Transformative ecological approach to mega projects

Elkadi, HA ORCID: 2016, 'Transformative ecological approach to mega projects' , International Conference of Mega Projects . (Unpublished)

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Regeneration of many regions is essential to enable their sustainable re-development and more importantly to maintain their viability and creativity in this global and rapidly changing world. Recent environmental challenges have highlighted the social and ecological challenges we face and have exposed our false sense of security in our cities and their infrastructure resilient capabilities. The reality of climate change is one of the causes of the shift in city agenda that also include the general decline of infrastructure in cities, conspicuous resource depletion, and the emergence of ecology as a new paradigm in regional studies. We are losing Arctic ice at a rate of double the size of France every two years. Antarctic ice is accelerating in its decline by 70 percent over ten years. Increased storms and rising sea levels threaten cities everywhere, and the devastation of New Orleans by Cyclone Katrina remains a specter of what can happen. Now, such natural aggression has started to knock on our backyard. More severe weather conditions should be expected. Should we build new engineering structures and defenses? In New Orleans the resilience of the city to withstand winds and waves from Katrina was significantly reduced by the loss of wetlands and mangroves around the Gulf shores, and by the inadequate infrastructure provided by the levees, errors that could be clearly observed in many coastal cities around the World. Flood-control infrastructures in our contemporary cities are not reliable mitigation defenses in the face of climate change uncertainties. Cumbria in UK has been suffering from severe and devastating flooding problems since Christmas and illustrates that engineering defenses are not the ideal solution. We need a plan that re-creates natural systems within Cities, that not only develop our green economy but also protect it from the expected future fluctuation of severe weather conditions. We need to rethink the current economic measures that dominate our development choices in mega projects; an economy that undervalues environmental assets, privatises the gains, and socialises the losses. When we are challenged, we have a choice, fear or hope. Prior to Katrina, New Orleans, a city that sits below sea level, was precariously unprotected by an aging levee system. The City didn't stand a chance. Since then, the levees have been rebuilt at a cost of billions of dollars, however that city remains exposed and unprotected should another Katrina occur. Fearful societies can resort to gimmick, short term ideas, and panicked decisions; fear does not build resilience. Confident hopeful cities are solution orientated, have long term plans and build alliances. It has never been clearer that we need to channel our thinking into a new direction, one that is capable of extracting hope from the structures of fear that underpins an outdated and obsolete mitigation and adaptation agenda; a framework that neither protect our cities nor build societal resilience. Our vision for mega projects should be to create hope against increasingly adverse and challenging environments. It is through collective actions, consensus on future direction, and a positive agenda that Egypt could turn challenges, socio economic as well as environmental, into opportunities and fear into hope. In the last five years, resilience has emerged as a key concept, supplanting sustainability in the urban design, planning, and socio-economic studies of cities. The ability of cities to bounce back from adversity has captured the imagination of planners, designers, and decision makers. Academics and policy makers have rushed to develop ready-made kits to enhance ‘resilience’ in projects and cities. Similar to sustainability, the term is now used to refer to any measure that would improve adaptation mechanisms, enhance mitigation efforts, limit impacts of adversities, or reduce the response time to natural or man made disasters. While all these measures are plausible to a certain degree, we have not been able to distinguish or develop meaningful applications for ‘resilience in cities’. An alternative mitigation approach is needed. True resilience of our cities should employ a ‘design with nature’ approach. Hybrid ecology with smaller footprint, self-organising, decentralised, multi equilibrium, and fragile city ecosystem would be more effective than a large hierarchical, integral, and rigid one. Climate change realities have already altered the balance in many cities, particularly in coastal cities. We should not only design our major projects with ecological principles but also prepare our community to take a more active and courageous leaderships for long term measures. We should not revert to expensive, disruptive, and inefficient engineering solutions to our cities. A more designed, integrated, ecological remedies should help us to maintain a beautiful, happy, and healthy Cities.

Item Type: Article
Schools: Schools > School of the Built Environment > Centre for Urban Processes, Resilient Infrastructures & Sustainable Environments
Journal or Publication Title: International Conference of Mega Projects
Funders: Non funded research
Depositing User: Professor Hisham Elkadi
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2016 08:18
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 17:09

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