City in the Sea
In many countries, land use is becoming more restrictive as agricultural land goes fallow to maintain food supplies and buildable land is depleted. Cities are growing upwards rather than outwards, but high-rise buildings are not for everyone. Building heights are strictly regulated in most areas due to soil conditions or fear of natural elements such as earthquakes and hurricanes.
Coastal cities are on the front lines of climate-related risks. Floods destroy billions of dollars worth of infrastructure and force millions of climate refugees to leave their homes. Indeed, the challenge is enormous: two in five people in the world live within 100 kilometers of the coast, and 90% of the world's megacities are vulnerable to rising sea levels. But rising sea levels may actually promote the expansion of cities if they follow the path being tried in Korea.
The Busan Metropolitan City of the Republic of Korea, UN-Habitat and OCEANIX have agreed to build the world's first prototype of a sustainable floating city. The partners are trying to find breakthrough solutions for coastal cities threatened by sea level rise. The floating city is intended to be a flood-resistant infrastructure that rises with the sea and produces its own food, energy and fresh water with fully integrated, waste-free, closed-loop systems.
Busan is a city of 3.4 million people on the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula. It is the second largest city in the Republic of Korea and its deep harbor and gentle tides helped the city grow into the country's largest container transshipment port and the fifth largest in the world, making Busan one of the most important maritime cities of the 21st century. It was therefore a natural choice to develop the prototype of the sustainable floating city.
Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, emphasized that the battle to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals will be won or lost in cities, "Sustainable floating cities are part of the arsenal of climate adaptation strategies available to us. Instead of fighting with the water, we must learn to live in harmony with it. We look forward to developing climate adaptation and nature-based solutions through the concept of the floating city, and Busan is the ideal choice to deploy the prototype."
Coastal cities face unique demographic, environmental, economic, social and spatial challenges. Rapid urban population growth, with nowhere to expand, is forcing people to live closer to the water, driving housing costs to unaffordable heights and pushing the poorest families out of business.
A key goal of the prototype is to cultivate a new generation of "blue tech" innovators, entrepreneurs and researchers in Busan by creating a vibrant ecosystem through collaboration between international and local partners. OCEANIX is one such "blue tech" company with the mission to design and build self-sustaining floating cities.
The vision of the world's first floating city for 10,000 inhabitants was unveiled at a UN Roundtable jointly organized by UN-Habitat, OCEANIX, the MIT Center for Ocean Engineering, and the Explorers Club. The scale model of the floating city can be viewed in the Smithsonian Museum's FUTURES exhibition.
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