Urgent research needed now to save cities of the future

City apartments 

The world's cities, including those in Australia, are at risk of being burdened with massive economic costs, environmental degradation and social dislocation if governments do not adopt an integrated approach to planning and development, according to delegates at an international conference.

Conference convenor Professor Basant Maheshwari says a recurring theme in discussions at the Peri-urban 2014 International Conference held at the University of Western Sydney was the remarkable similarity of problems faced by expanding cities – despite diverse local conditions and city populations.

He says the 140 delegates at the Conference have sketched a new blueprint for how cities should evolve.

The Sydney Declaration: Planning for Sustainability of Expanding Cities (opens in a new window) was written by delegates to help refocus the strategies and projects of governments, communities and industry says Professor Maheshwari. 

"The growth of urban areas will be dominated by vertical expansion of mega cities and horizontal expansion in surrounding areas creating peri-urban zones. It is not fully appreciated that what occurs in peri-urban areas affects both the urban area and surrounding rural communities," write the delegates in the Declaration.

"The urbanisation process presents unprecedented complex environmental, social, economic and political challenges. Although there are diverse local conditions and scales, the problems of expanding cities have similarities worldwide."

"The rate and complexity of urban expansion often results in ad-hoc and fragmented policy and planning with inequitable investment across the effected landscapes and unsustainable development."

Dr Maheshwari says it is clear that vertical expansion of the world's cities alone will not accommodate population growth.

"The rate of urban expansion is accelerating with projections that the world's cities will need to accommodate more than 70 percent of global population by 2050," says Professor Maheshwari, from the UWS School of Science and Health.

"Cities will inevitably spread horizontally across the landscape. We need to take a trans-disciplinary approach based on solid science to address the tension at the periphery, or fringes, of cities where the need for development can conflict with food production, freshwater catchments and environmental preservation."

"There needs to be significant investment in research now by governments and industry to give city planners the knowledge they need to make our future cities socially and economically sustainable," says Professor Maheshwari.


Photo: Paul Grocott

9 October 2014

Media contact: Paul Grocott, Senior Media Officer

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