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Urban Sustainability: A Universal Concern

My name is Sindi Haxhija, and I’m a third year student at Polis University studying to get my Urban Planning Degree. I was born in Shkodra but I live in Tirana, the capital city of Albania. Urban Planning has somehow been my passion since I was in high school. My main hobbies are: travelling, graphic design, writing, reading, ethnography, and researching.

Supporting Human Life

My field of study is of course about cities, the way they have developed until now and how they will look in the future. One of the things that has attracted my attention since my first year of studies is urban sustainability, and the fact that cities have become more and more disrespectful towards nature. They aren’t respecting the three main capillaries of the sustainable development triangle: Social, Environment, and Economy. I became more conscious about urban sustainability when I read in an article about my city that it had reached the critical point to be considered an uninhabitable place because of the large amount of buildings. The percentage of greenery per resident has reached the level of 2.7, which is too low by European Union standards. Environmental and urban sustainability involves making decisions and taking action that are in the interests of protecting the natural world, with particular emphasis on preserving the capability of the environment to support human life. It’s an important topic at the present time, as people are realizing the full impact that businesses and individuals have on the environment.

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The Tirana Boulevard revitalization master plan. Image via e-architect.co.uk

Resilience in the Face of Challenge

Eastern European countries have undergone a communism era. Post-Communist governments inherited critical environmental problems:  Severe air pollution, soil degradation, and contamination of rivers and regional seas were common concerns in the region. The health effects of environmental degradation and the active role played by environmental movements in the breakup of the communist system placed environmental reforms at the top of the political agenda in the early 1990s.  However, the environmental enthusiasm of the early transition period waned quickly. Socio-economic problems took priority to be solved. The most important sector to increase the economy of a city became building.

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A rendering of a multi-cultural complex in Tirana designed by BIG. Image via Bjarke Ingels Group.

Striving for Equilibrium

Albania is a country which suffered and still suffers the problem that the construction industry left behind. Even though it helped the economy of the city, it caused a lot of strain on the environment. The informal sector increased year by year in catastrophic numbers. While agricultural land and wood lands became more urbanised losing their primary function. Nowadays, while suffering the consequences of their actions, cities in Albania are trying to reach an equilibrium point, which will be quite difficult to make happen, at least in the coming ten years. Policies regarding environment and urban sustainability have finally been undertaken, and the building industry has stopped working for an unlimited period of time in several places.

Feature Image: Urban Sustainability, creating healthy cities. Image via OnGreen.com.

About The Author

Sindi Haxhija
I’m Sindi Haxhija, a third year student at Polis University studying for my Urban Planning degree. I was born in Shkodra but live in Tirana, the capital of Albania. Urban Planning has somehow been my passion since high school. The problems that my city has undergone in past years - especially issues related to the construction industry - has made me more interested in urban sustainability. It’s a challenge for future Urban Planners to make our cities more liveable and healthy, and restore balance between cement and greenery. Overcoming this is the best way to ensure the future survival of our cities.