Cities under pressure to balance trees and skyscrapers
Mayors from across the globe push for 'sustainable urban planning.'
Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 01:53 AM
The fight against the destruction of nature can start in cities, even as urban centers around the world face the challenge of accommodating more people, skyscrapers and transport systems.
While green groups at a U.N. environment meeting in Japan focused on the need to save rainforests and oceans, mayors at the talks said conserving nature in cities was equally vital.
"We must work on two levels. First, the preservation of ecosystems but also the integration of biodiversity in the city and in all policies," Evelyne Huytebroeck, the Brussels' region minister for environment, told a news conference.
"Biodiversity must be seen as part of the solution for the city, for sustainable urban planning, not as a problem."
Half of world's population is now squeezed into cities and the urban population is expected to grow to 70 percent by 2030.
Urban development should not have to clash with the need to restore ecosystems and biological diversity in cities, whether it be trees, plants or insects, delegates from 230 local authorities meeting on the sidelines of the Oct 18-29 U.N. talks said.
U.N. studies during the talks in Nagoya have highlighted the value of ecosystems to livelihoods, such as insects that pollinate crops, trees that clean the air and plants that are the source of food.
But waste, industrial emissions and pollution from transport have all led to ecosystems being destroyed in cities. Such changes were already posing risks to health, said David Cadman, a Vancouver city councilor.
"Mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus, Dengue fever and malaria are coming into places where they have never come before," said Cadman. "If you think preserving climate change, biodiversity is expensive, look at the coming costs to health care."
Cadman said cities were already working to preserve wetlands, save rivers and deal with waste responsibly. Brussels juggles the need to preserve trees and build homes and offices by requiring flat roofs bigger than a certain size to plant rooftop gardens.
"Maybe you say it's nothing, but it's a lot for a city when you see how many flat roofs you can have in the city," Huytebroeck said.
Copyright 2010 Reuters Environmental Online Report