What makes a city habitable?

If you want happy cities, city dwellers should be happy. It’s simpler than you think. “To ensure a happy and sustainable future, governments and developers need to adopt a culture-oriented approach as a first destination,” said Mahmoud El-Borai, vice president of the International Federation of Real Estate in the Arab States and senior adviser to the Government of Dubai. On his recent visit to Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh, India, to attend the 2019 Happy Cities Summit, Al-Borai said that Greenfield, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, is set to become one of the happiest and most sustainable cities in the world.

One of the main objectives of Dubai 2021 is to make Dubai a happy city with creative and talented people. Happiness is an integral part of the plan.

“His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, stressed that the government’s mission is to create happiness and urge government agencies to strive to serve their customers in the best possible way.” This was followed by the creation of Dubai Smart Office to leverage technology to achieve the goal of happiness. Recently, the Ministry of Happiness, in collaboration with the Sheikh Zayed Housing Program, has developed a tool to assess urban design for happiness and well-being. This aims to rethink how communities are planned and developed in a way that promotes economic, social and environmental sustainability and ultimately creates happier societies. The tools focused on communication, the overall infrastructure and strategic location near the city’s economic and social zones, livability, cultural participation and intelligent systems. “

Al-Borai confirms what this means for Dubai:

  1. One of the keys to creating a happy city is the streets, they must be lively and active. Greater streets are needed with the perfect combination of residential developments, business developments and entertainment venues.

If you consider the city a system, what people need from the system is curiosity, trust and cooperation as well as gatherings in the heart of the city for a better social life and better economic opportunities.

  1. Sustainable mobility and transportation such as walking and cycling around the city help create happiness. Within 50 years, Amsterdam has transformed itself from a city of cars into a city for bicycles. Compared to 87 percent in Hong Kong and 65 percent in Singapore, only 16 percent of people use public transport in Dubai. To make Dubai a more urban city, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is constructing 850 kilometers of walkways by 2030. Dubai should provide affordable housing near efficient public transport systems. It has been proven that falling into traffic congestion makes people unhappy. In fact, rush hour passengers suffer from greater concern compared to combat pilots or riot police facing angry mobs.
  2. Living in a compact city, a city of high density, proved to be more beneficial than living in a vast city. In fact, living in a sprawling city can make you look four years older. Governments tend to increase road infrastructure to reduce traffic congestion, while what is really needed is affordable housing near the people’s workplace.
  3. The affordable city is a happy city. Cities must be built in a comprehensive manner, with space for all, rich and poor. Affordable housing must be built near city centers, not in remote areas.
  4. The environmentally sustainable city, at the basic level, is simply a city that invests in gardens and orchards. Air pollution kills up to seven million people a year. The dissatisfaction felt by people exposed to pollution levels of more than 40 grams per cubic meter, the legal limit, is similar to that imposed by separated or widowed persons. Cities need to emulate Oslo, Europe’s 2019 Green Capital, which plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 95 percent by 2030.

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