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  • Emina Helić Čamdžić

Resilient Cities affected with Natural Disasters and Post-War Reconstruction

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Author: Emina Čamdžic, BA Dip. Eng. Arch MA

This paper is to question and understand the way cities will feel and respond in the future. The paper analyses the local and global challenges, that are affecting a city and its habitants. It is based on my own understanding of the disaster resilience and reconstruction; both in natural catastrophes such as are floods, but also in post - war environment. Through examples of cities such as Sarajevo, Maglaj, Doboj or Banja Luka, but also globally looking on cities of Singapore, Dubai, Beijing and Helsinki, and the comparison of the environment, it's possible to look further, find solutions on common issues and help work on ensuring better resilience for cities. Without even thinking much about, it is understandable that the rapid population growth equals more and more people living in cities. Currently 54% of the world's population lives in urban areas, the percentage which according to data will grow to 66% by 2050. Changes are taking place at several levels, at the level of mega - cities and small urban city areas. These changes affect economic development, housing, public health and public transportation.

What will a city look like in the years to come and is there a best model to promote? With the technological revolution, Internet, mass migration and movement of people, cities will need to change too. Changes are taking place at the pace that was almost unimaginable just a few decades ago. People are changing, lives are changing, and therefore it is obvious that habitats need to change as well, implying that cities need to adjust to this change. Unfortunately, with climate change and everything happening in the world, post - conflict and post - natural catastrophe environments are not uncommon. Architects and urban planners have an important role to play as promoters of responsible cities and change - makers of a place. There are several observations I would like to share from a perspective of a post - conflict environment. Bosnia and Herzegovina has been in the process of post - conflict environment since 1995. The changes that have been taking place have affected every layer of the society here, including the changes in the way that building and rebuilding has taken place.

1) The first observation is about the fast rise of ad - hoc buildings in Bosnian cities like Sarajevo, Tuzla, Visegrad and Mostar which has had a huge impact on the way the cities both look and feel. These were part of the reconstruction in post - war environment, and often driven by speed and undermined by the lack of urban planning; with the desire for a quick - impact reconstruction; and the prioritization of cheap and fast building over sustainable development of urban areas. I have witnessed this myself. In my own immediate environment, the faces of the cities and towns have changed beyond recognition. In most cases, this is not for better.

Urban development is a reflection of the state politics and local politics and as well as the level of influence they have on urban planning departments. The results of post - war urban planning department’s work are visible, their choices often painful for a city.

But it is down to us, the new generations to make our own choices and try both repair the damage inflicted by the war and the damage inflicted by the lack of proper urban planning. While the ugly and unnatural has been built and it will stay there, beautiful and natural can still happen through creating better surroundings. Not only pleasant to look at but healthy too.

Meanwhile, Sarajevo as a capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina is holding the title of one of the most polluted cities in Europe. Shouldn’t buildings be used as an alleviator of this problem, rather than a contributor to it.

This problem directly or indirectly affects some other issues like health and education. Design and building in potential flooding zones would help the residents feel safer and strengthen the economy and development of these towns. Ad - hoc projects are a wrong way of building and we should not follow the example of the way building has been done in post - war Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Shouldn’t Sarajevo be a city of people, rather than a city of buildings that reflect an era of the lack of direction and urban planning? Should the city be healthy, have healthy air to breathe, healthy spaces to reside and work in? Should the city not be a magnet not only for the young people to stay to live and work in it, but also a city that invites visitors. Resilient? Should cities be resilient? How can they be resilient cit.and what does this mean?

2) Cities consist of a built and natural environment. Natural catastrophes represent one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century and climate change contributes it. This is no longer a problem of a particular state, country or continent, but a global one that impacts everyone and everywhere. Unfortunately, building and reconstruction in potentially flooding areas is often driven by a short termism of quick building over a sustainable development or desire for a quick - impact reconstruction.

How big the issue of tackling environmental changes is, is well recognized in the COP 21 agreement signed by 195 nations in Paris in December 2015 to combat the effects of climate change towards a sustainable future. In May 2014 Bosnia and Herzegovina was affected by large scale flooding. Towns like Doboj, my hometown Gracanica, as well as Banja Luka and Prijedor, suffered as the consequence of the lack of proper design. Although we have experienced war and destruction, we seem to have forgotten how important it is to build properly and resiliently. Questions like: What do we want to build; where do we wish to leave and do we need to plan long term are rarely raised? How will the previously mentioned cities be looking like in 20, 50 or 100 years? Are the buildings sustainable or not and what can we as architects and planners who are living there do about it? How can we change make impact and bring change? What will happen if again floods happens in the Danube region in Germany, Czech Republic or if river Sava and their tributaries overflow? What is it actually that we want to achieve when rebuilding a city damaged by war or natural catastrophe? I would argue that it should mean to revive a city, and to rebuild it in such a way that what is built would help heal the wounds of the past and to look forward to the future and encourage people to embrace Bosnia and not keep abandoning it.

Is the answer perhaps in buildings that provide energy instead of using it? As do living organisms, so should habitats be more like people, breathe, live and transmit energy - not just use it. During my research of building design through projects such as Cities of the Future and Sustainable Building Lab, I have realized how important sustainable design is and what materials we choose to use, whether the building is energy-efficient, responsible and resilient matters.

Therefore, urban planning, where the emphasis on sustainability, electricity and public transport is one of the key sustainable and successful urbanization.

Examples of action and responsible building have started to see the light of the day.

Ovaj isječak iz mog naučnog članka je iz 2016. godine i još je aktuelan (Dio je projektne dokumentacije za projekat Eurocities30, View on the Urban Future).


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