Cities are products of the people who live in them, and they reflect their attitude and rationality. Global warming continues to accelerate, and diseases related to city life such as atopic dermatitis are rampant due to the rapid urban growth. We are now facing many problems that have occurred due to working against instead of seeking harmony with nature. Therefore, we must seek solutions to these problems. One of the alternatives to our current situation is the eco-city. This philosophy of city management is based on an effort to restore nature as a principal focus in cities. We need to better understand what makes an eco-city. Therefore, we will examine some world-famous eco-cities and what efforts our country is making to create eco-cities.
In 1992, the concept of the eco-city appeared for the first time in the Rio Declaration. This was a conference that was held to discuss global environmental and health problems in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The goal of this conference was to establish environmentally sound and sustainable development with a focus on creating synergy between urban development and environmental conservation. The concepts for these eco-cities included enough space for natural settings within the city limits. These natural spaces included parks, forests, and rivers to help citizens overcome the sometimes difficult to live in concrete jungles that our cities have become. They are also based on environmentally friendly renewable energy. One of the primary targets of these efforts is to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and integrate renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power into city power grids. There are also initiatives for eco-friendly transportation such as walking programs, bicycle riding, and public transportation. Finally, eco-cities pay greater attention to recycling waste in order to cut down on pollution and landfill space.
There are many eco-cities already in existence around the world. A prime example is Freiburg, Germany. This city is located in southwestern Germany and has been named the environmental capital of Germany. It is globally recognized as one of the most ecologically sound cities in the world. There are many aspects of this eco-city that are worthy of examination.
mong these energy options, solar power is the most utilized source. There are solar panels on the walls of buildings in the center of the city. There are also solar panels laid out on the roofs and surfaces of walls around the entire city. Many residential dwellings within the city also make use of solar energy. ‘Heliotrop' is a cylindrically shaped individual home, which was designed to use solar power as its main source of energy in 1994. One of its best features is that it rotates to match the sun’s movement, which maximizes solar input. Another eco-friendly residential area is known as ‘Sun Ship.' This is a crowded area of row houses with a system in place to collect energy through a network of solar panels attached to all of the houses. In addition to the solar power, this housing development had plans to increase the use of other alternative energy sources such as water, wind, and bio-fuel by up to 10% in 2010.
‘Bachle’ is another example of Freiburg’s attention to ecologically sound planning, and it is unique to this city. Bachle refers to a small stream. It is 12 km long and was made in the 13th century. At the time of its creation, it was only used as a waterway which was used as a precaution against fires and for cleaning the downtown area. However, it is now recognized not only as a means of flood prevention, but has become an environmental lifeline that introduces fresh air into the center of the city. Furthermore, the water is so clear that it is being used as a playground for children.
Traffic in Freiburg is also eco-friendly. Only trams and buses are allowed to run in the downtown area as a means of controlling congestion and pollution caused by cars. If someone drives into this area with a car, they will have to observe a slow-speed limit and pay expensive parking fees (about six thousand won per half hour in Korean money). Public transportation systems of all types are given priority over individual cars. Pedestrians are given first priority, and then bicycles followed by public transit (buses and trams), and finally by cars.
Curitiba is another excellent example of a modern eco-city located in southern Brazil. This city has been called ‘the city of dreams’,‘the city of hope’, and ‘the city of respect.' That is because this urban setting is based on a humane, environmental, and ecological city plan. Its park and green belt ratio, which refers to undeveloped natural settings within a city, are ranked second in the world, and its satisfaction rate regarding traffic policies has been rated as the highest.
There are many things that contribute to making Curitiba’s traffic plan the world’s best. Air pollution levels here are the lowest in Brazil. In comparison to the early 1970s, its population has doubled, but the car traffic has been reduced by 30%. One of the main features is a main road divided into five parts that spread from the city center to the outskirts. The main road’s fringe areas allows for a building to land ratio of 6 to 1. This means that 6 buildings can be built on each 1 city zone. Areas that are far from this road, on the other hand, allow only low-rise buildings. The goal of this plan is to reduce the demand for cars. In other words, there are many people concentrated along the road. Another feature of this unique traffic plan is the triplicate road system. The central lane is set aside as the express bus lane, and the car lanes are on either side. The buses here run like a subway. The buses run nonstop without traffic lights like the subway, and they only stop at pick up/drop off stations. This was done to increase efficiency like a subway without having to dig up the ground. The construction costs for this traffic system was just 2% of what it would have cost to build a subway. Pedestrians in this city have something in common with those in Freiburg. They are also given priority, and there is a single-purpose road just for them. Curitiba prepared this road with spaces for pedestrians to relax by planting trees and installing benches for citizens in order to make walking a more pleasurable experience.
The present condition of Curitiba’s parks also needs to be discussed. The ratio of park area per citizen is the second best in the world after Oslo, Norway. The ground that is likely to have good twilight areas were prepared in advance. Tingua Park and Iguassu National Park are the prime examples of this. The former was revived from an area of unused stalls. The latter was a habitual flood area, but this park was created and enhanced by creating cafes on the water and artificial waterfalls.
The waste management system in Curitiba is also unique. Anyone who collects 5 kgs of garbage will be given one bag of food when they turn it in. The food comes from farm surpluses that are bought by the city from the nearby farms. This is called the purchase waste program. The methods used in the purchase waste program are also used in the green exchange which encourages recycling. This program provides economic benefits to low-income people as part of social services. This program is doubly helpful in that it contributes to absorbing the surplus production of local farms.
Other ecologically conscious cities
Kitakyushu, Japan is an example of an eco-city that is right next door to Korea. This city is a classic example of a city that changed from a polluted urban landscape to an ecologically sound city. In the 1960s, the photo-chemical industry caused a great deal of smog. The waste and pollution from these factories caused fish and shellfish to die off in the East Sea. However, this has changed. The ‘pollution restoration work’ united both civil authorities and industry. These efforts led directly to the return of around 110 fish species. ‘Ecotown’ is an ongoing business that began in 1997. Its goal is to achieve ‘waste zero’ by using the raw material from various industries. Another effort is the ‘environment museum.' The surfaces of the walls at this museum are covered with green leaves and the rooftops contain solar panels. There are wind turbine generators and rainwater utilization storage facilities which hold about 60 tons of rainwater on the museum grounds. Furthermore, this museum is the site of comprehensive education on environment.
Gothenburg, Sweden is the final global eco-city we will examine. Sidewalks and bike lanes are placed in the center of the roadways, and car lanes are located on either side. This is a strong representation of the idea that people are more important than cars. There are several other eco-friendly city policies here. For example, there is a strong drive to become less dependent on fossil fuels. To that end, they have developed alternative energy sources that approach 30% of the city’s total energy output through bio-fuel, geothermal, and solar sources. They have also implemented eco-friendly heating systems. This system makes use of green energy for heating which accounts for nearly 100% of all heating sources in the city. Part of this program is to ferment raw sewage into fuel. In this process, methane gas produced by sewage is used as fuel. They even make fuel from trash. Trash is burned at high temperatures in an incinerator, and the heat from burning the trash is used to produce energy.
ecoming eco-cites. For example, the Gogang zone in Bucheon-si is working to become more environmentally friendly. This zone has been designated by the Ministry of Environment as a pilot project for the development of eco-cities. Until now, the general planning has been done and they are at the beginning stages of pushing forward with the project. The city planners hope to build an ‘eco-network’ which will create synergy between the urban landscape and nature. The idea is to create a larger secure green belt by reconnecting with nature. There are also plans to expand eco-friendly traffic infrastructure that encourages citizens to walk and ride bicycles. One of the primary fixtures of the plan is to create a ‘circulation city.’ Pure water and wind form the foundation of the circulation city concept. Utilizing every water resource such as waterfronts and recycling rainwater will reduce waste and maximize output. There are also plans to help manage noise from construction with wind ways and for the introduction of noise buffer zones. In addition, there are also environmentally friendly energy plans that will increase the use of renewable energy. Finally, there is Goriwool Climate Park. This park focuses on urban renewal as a means to reduce carbon emissions for the first time. Environmental education will be promoted. New and renewable energy will also be established here.
World-famous eco-cities are recognized for enacting balanced plans that include energy planning, traffic planning, and urban renewal. All governments and citizens are now able to see what it means to participate in eco-city planning systematically for a city or a country. Based on these concepts, efforts to combine the features of nature and the city into a working modern urban landscape will become more and more important. On the other hand, it could be said that Korea seems to be making insufficient efforts to develop eco-cities in comparison with other countries. However, there are encouraging stages of development happening here, and we should look forward to living in eco-cities in the future if we all make an effort at the national level.