The Feb.23 to 24 ‘Food For Future’ at the Dubai Exhibition Centre of Expo 2020 Dubai is a platform of new inventions for the re-greening of cities and bountiful agricultural harvests.
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
Experts have reiterated the importance of re-greening urban areas, saying it would only be unachievable if people remain to be lacking in the will to pursue it.
Three of the experts shared their knowledge and opinion through the first Emirates Environment Group (EEG) panel discussion for the year, “Greening of Concrete Jungles – Towards Urban Afforestation and Vertical Farming.” They are Miyamoto International (USA-based global structural engineering and disaster management firm) Associate Principal Olivia Nielsen who specializes in resilient and sustainable urban solutions and whose works include critical programmes in over 30 countries from Haiti to Papua New Guinea; University of Sharjah-Architecture & Engineering Department-Faculty of Engineering Associate Professor Moohammed Wasim Yahia with over 18 years of practical and academic experience in Engineering & Architecture, collaborative housing design, urban microclimate, climate smart architecture and design, and outdoor thermal comfort; and Taka Solutions (UAE-headquartered technology/engineering/finance company) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Henrique Pereira into Engineering, energy management and energy efficiency.
The virtual panel discussion was held a day before the Feb. 23 “Food, Agriculture and Livelihoods Business Forum” at the Dubai Exhibition Centre of the Expo 2020 Dubai.
From the business forum, Priva (The Netherlands-based private company into the development and sale of smart equipment and software for climate-controlled horticulture as well as energy and water saving) CEO/Co-Owner Meini Prins, traced her country’s journey against the consequences of World War II (WWII) namely poverty and hunger. Through her talk “Food Producing Cities Are Livable Cities,” moreover discussed was how the Dutch have faced the reality that urban areas are more attractive, particularly among the “next generations” when it comes to socio-economic mobility. Subsequently, political will and everyone’s cooperation-since the end of WWII-have resulted in the passage of laws encouraging efficient urban planning with greening of the cities that include crops a vital component. These political will and cooperation have led to the unabated flourishing of inventors and tech-savvy people. Thus, developing “green belts” from the “brown fields” for the “next generations” have become part of their character.
From the EEG forum, Nielsen pointed out that people have to come forward and inform experts as well as urban planners and real estate developers of what they want as technology as well as expertise are already available: “(It is a matter of) what we see in our minds. That which comes alive with trees or vegetation. We cannot build what we cannot imagine. Nothing is impossible. Affordable housing is difficult due to constraints. So many scientific studies (have reflected) that lower income communities (with) lower vegetation and tree coverage have so much higher heats especially during the summer. There are higher energy bills for people who cannot even afford to pay (electricity). We cannot afford to build units then destroy them. Think about the future and the way you want to live then design it (with the experts). It could be done.”
According to Yahia, while nothing is impossible, best that people learn to connect the necessary re-greening models with the “blue” or the water infrastructure required in the construction of housing units. Raising vertical farms needs sufficient amount and efficient use of water.
Pereira said re-greening of cities would be more affordable and more practical if indigenous plants are used: “The pine trees in Europe require more water. It is not a problem in Europe since it rains there.” He added the actual demolition of old buildings could be avoided as “retrofits” and advanced know-how and equipment are also already available.
Meanwhile, from the business forum, Office of the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates-Food Security Office Head Essa Abdul Rahman Al Hashemi underscored the country’s leadership’s commitment to food security by adopting climate controlled technology, applications and innovation that would help veer away from the 90 per cent food importation and the identification of food items critical to the provision of adequate nutritious food to all locals and residents namely protein (meat, poultry, seafood), fruits and vegetables (bananas, oranges, apples), plant-based oil, and grains.