Solving Environmental Problems in Urban Ecosystems
The challenges discussed in the previous section are prevalent in both low-income
countries and high-income states; some are more applicable in each category than others.
However, for better quality environment and sustainable development of urban systems,
the under suggested solutions have been put forward to be considered, possibly
implemented and enforced
Sufficient finances should be used in supplying and treating water to make it
safe especially for drinking purposes. The lack of fund for quality water
management is more common in low-income countries than in developed
countries. The cost and levy charges of supplying and treating water should be
reviewed from time to time to ensure enough funds are constantly available to
maintain high quality and quantity of water in urban areas.
Development of adequate sanitation facilities is another obvious need. It is
difficult to provide every city dweller with a flush toilet connected to a sewage
system, but it is possible to provide a means of disposing of human waste that is
functional and economical such as latrines, biogas units, biocomposing toilets
and well-installed septic systems.
The rising urban population leads to high demand and consumption levels of
water. This results into continuous search for more and more water supply and
building longer dams further away from the urban areas. Water conservation
and recycling of wastewater are needed. Reducing wastewater quantities
means reducing both water consumption and urban runoff.
Runoff reduction in urban areas will improve water quality in urban areas will
improve water quality in urban waterways and reduce flash flooding, channel
sedimentation and coastal pollution. This requires the provision of: –
1. Small-scale retention ponds and infiltration basins, which can reduce
inputs of pollutants by 80%.
2. Porous pavements to allow infiltration rather than runoff.
3. Vegetative strips, including urban gardens, which allow for infiltration.
4. On-site storage for urban storm water seen as a resource for future nonconsumptive uses in gardens, swimming pools, toilet flushing and the
Creating means to treat and use sewage, as has been done in Melbourne and
Sydney cities in Australia.
In urban areas situated near a river or ocean or lakeshore, flooding
alleviation schemes can be developed and implemented. These include
storing floodwaters in specially constructed storage reservoirs/dams or by
modifying the river to accommodate the flood flows within the banks or
shorelines for lakes and oceans.
Conservation of energy and reduction of air pollution can be promoted by:
1. Limiting fuel consumption by either setting prices that reflect the real
cost of the fuel or adding a tax that is then used to finance research into
alternative fuel technologies and to provide improved pollution
monitoring and vehicle inspection.
2. Use of unleaded fuel by modern cars.
3. Use of incentive scheme including encouraging use of newer vehicles to
reduce fuel consumption and improve air quality.
4. Use of bicycles, trains and buses instead of private cars to reduce
5. Use of alternative sources of energy such as solar, wind, biogas and
other non-polluting renewable sources of energy should be encouraged
6. Appropriate building materials and designs should be used and the
layout of suburbs planned to promote environmental quality to
manipulate the local climate and thus conserve energy and water.
Planning measures should also optimize hydrological changes to
minimize runoff, channel erosion, flash flooding and sedimentation.
7. Planners and engineers should put new major roads and industries far
away from residential estates to minimize the effects of pollution.
8. Encourage safe disposal of solid and hazardous waste generated in
cities. There are four main ways to reduce solid waste; burning,
dumping, conversion into something else or reducing the input.
Recycling of wastes combines the last two methods. Examples of
alternative use of solid i.e. polythene and plastic waste include making
and use of fencing posts and building blocks (Karanja, 2003).
9. Vacant land must be made available and affordable for the development
of new projects and expansion/ extension of the existing projects in
every urban area.
10. Affordable housing schemes should be developed to give shelter to the
growing population in urban ecosystems. For instance, the government
of Kenya from 2003 onwards is committed to providing/building ½
million houses per year.