Arriving in Hongkong, the bus guides me through the night of enlightened skyscrapers, street lights, and bridges; it reminds me of Panama City, or New York City, but this is Hong Kong City.
My first seconds on the crowded side walk make me get lost, my GPS loses track, and so do I. Finally, I make it to my hostel, on the 9th floor in one of those enlightened towers. Outside on the rooftop balcony, traffic thunders by many floors down, but it sounds like right aside the fence. Eventually, traffic does not only pollute air, but causes troubles considering sound and heath as well.
Nevertheless, it is easy to escape this downside of the city, by going for a hike on one of the hills, where whole at a sudden, you forget being in Hong Kong. Such as the beautiful scenery out of Victoria Peak – if you choose the non-touristic trail – out of which every meter you have another perspective on the city, from its residential and financial skyscrapers to its port.
Most Sustainable City
Last year Hongkong was ranked at number 1 in the Arcadis’ Sustainable Cities Mobility Index 2017, out of 100 cities. But what does Arcadis consider as a sustainable city?
The evaluation is based on 23 indicators out of the three pillars of sustainability, the 3 Ps, People, Planet and Profit. The first refers to social sustainability, the second to environmental, and the latter to economic sustainability. Despites having a high score on people (1st), and profit (6th), the city lacks behind on planet.
The social sustainability is based on its excellent transport system, increasing connectivity and mobility of its citizens, with industry and business, and hence providing an excellent base for economic and sustainable growth. Moreover, the early incorporation of digital capabilities in its transport system caused the 1st place.
The Good and the Ugly
The high connectivity results as well in a highs core on the profit index, because accessibility and connectivity are key for economic growth. On the other hand, the same praised domain, transport, makes the city fall down on the planet index.
Besides providing high connectivity by public transit, the busy port, in combination of high levels of vehicle emissions and the lack of initiatives to lower these have to be addressed to turn the transport system green.
Remarkably, in contrast to the Chinese cities I’ve been lately, and the rise in Asian, European and North- And South-American cities, the hype of bike sharing and biking as such did not reached Hongkong. Maybe due to the hilly landscape, or the narrow streets where even escalators make walking unnecessary; the tropic temperatures might be a limiting factor as well; or maybe it is a problem of policy.
It is interesting how one’s strength, can be one’s weakness at the same time. The ‘first-class transport system’ as mentioned by Arcadis, has some space for growth, for green growth, by implementing smart solutions, and green solutions.
Four times the Earth
Additionally, WWF Hongkong appoint to the high ecologic footprint of the city, calculating that 3.9 Earths would be needed if every human being would adopt the lifestyle of a Hongkong citizen. Moreover, since most of the natural resources consumed in the city have to be imported due to the high population density and consumption. [As a reference: humankind on average consumes 1.6 times the Earth in terms of what we need from nature]
Obtaining not only social and economic, but environmental sustainability as well, eventually is what we should understand under the worth ‘sustainability’.