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Greenery And Sustainability Urban Planning Environmental Sciences Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Sciences
Wordcount: 2044 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Urban development through construction of roads, building, bridges and even landscaping can have significant impacts on the environment. Many environmentalists regard the preservation and introduction of greenery as fulfilling an indispensable urban infrastructure requirement. Chan and Lee (2008) suggest that urban renewal is commonly adopted to cope with changing urban environment, to rectify the problem of urban decay and to meet various socio-economic objectives. Although the provision of green spaces tend to be routinely advocated and implemented by the planning profession in developed countries, similar kinds of commitments are seen as weakly expressed in many third-world countries. In this essay, I attempt to argue that without a comprehensive sustainability effort and landscape plan, and even with one in some instances, rapidly expanding urban cities particularly in developing countries tend to grow relentlessly outward and upward to cause widespread environmental degradation, through the discussion of sustainable urban planning in one of the cities in developing country, which is Hong Kong.

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Hong Kong is located just within the tropics on the south coast of China, extending into the South China Sea, Hong Kong consists a land area of 1097 km2 and a sea area of 1700 km2, where there are 250 islands, the larger ones being Hong Kong Island and Lantau Island (Newcombe, Kalma, & Aston, 1978; Warren-Rhodes & Koenig, 2001). The terrain is mountainous and rugged with very little flat land for settlement, making Hong Kong’s population has settled on the limited existing and reclaimed land available for development (Warren-Rhodes and Koenig, 2001). The city state of Hong Kong has one of the highest urban population densities on Earth (Newcombe, Kalma, & Aston, 1978). In the past 150 years, Hong Kong has evolved into a thriving metropolis of 7 million people (Warren-Rhodes and Koenig, 2001). Despite significant differences in overall life conditions, the Hong Kong population enjoys a quality of life comparable, by many indicators of physical, mental and material well-being, with populations in the developed world (Newcombe, Kalma, & Aston, 1978). Since the 1960s, Hong Kong has been transformed from a bustling entrepot to a light industry center in the 1970s and to a service-based economy in the 1990s accompanied by economic wealth of more than 10% rise in per capita GDP annually (Warren-Rhodes and Koenig, 2001). Hong Kong has paid a high environmental price for its success, where its records of pollution levels have caused a decline in environmental quality which is impairing the city’s ability to lure international investment (Warren-Rhodes and Koenig, 2001).

According to Warren-Rhodes and Koenig (2001), urban metabolism measures quantitatively a city’s load on the natural environment. By knowing the metabolism background of Hong Kong, it will be easier to estimate the environmental level based on the development as well as population density of the city. In cities, metabolic flows arise from material use, food consumption and urban development; materials are stores as infrastructure; and materials and wastes are moved through manmade circulatory systems, with pollutants released to air, land, and water systems (Warren-Rhodes and Koenig, 2001). Since Hong Kong relies upon and appropriates heavily from natural ecosystems to produce foods and uses water as well as other resources to process wastes, it significantly augments and alters material flow and energy cycling through the environment. Concerns on the impacts on natural resources and the environment especially in the late 1990s have prompted the government to commission a study of how sustainable development could be achieved in Hong Kong (Warren-Rhodes and Koenig, 2001).

According to Warren-Rhodes and Koenig (2001), enormous changes have occurred in Hong Kong over the past 26 years, where 1 million people have been added to the population each new decade, which bringing greater resource needs and waste generation habits, thus increasing the urban metabolic rates. It is argued that high metabolic rates can be beneficial to a city’s survival, where compact cities with high population densities can achieve extremely efficient land, energy, and material use, thus reducing urban sprawl and conserving land for recreational and agricultural purposes (Warren-Rhodes and Koenig, 2001). However, based on studies, the benefits of Hong Kong’s high urban metabolism are presently outweighed by the environmental costs, and it is predicted that as population expands to 8.9 million by 2016, energy, materials, water use and pollution discharges will rise accordingly (Warren-Rhodes and Koenig, 2001). Through this kind of “urban metabolic check-up”, it allows policymakers to ascertain enduring and root causes of environmental deterioration in a city. Newcombe, Kalma, and Aston (1978), warn on the mounting ecological distress and offered prescient advice on how to mitigate these problems through “an adaptive urban management strategy that modifies operations of present urban systems and designs their expansion . . . at greatly reduced resource inputs.”

As in many other cities, Hong Kong has substantial improvement in its performance of local urban renewal projects (Chan and Lee, 2008). Since 1990s, the importance of sustainable development had been acknowledged and the Hong Kong government had committed to consider the concept holistically when making decisions about future development in the territory (Chan and Lee, 2008). The sustainability concept attracts the attention of the Hong Kong government as international experience proves that sustainable development creates good communities serving different needs of current population without sacrificing the resources available for the future generations (Chan and Lee, 2008). In order to have a more adaptive urban management strategy that modifies operations of present urban systems and design, it is important to first, identify the factors that can contribute to the urban management strategy itself. Some of the factors and areas that should be emphasized in urban design are waterfront development, cityscape, pedestrian environment and pollution mitigation (Chan and Lee, 2008). Participants of Council for Sustainable Development discussion forum indicated that urban design should be consisted of layouts of street and open space, design of building as well as transportation network, in creating sustainable urban living space in the Hong Kong territory (Chan and Lee, 2008).

Since one of the areas that should be emphasized in urban management and design is by focussing on the layouts of street and open space, planning on strategies on green space provision in urban Hong Kong is seen as a crucial in this matter. According to Jim (2002), woodlands are not preserved in the urbanised areas, where private developers tend to have little statutory obligation or willingness to provide public open spaces, often results in poor protection or obliteration of natural vegetation in new developments and redevelopment schemes. A city generously endowed with high-quality greenery is a necessary ingredient of environmental quality and quality of life. Therefore, preservation and introduction of greenery in urban infrastructure is seen as a moral necessary under urban management and design not only for the environment, but also for the population wellbeing as a whole.

With a compact and densely built-up urban fabric, tree growth in Hong Kong is severely constrained in the pervasively crowded and bleak environment (Jim, 1989). Jim (2002) states that, nearly all residents of Hong Kong are living in high-rise apartment blocks, which deprived of private open spaces as well as detached from the land and vegetation. The shortage of public green space has reinforced the lack of interest in greening of Hong Kong urban population, further aggravated by the poor quality of existing amenity greenery by both public and private on the desire for more greenery space (Jim, 2002). This is constrained by the cramped town plan, where the roads have narrow pavements with no tree strips at the roadsides or margin roadside for plantable spaces (Jim, 2002). The same goes to the buildings, where they were built directly next to the road, leaving no lot-frontage plantable spaces (Jim, 2002). The only open space and remnant of plantable spaces are the city’s first public garden, the Botanical Garden, which is located in the heart of the central district, and the Victoria Park, that was built with a charity donation in 1957 (Jim, 2002).

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Forest cover has been reduced over the centuries by shifting cultivators, sedentary farmers, and, in recent decades, countryside recreationalists (Jim, 1989). According to Jim (1989), without a clear policy to preserve existent trees in places affected by urban intrusions, very few specimens would be saved. Due to the lack of green space provision in Hong Kong, the work agents, namely the landscape architects, urban horticulturists, arboriculturists and urban foresters would be necessary to join planners to collectively contribute in the greenery and sustainable urban planning. According to Jim (2002), some six government bureaux (out of 16 policy-formulation bureaux) and 15 departments (out of 38 departments) are involved in greening issues. There had been some efforts done by the government in bringing more and better greenery in urban development in Hong Kong. One example is, the government decided in building public housing for low-income families that are mainly situated at peripheral locations with land-conserving developments, where space between the individual buildings is done with open spaces for planting (Jim, 1989).

To develop an action plan to bring more and better greenery in the city, earnest support and cooperation are needed from relevant quarters. One of the ways to achieve the greenery and sustainable urban city planning is through comprehensive development area (CDA) zoning, which aims narrowly at facilitating the amalgamation of small contiguous lots for redevelopment. Jim (2002) suggests that this can be done by developing guidelines for the matching of species with site conditions and to optimise the landscaping potential of planting sites, aiming at significantly increasing the number of species with attractive flowers, seasonal changes, outstanding tree form, large final dimensions, meritorious performance and other notable amenity traits. Another greenery and sustainable urban planning can be done in urban Hong Kong is by developing specifications to protect effectively trees destined for preservation in sites, especially those that are affected by buildings, roads and other construction activities, which are commensurate with the cramped built environment. In order to encourage the planting of trees within Hong Kong urban society, there need to be some association not only with the government, but also private-sectors and other. This can be done through development projects, such as the introduction of incentives, the dissemination of relevant messages or guidelines in the form of professional practice notes, and the organisation of seminars, workshops and other means of involvement and communication.

In conclusion, despite all of these suggestions and action plans in bringing more and better greenery and sustainable urban development in developing cities like Hong Kong, these can only be done through collective cooperation by the government, both private and private developers, as well as high supports from the society. Due to the high urban population, the urban dwellers in Hong Kong city are the core factors in the widespread of environmental concerns by individual and collective responsibility in taking care of the environment as well as making Hong Kong a greener and sustainable for the future generations. By taking this greenery and sustainable environment concerns more seriously, there will be hope for a better quality of life in the future regardless the population density.


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