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Managing Sustainable Communities: The Pathway To a More Resilient Future

Opinion September 24, 2023

With seven billion people projected to live in urban areas by 2050, preserving the planet and its precious resources for its inhabitants will be one of humanity’s key challenges in the decades ahead. But creating the cities of the future and ensuring economic growth whilst also protecting our planet should not be mutually exclusive concepts. Instead, building smart and sustainable communities from the grassroots up will be the key to overcoming this enormous hurdle.

Making cities both smart and sustainable means rethinking the very idea of urban living as we know it and integrating eco-friendly elements from the planning stage itself rather than as an afterthought. It means supporting a circular economy, facilitating clean mobility, setting up the infrastructure for renewable energy, ensuring food security and more.

For these reasons, sustainable community management will play a pivotal role in the pursuit of a clean and promising future, marking a drastic departure from the linear model of “produce, use, dispose” that is the characteristic of most urban habitats today.

Carl Atallah - Marketing Director at Sharjah Sustainable City

In the Gulf and the Middle East, the pursuit of solutions to mitigate climate change has become increasingly visible as it gears up to host COP28 – the second successive UN climate conference in the region. It is indeed heartening to see the increasingly loud and engaging conversations in the region around future cities that offer fully integrated energy and vibrant communities with an eco-friendly lifestyle. The race to net zero is an economic and social reality today, and sustainable practices need to be at the core of every community.

That’s why, rather than being overwhelmed by the challenge, I believe the circumstances today offer an incredible opportunity for all of us to step up and build the sustainable community of the future across our cities. As successfully demonstrated by projects such as Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, The Sustainable City – Dubai and Sharjah Sustainable City, such communities are not only possible at commercial scale, but are also garnering increased attention as an effective pathway towards more people-centric and resilient pillars of clean energy transitions.

These projects represent a leap for future cities in the region, with features like villas powered by rooftop solar panels, water recycling plants, electric shuttles for internal mobility and the facility to grow their own vegetables and greens through vertical farming.

Their vision is to create eco-friendly communities with a reduced carbon footprint and can offer major savings on energy consumption and bills for their residents. By combining the best of sustainable building materials, engineering and construction, low-carbon agricultural technologies, clean mobility and renewables, they set a new benchmark for future communities.

The secret to making such a project work, however, lies not only in its world-class amenities and facilities, but also in the progressive management of the vibrant community that calls it home. From providing an abundance of green spaces and opportunities for community farming, to abundant and readily available EV charging points as well as renewable energy for community lighting, the infrastructure and amenities at sustainable cities are all designed to engage and inspire their residents into living a truly eco-friendly lifestyle.

A key pillar of this strategy is a community engagement calendar brimming with eco-conscious activities and events which are ultimately championed by the residents. In celebration of World Wildlife Day, for instance, Sharjah Sustainable City recently hosted an interactive Nest Box workshop to educate its residents about bird habitats, nesting habits, and the benefits of having bird boxes in the neighbourhood. The workshop served not only as an excellent learning opportunity for participants, especially young residents, but also as a critical platform to raise awareness of urban biodiversity’s crucial role.

Similarly, an impactful waste management workshop hosted by the City for its residents helped promote responsible waste disposal, recycling and sustainable practices. Once again, the difference in approach here was the focus on community fun and active learning – thanks to which participants were engaged in educational games, including the interactive “Choose the Right Bin” activity.

As these diverse examples show, the relentless focus on sustainable community management can not only promote social cohesion, inclusivity and diversity, but also strengthen economic prosperity and competitiveness while protecting the environment. The residents of green communities rest safe in the knowledge that they’re doing their part for climate change, because the community is already designed to be climate positive and is taking proactive action for a resilient and clean future.

The greatest lesson from effective and impactful sustainable community management is that with the right environment, technology and infrastructure, all of us can adopt a greater sense of accountability and environmental consciousness and make a lasting impact in the quest for an eco-friendly world.