【FOCUS】Solutions for Megacities’ Sustainable Development
World Population Day falls on July 11th every year.
Today, one fifth of the world’s population lives in cities with more than a million residents, of whom 500 million dwell in the top 20 megacities. With a larger population and more complicated social and economic systems, megacities are facing greater risks, hence they must ponder over city resource coordination to ensure citizens’ quality of life and promote sustainable development. Today’s In Focus covers four initiatives of urban innovation, showing you how megacities protect their residents’ rights and interests and improve their living standards.
São Paulo, Brazil (Population size: 22,237,472)
Ordering of the Elements that Compose the Urban Landscape – Clean City Project
The city of São Paulo used to suffer from heavy light pollution and visual pollution due to the excessive use of advertising banners and billboards, which has also posed a threat to the integrity of the urban environment, including modern architecture and historical heritages, causing damage to inhabitants’ quality of life. To address this problem, the Clean City Project was launched.
A new regulation was implemented by the local government, claiming that only outdoor pieces of propaganda and publicity ordered and ruled by the municipal government, would be allowed in public spaces. To facilitate communication, several meetings were held by the government and people from all walks of life, including representatives from associations, unions, foundations, and other franchises. The result showed that the project was welcomed by the majority.
Since the implementation of the Clean City Project, 2,500 tons of paper and 660 tons of PVC blankets have been saved every year, contributing to the reduction of CO2 production and emission. Thanks to the advertisement regulation, visual pollution and light pollution have been eased so that the city’s historical buildings could get on a new life and the residents can enjoy their sweet dreams and most importantly, a better life.
Mexico City, Mexico (Population size: 21,918,936)
Open Contracting Initiative
In Mexico City, a traditional paper-based approach adopted by the government at all levels has led to low transparency and corruption, resulting in people’s lack of faith in the government and unwillingness to participate in public governance. To tackle the problem, the Open Contracting Initiative was carried out.
This initiative seeks to engage citizens in public governance by making local contract information readily accessible. It accomplishes this goal by being user-friendly and using an open-source format.
The initiative is definitely revolutionary. The Open Contracting project of Mexico City is a “game changer” because it promotes even more transparency and accountability at the different levels of the local government and introduces an innovative approach to fight against corruption. The initiative also makes it the first city in the world to implement the standard in its entirety.
Chongqing, China (Population size: 32,124,300)
Innovative Emergency Solutions to the Pandemic Challenge for Urban Medical Wastes Disposal
As the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the world, medical waste treatment and disposal arises as a severe challenge facing all countries and cities. Chongqing, a megacity with a population exceeding ten million, is no exception.
In response, the Chongqing Municipal Ecological Environmental Bureau has taken an innovative '3-Level Emergency Mechanism' to deal with the increasing amount of urban medical waste. This mechanism, emphasizing both new medical waste treatment technologies and strict supervision over hospitals, allows medical wastes to be managed effectively in time, thereby preventing secondary infection and virus transmission.
This initiative facilitates Chongqing with a medical waste disposal capacity of 90 tons per day at the beginning of the epidemic. In addition, a medical waste treatment team of 426 members and 125 vehicles was on duty. Three major goals were reached, namely “no medical waste left”, “no overnight waste” and “safe disposal”. The initiative has safeguarded the health of more than 32 million inhabitants and the environmental safety of the city.
Buenos Aires, Argentina (Population Size: 15,257,673)
“BOTI” The WhatsApp Chatbot of Buenos Aires City
Buenos Aires City, the capital of Argentina, is home to over ten million people, which makes it necessary for the government to extend the channels of communication with residents and push for greater degrees of e-governance to ensure sustainable urban development. BOTI—The WhatsApp Chatbot is hence developed.
BOTI is a virtual assistant that works 24/7 and can answer questions regarding a wide range of government services instantly. For instance, questions about procedures necessary for making an application; the upcoming events; on-street parking information and even weather conditions.
In 2020, BOTI was updated to help with the city’s COVID-19 response. With its assistance, residents can do a self-check to see whether they have COVID symptoms and refer to a medical professional when necessary.
In just one and a half years after its launch, BOTI has already served near two million independent users. The chatbot has successfully played its part in improving government efficiency and building a sustainable city that is inclusive, safe and resilient as well.