubling the size of the city leads to more than double the productivity of the city, as we see an increase of 15% in, for example, wages and number of patents per capita.
  • The rivers Euphrates, Tigris and Nile enabled civilization and with it, cities, to emerge in Mesopotamia and Egypt, around 6000 BC. Cities allow for a smart division of tasks and hence, economic specialization, which increases productivity and generates more wealth for all to share.
  • People’s choice to live in cities has always been a trade-off between opportunity and risk: cities offered protection against enemies, but also risk, for example the risk of contagious diseases.
  • As we can see today, with more and more megacities situated in flood-prone coastal zones, the location of cities is generally a trade-off between accessibility and safety.
  • While Japan and Europe show very low urbanization rates, below 1%, the annual increase in urban population is above 1% in most parts of the world, and a staggering 2.3% and 2.4% in China and India, respectively.
  • In Germany and the Netherlands, with 74% and 83% of the population living in urban agglomerations, we see that the population is distributed over a large number of relatively small cities.
  • In Japan and Argentina, the urban population is much more concentrated in fewer, much larger cities.
  • Looking at the patterns, we are tempted to speculate that the growth of megacities is an auto-catalytic process: as the opportunities increase supralinearly with the size of the city, the city becomes a stronger magnet for people and talent as it grows.
  • Is the current trend towards urbanization good or bad news for food , energy and water security? Is it good or bad news for the environment? What are its needs in terms of infrastructure development? How can infrastructure cater for ‘Better city, better life’ – the slogan of the Shanghai World expo in 2010? Is Infrastructure the key to the factor 8 efficiency improvement and productivity question? We will try to find some answers in the next module.

Module 7: Urbanization & Infrastructures > 7.2 Urbanization and infrastructures > Web lectures urban infrastructures

  • Surface waters have been polluted, and air quality has been affected by particulate and gaseous emissions from industry, power plants and car traffic.
  • Operates on a self-contained economy, resources needed are found locally Has completely carbon-neutral and renewable energy production Resource conservation-maximizing efficiency of water and energy resources, constructing a waste management system that can recycle waste and reuse it, creating a zero-waste system Restores environmentally damaged urban areas Ensures decent and affordable housing for all socio-economic and ethnic groups and improve jobs opportunities for disadvantaged groups, such as women, minorities, and the disabled.
  • It is hard to imagine a megacity which is completely self-sufficient in food, water and energy.
  • The rural model of living off-grid, with solar panels on your roof, cutting your own trees for firewood, pumping water from your own well, disposing of your waste water in your own septic tank, and burning your own waste, or leaving it in your backyard, is not feasible in cities.
  • The good news is that the provision of water and energy to urban residents and the removal of waste and waste water can be accomplished with higher efficiency and with better quality of service than in rural areas, as infrastructures can do the trick, building on economies of scale and scope.
  • The Amsterdam water utility, Waternet, which produces drinking water for the city of Amsterdam and treats its waste water, supplies the biogas produced from its wastewater treatment plant to AEB for conversion into electricity and heat.
  • At present, due to improved efficiency in waste water processing and in the collection of organic waste, the amount of biogas produced has increased to the extent that Amsterdam is becoming a green gas producer.
  • In dense megacities, infrastructures for the supply of safe drinking water and the hygienic removal of waste and waste water are arguably the most crucial for the citizens’ wellbeing, as they are crucial for public health.
  • Untreated waste and waste water are potential sources of disease, including contagious diseases.
  • Waste and waste water must not only be treated for reasons of public health.
  • It is also necessary to protect the local environment and its ecosystems and waste and waste water are becoming more and more important as sources of secondary valuable raw materials.
  • Waste water is a source of for example phosphate, which is needed as a fertilizer in agriculture, and the solid waste produced by cities is a source of useful minerals and valuable metals.
  • The problem with cities, and especially with megacities, is that their concentrated population mass puts excessive strain on the local environment, in terms of water and energy needs as well as the generation of emissions, waste and waste water.
  • In practice, much more than just the local environment is affected: in a world of global supply chains, a major part of the city’s water and energy use is happening where the city’s food and goods are produced.
  • Agriculture is responsible for 70% of the world’s freshwater use, industry for 19%, whereas domestic use accounts for only 11%. However, think of the water footprint of the products that you use every day: a liter of milk has taken 1000 liters of fresh water to produce.
  • The footprint of a new pair of jeans is 11,000 liters of water, as it takes 10,000 liters of water to produce a kg of cotton.
  • The sad truth for many megacities in coastal zones is that they satisfy their freshwater needs by extracting groundwater at rates that far exceed the rate of replenishment, with serious adverse consequences, such as salt water intrusion and land subsidence, see for example what happened in Jakarta over the past 40 years.
  • Salt water intrusion implies that groundwater becomes increasingly brackish, so that more and more energy intensive and expensive desalination techniques are necessary to make the water drinkable.
  • Especially in water strained locations, the city’s water needs often conflict with the water needs of agriculture and local ecosystems.
  • As water is a prime condition for life on earth, cities have historically always been located in areas where fresh water was available in abundance.
  • The choice to use groundwater instead is usually made because of its better and more constant quality, so that it is less expensive to turn it into potable water.
  • In many emerging economies, surface waters are heavily polluted as a result of untreated or insufficiently treated discharge of industrial and municipal waste water.
  • Agricultural pollution caused by the application of pesticides and fertilizers also poses a threat, both to surface water quality and future groundwater quality.
  • To some extent, the water balance in cities can be restored by designing for water retention in the city.
  • Green park areas which also offer water storage options, also contribute to restoring the water balance as well as to the quality of the living environment for the city’s residents.
  • Such measures help to some extent to maintain freshwater pressure in aquifers, thereby reducing salt water intrusion, and ensuring that natural ecosystems are not bereft of fresh water.
  • The challenge for cities is to meet the water demand as far as possible with renewable internal freshwater sources, which are internal river flows and groundwater from rainfall in the country.
  • Since most large cities far exceed their renewable water capacity, it is the more important to raise people’s awareness of water scarcity, and to advocate frugal water use, for example with the use of water saving fixtures in your home.
  • In some countries, such as Ireland, water use is not yet metered and charged, which is a practice that is obviously not conducive to responsible water use.
  • To build and maintain a high quality water infrastructure, the costs should be covered by all its users.
  • Without metering and charging water use, consumers are not stimulated to reduce wastage.
  • The most extreme measures to guarantee water security are seen in Singapore, where waste water is processed and purified to the extent that it is restored to drinking water quality.
  • The drinking water reclaimed from waste water is known as ‘NEWater’ in Singapore.
  • Even if it is absolutely safe, free from bacteria and even virus particles, most people do not like the idea that they are drinking used water, which is the reason that NEWater is currently supplied to industries for non-potable water use.
  • Both Hong Kong and Singapore have extensive schemes in place to protect the quality of their raw water reservoirs.
  • In spring of 2014, it was the UN World Water Day, which focused on the water-energy nexus: energy is needed for water, and water is needed for energy.
  • Energy depends on water – not only for power generation, but also for the extraction, transport and processing of fossil fuels, and the irrigation of feedstock crops for biofuels.
  • In the OECD/IEA scenarios for the future, withdrawals increase by about 20% between 2010 and 2035, but consumption rises by a more dramatic 85%. So water is growing in importance as a criterion for assessing the physical, economic and environmental viability of energy projects.
  • Among other examples, the availability of and access to water could become an increasingly serious issue for unconventional gas development and power generation in parts of China and the United States, for India’s large fleet of water-dependent power plants, for Canadian oil sands production and for maintaining reservoir pressures in Iraq, which support oil output there.
  • Such vulnerabilities will require deployment of better technology and especially greater integration of energy and water policies in the future.

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