Health and wellness are what make cities attractive

sprinkling in the city of Bordeaux

© SUEZ / William DANIELS

In the “Challenge” section, Jean-Louis Chaussade sets out his vision of a major challenge of the resource revolution. In this issue, he gives his point of view on how urban development policies can help to protect the health of city dwellers.

Way back in the 19th century, the development of our cities coincided with hygiene campaigns, which turned urban development into one of the means of combating the propagation of contagious diseases and epidemics. Underground water and wastewater networks and the fight against stagnant water were just some of the measures that helped to organise cities in a way that improved public hygiene, salubrity and the health of their inhabitants.

600 cities will be home to 60% of the world’s population by 2030. As our cities continue to grow and become denser, they are turning into a concentrate of sources of stress, pollution and nuisances that have a significant effect on the health of their inhabitants. Allergies, diabetes, obesity and depression are just some of the conditions on the rise. The cost of the impact on health of air pollution alone is estimated at about $3.5 trillion per year in the OECD countries, China and India. Every year, 3 million people worldwide die an early death due to the consequences of air pollution.

These worrying figures, which are constantly rising, must make us question how cities can guarantee the health, quality of life and fulfilment of their inhabitants, against a backdrop of demographic growth and rampant urbanisation. We must consider territorial development policies as a key factor for the wellness of citizens, and think of health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social being” (WHO) and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

Health is as much about prevention and individual fulfilment as about curing. By accepting this broad definition of health, we can address the multitude of factors that affect it, and the diversity of the solutions that protect and improve it.

A consensus exists about the fact that encouraging alternative modes of transport to the motor car helps to improve air quality, to fight climate change and, more simply, to make cities quieter and calmer places. So we must promote green mobility, and walking in our cities, because they produce positive individual and collective results.

Similarly, parks and gardens, watercourses and other recreational areas are attractive and soothing, and they offer a solution to heat islands and respiratory conditions, such as allergies. Parks and promenades are places to the encounters and exchanges that are essential to creating social bonds. Bonds that contribute to individual fulfilment and are encouraged by the expanding practice of urban agriculture, which also promotes short and local circuits. The effects of these measures are increased by other participatory trends. By playing an active role in their city, citizens also protect their own health.

Numerous technical and technological solutions already exist to reduce urban pollution and nuisances. The performance of drinking water and sanitation networks is constantly rising. We are now capable of depolluting soils through bioengineering and bioremediation, of capturing CO2 as part of our combat against climate change, of optimising waste collection rounds and of limiting noise and unpleasant smells. In an effort to adapt to climate change, public decision-makers have taken onboard the notion of resilience in their policies and their actions, especially with regard to natural disasters. Certain measures are a good illustration of this, like the solutions that optimise the management of flows in real time using predictive modelling techniques to prevent flooding.

This wealth of technological or organisational solutions, which address urban development and governance, creates new possibilities and tells us one thing: we will only find a solution adapted to the multitude of challenges that cities will face in the years to come by adopting a broad and global vision of urban services. Only in this way, will we succeed in creating together environments conducive to well-being, quality of life, fulfilment and good health.

Find the full article in the second issue of open_resource magazine: “Shaping resourceful cities


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