Urban planning, etc...on an island.
April 20, 2015 5:14 PM   Subscribe

With regard to urban planning and similar disciplines, what challenges and techniques are relatively unique to islands or island-centric places, such as Hong Kong, Corsica, the islands of Hawaii, Cuba, etc.?
posted by Sticherbeast to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Singapore. Some of their specific challenges are obtaining fresh water and food, both of which are mostly imported. Also lots of land "reclamation" with concomitant political drama with bordering countries; Singapore can't even buy sand easily any more.

If you're interested in this from an urban planning point of view, Singapore has a fantastic urban planning department. Visiting the museum there and seeing models of the entire master plan for the city/island/country was really impressive to me. There is a whole lot written about their urban planning methodology, in English, both from the government and from outsiders.
posted by Nelson at 5:22 PM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Small island planning is an established (though rather minor) focus of study within planning, much more in the EU than in the US, for perhaps obvious reasons. The links and keywords on Jonathan Pugh's faculty page should help in digging deeper into this.

Resource limitations are the obvious thing to mention, but islands tend to operate oddly in terms of politics (with something in common with other closed societies, like prisons or remote mountain villages), which impacts power structures and how planning can take place.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:22 PM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Cost of everything (higher cost of goods importation), plus smaller volumes make breaking even more difficult for businesses without higher costs.

You might also look into the many may resources on how the Dutch plan with water. The issues will be similar.
posted by frumiousb at 8:24 PM on April 20, 2015

Islands that are also tourism destinations (think Nantucket or Key West) often have labor problems because housing is too expensive for the work force required to serve the visitors. Solutions are elusive; often there will be ten kids on J-1 visas sharing a two-bedroom place while they work as servers, which has led to some tragedies. Sometimes the employers have to build housing. I've seen supermarkets fly in the cashiers every day from the mainland because it was cheaper than housing them. Police officers, firefighter, teachers, etc. also have trouble finding affordable housing and so the municipalities have to subsidize their purchases.
posted by carmicha at 8:53 PM on April 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Islands are often vulnerable to disasters, especially hurricanes. Egress (for evacuation) and ingress (for rescuer access) should be carefully considered(but often isn't).
posted by rockindata at 3:56 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was coming in to say just what carmicha said above. Affordable housing is critical.
posted by mareli at 4:59 AM on April 21, 2015

Hong Kong Island (a small fraction of the city as a whole!) has no natural resources whatsoever of any relevance to modern life. We have...

- water from a river in Guangdong Province in China as well as local reservoirs
- electricity generated on Lamma Island a few miles off the coast
- sewage piped to processing centres across the harbour
- solid waste recycled (more on that below), burned, exported, or turned into landfill that is sometimes then turned into land for recreation
- gas from Australia which is shipped to Shenzhen right over the border in China (HK has no major LPG storage facility itself), then piped into Hong Kong SAR, then piped across the harbour to the island
- labour from Kowloon and the New Territories, where 70%+ of the city's population actually lives
- goods driven in every day via the three tunnels from Kowloon and multiple ferry routes

Some things that make it sort of work:

- Under 8% of Hong Kongers drive a car, so traffic is predictable even if not as smooth as Singapore, and the MTR and bus/ferry systems run extraordinarily well even when over capacity; deliveries make it on time.

- Incredibly high population density (even more so when you consider that most of Hong Kong Island's land is actually mountainous country park), so people can almost always find what they need in terms of groceries and local services in their neighborhood, accessible on foot.

- Government ownership of all of the HKSAR's land means it only gets leased to people and businesses who can make something that can last through the planning process. (This often means, though, an undersupply of affordable housing and a loss of heritage buildings and local character.)

- Low crime rates make the density tolerable when it comes to personal safety. Gun ownership is illegal (I think?).

- HK's government is not really accountable to voters in the same way that they would be in France or Canada or Taiwan. The civil service is widely respected and trusted to do its job, limited though its scope may be.

HOWEVER - living on Hong Kong Island and in Hong Kong as a whole is a huge squeeze on people who have low or middle incomes, and despite the city's shiny veneer, one in three seniors and one in four children don't get enough to eat every day. Housing sucks up the biggest portion of people's expenses and with no old-age pension system, it is common to see people in their 80s collecting cardboard and other junk to sell by the kilo.

So yes - it is amazing to think about the systems that keep it all functioning - but as alluded to above, there are definitely "losers" in the competitive, closed-ish system of island/island-like societies.

Finally, our sister SAR Macau, by the way, is definitely worth some investigation if you're into this topic!
posted by mdonley at 10:00 AM on April 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Low lying, non-mountainous islands have difficulty in going downwards: the water table can be pretty high and the soil is sandy and unstable. This can make burying utilities, building tunnels, and constructing buildings with basements to house mechanicals more difficult.
posted by lstanley at 10:51 AM on April 21, 2015

I just came back from a visit to Malta (which is essentially two very-densely populated islands) and the university there has an "Islands & Small States Institute" that may interest you.
posted by dhens at 1:58 PM on April 21, 2015

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