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Building, construction and megacities
information systems, modelling techniques waste disposal sites.
and geophysical methods will provide a
much better insight than hitherto into the The way forward
properties and structure of the subsurface. Science and technology have helped to
make today’s megacities what they are, but
The iniquity of inequity a great deal more can be done to improve
Megacities also harbour poverty and social life in megacities and make them more
inequality. Arguably, the most pressing sustainable. Research in the geosciences is
need for the megacities of tomorrow moving towards development of modern,
in developing countries will be to fi nd GIS-based complex scenario models
practical solutions for improving the plight and decision-support systems; new and
of the poor, reducing social inequality and sometimes revolutionary techniques are
reversing environmental degradation. Here being developed, including the locally-based
again, geoscientists and urban geographers resource cycles designed to make cities
together can make a difference. self-reliant in food and energy. Zero-energy
Populations that migrate to the cities buildings, or even buildings which produce
from rural areas are often driven by poverty. more energy than they consume like those
Unable to afford the prices in the city centre, equipped with solar panels or windmills, are
the poor become segregated from their more another promising idea.
affl uent neighbours in the outlying suburbs Megacities are fertile ground for innovative
or in slums. This creates social inequality, ideas, perhaps because their sheer size
with urban services like electricity, piped magnifi es any problem and opportunity.
water and sewerage systems not always Necessity is the mother of invention and
reaching the outlying areas. This creates a what greater motivation can there be than
Space is at a
sense of abandonment and fuels mistrust the knowledge that our cities will have to
premium, and the between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. make room for two billion more residents in
only way is up.
Poor communities often occupy the most the next 40 years? ■
hazardous urban areas, along riverbanks
where underground space is increasing or on steep slopes vulnerable to natural Eduardo de Mulder is the Executive
at an annual rate of 10% in Beijing, with disasters such as fl oods or landslides caused Director of the IYPE Secretariat and the
comparable fi gures for Shanghai. Today, by heavy rainfall. They may lack access IYPE’s principal initiator. Prof Dr Frauke
30km
2
of Beijing lies underground and this to good quality drinking water and are Kraas, specialising in metropolitan
will expand to 90km
2
by 2020. In the city consequently exposed to additional health dynamics and megacities, is based in the
of Montreal, 40km of underground space risks, or they may live in slums close to or Department of Geography, University of
connects three underground storeys. These even on waste dumps. Cologne, Germany.
are interconnected by elevators, staircases Geographers and geoscientists can
and major open spaces which offer broad address urban equity problems by assisting
Crowded cities can
create segregation
access to daylight by way of special in selecting more stable lands for housing
between rich and poor.
constructions in the roof. the poor and by urging the authorities to
In order for underground construction move the poor out of obvious high-risk
to be completed in a sustainable manner, areas. They can also contribute at an earlier
we need access to as much knowledge and stage by engaging actively in the land-use
information of the subsurface as possible. planning process. This approach has proved
For example, whether the subsurface is effective in numerous projects driven by
composed of bedrock or soft water-saturated civil society in places such as Rio de Janeiro,
sediments makes a great difference to its Manila and Mumbai.
suitability for subterranean development. Geoscientists can identify clean
Responsible underground city groundwater resources for human
management entails designing escape consumption and design better waste
routes in case of fi re, reliable air vents to disposal sites using natural barriers to
ensure air quality is maintained and so ensure long-term safety. Urbanisation
on. Geoscientifi c input can contribute vital generates piles of waste from households,
knowledge in these and other areas. industry and the demolition of buildings
We are on our way to making the and infrastructure like bridges. Knowledge
subsurface ‘transparent’ (see One Planet, of the composition of our urban subsurface
OneGeology, p36). Today’s GIS-based is essential in selecting the best potential
92 PLANET EARTH www.yearofplanetearth.org
PE19.builingskj.mw.indd 92 16/2/09 11:40:21 am
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