How a Smart City Infrastructure Impacts the Environment

It is no doubt that our habits leave a deep impact on the environment. The planet itself is capable of restoring itself. However, when the habits exceed the planet’s ability to restore, it is we who need to adapt to new changes.

The greater Male’ area is without a doubt, the most heavily populated area of the Maldives. The increase in the population of the area also increases problems.

Our adaptability is higher than that of other species. When we look back to life in Male’ city 30 years ago, the progress we have made is rather conspicuous. Our economy has given birth to more businesses. Society has indeed created more reasons for us to be on the move – breeding more vehicles onto the streets. With this comes byproducts that deeply impact our surroundings – while many individuals and organizations constantly battle the challenges faced by our local environment. What started with a handful of motorcycles and cars have drastically multiplied to something that congests our community to an unbreathable extent.

95% of global transit-related Greenhouse Gas emissions are made up of carbon dioxide—carbon dioxide emissions which are created from the combustion of fossil fuels. Emissions have dramatically increased since the industrial revolution. Though, nullifying the impacts of carbon emissions may fall under make-believe, adapting new ways will reduce our emissions in the future. These changes will also control the production of other harmful substances.

The increased consumption in a city leads to high energy demands as well as production, more pollutants and a forced rise in heat. Even at this very moment, fossil fuel is being burnt so that we can all read this article. A bit ironic, is it not? However, probable solutions are now viable due to technological innovation. These technologies help to ensure that resources are only used when they are needed – thus conserving energy.

As communities become denser, so does increase the amount of waste it produces. Though the process of waste collection and disposal have improved, the existing need for improvement is not questionable. It is now evident that the amount of waste in our community pose a great threat to our surroundings. However, smart waste solutions are already a reality and assist us in averting those threats. For instance, a solar-powered trash compactor that uses smart sensors can now identify when to begin compacting on its own. They can also communicate with local waste management organizations via the cloud to signal when they need to be emptied. This reduces the activity of garbage trucks, thus reducing their carbon footprint and harmful emissions. 

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Studies in the European Union showed that transport causes 25% of all carbon dioxide emissions. Vehicles consume greater amounts of fuel when they are constantly accelerating and braking in traffic jams. The optimum speed for low fuel consumption and low emissions is between 45 and 65 miles per hour. Intelligent transport systems use software and hardware, along with information and communications technologies, to improve the efficiency and safety of transport networks. They use a variety of information from cameras and sensors, along with control of traffic signals, to try to keep traffic moving, reducing the number of harmful emissions. Cars with individual navigation systems use satellite information on traffic flow to guide drivers away from traffic congestion and onto more free-flowing routes.

Some smart transport solutions include smart bike riding services and smart ride-sharing. Smart transport applications: smart ride-sharing and public transportation.

The benefits of Smart Technologies in transportation are already observed in other parts of the world. In Singapore, an application called Beeline – a crowdsourced bus service helps reduce private car usage. The government shares anonymous data with privately run bus operators to suggest new routes which are determined by community demand. This leads to more efficient public transport. 

In America, it was reported that over 29% of the emissions are directly attributed to transport. Changing how societies function can drastically reduce this figure. Increasing the efficiency of public transport will lower the dependency on single-occupancy vehicles. Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) suggests that the uptake of public transport can reduce American emission rates by 37 million metric tons.During the first lockdown, many among us witnessed the return of wildlife to cities from across the world. Those who were able to go outside were able to experience the easiness of taking a lungful of air. Over the past decade, the Greater Male’ area has picked up its pace. With more citizens moving from other parts of the country, economic activities have skyrocketed in the capital. When the need for transportation increases- and lack of proper public transport, citizens invest in their own vehicles.

When the daily petrol queues disappear, we begin to imagine how many litres of fossil we collectively burn during our commute to and from work. When Covid-19 the lockdown forced us to work from our homes, our vehicles went to sleep. The reason taking a lungful of air became easier all of a sudden was due to no other reason but the drop in levels of pollution. This could be an indicator that alternatives to teleworking could not only improve our work-life balance but also contribute to our environment.

Through applications such as real-time air pollution monitoring, we can opt for better alternatives that will keep the pollution levels at a minimum. Smart-city solutions such as air quality monitoring, energy use optimization, and electricity, water, and waste tracking can produce results such as 10-15% fewer GHG emissions, 30-130 fewer kilograms of solid waste per person per year, and 25-80 litres of water saved per person per day. Data is collected via sensors and cameras placed in strategic places, like on solar panels on top of buildings or garbage bins across the city. City officials and citizens alike can access and use this information to make educated, more conscious decisions and identify new opportunities which can ultimately lead to improved air quality, less energy use and a cleaner city.

The Smart City Infrastructure project – currently underway- in Hulhumale’ by Hulhumale Development Corporation (HDC) will open the doors to innovative applications. These applications will conserve energy, modernize transportation, facilitate remote-working – reducing emissions and depollute the city.

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