The footprint and the associated environmental impacts of intermediary Asian cities extend far beyond their boundaries. These impacts range from the urbanisation and conversion of natural areas, to the mining of mineral resources for construction materials, and pollution from transportation.
An Air Asia aircraft descends towards Chiang Mai International Airport amid high levels of air pollution in Chiang Mai in April. The government has launched a green building programme, promoting the use of sustainable building materials and energy-efficient design to tackle pollution. (Photo by Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images)
Around 50% to 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are caused by cities, both directly and indirectly. Pollution and other environmental stresses in turn affect the health and happiness of people who live in cities.
In contrast, well-planned and sustainable cities will have benefits for their residents, such as through the construction and preservation of urban green spaces that provide urban ecosystem services, which represent the benefits of nature to people; for example, the provision of parks for green exercise.
However, sustainable development can be challenging in low and middle-income Asian countries because governments commonly focus on development and the basic needs of the residents, such as infrastructure, before sustainable approaches.
Equitable and sustainable design
Rapid urbanisation in Asia has impacted the environment due to unplanned development, the nature of urbanisation, and the very high population densities, putting pressure on blue-green infrastructure as they are lost to make room for development.
Asian cities are the world’s factories, with heavily degraded brownfields on a scale and with forms of pollution that have never been seen before. Asia is also particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change, with an increase in hydrometeorological hazards such as typhoons, flooding and drought, in addition to rising sea levels and coastal erosion, and therefore adapting to climate change needs to be a critical factor of any future urban development.
In parallel to the unique environmental challenges in Asia, the inequitable distribution of benefits from sustainable infrastructure, such as public transport …
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