Rome is not a Sustainable City

A research of the Capital City of Italy in relation to the 11th Sustainable Development Goal

The history of the Capital City of Italy begun around 2770 years ago, when some tribes decided to settle on the levees of the Tiber river. It has represented the strategic and cultural pole of the biggest empire in the Classical Age, embracing lands, cities and communities from the majority of the contemporary European Union and some MENA countries. This proves the evidence that the 21st Century’s Rome is the outcome of millennia of complex events, cultural evolution and infrastructural basements with which the current administration and citizens still have to deal with.

Building sustainable cities means meeting central goals for welfare and development of the communities living in there, allowing them not to be entirely dependant on external supply of resources, creating career and housing opportunities, establishing resilience and limiting negative externalities.

Safe and Affordable Housing​: Rome has developed regulatory building-plans which have allowed private constructors to create urban centers in the peripheral areas, without thinking of an integrated structural development process with the center. The regulations established since 1965 were based on much higher demographic growth forecast than the actual outcomes. This is why the framework of action applied until 2008 was denominated ​planning while building,​ because it aimed at a decentralization of the core public and private functions to the periphery. Landowners were authorized to build up a number of squared meters which exactly compensated the ones which were under environmental bonds, being exempted by the administrative comprehensive regulation plan: basically, without inserting the new buildings into an integrated view of the development for the city.

The result is that Rome disposes of plenty of desert houses and entire areas which are separated in terms of efficient transportation systems and direct public and private services, but are more accessible to the low and middle wages in economic terms.
This lead to the evidence that a true ​Inclusive and Sustainable Urbanization ​is not guaranteed to everybody, but who lives in areas which are built before than the 1950s. Some attempts were made to implement with an inclusive organization, for example in the early 2000s there was a theatres and cultural sites construction in some peripheral areas. But there still is the need of increasing cultural and associative opportunities in every single area. The way in which Rome is designed in its municipalities – little districts – makes it

harder to think of equally distributing resources. Every municipality is designed as a clove, so the 15 district administrations are led to invest more in their central part, than the peripheral one. In this way, people are willing to move from their external living-areas for their everyday activities.

Safe and Affordable Transports System: ​Rome has only 3 lines of subway for 59,4 km of railways; 8 train lines connecting outside-cities and villages to the inside, among which 3 of them directly and partially managed by the local transportation company; 6 lines of tramlines for only 31 km. Mobility is basically based on the superficial bus for approximately 2800 km: a non-efficient system, serving an average of 3 millions of people. The capital of Italy entails a very high traffic level, similarly to mega-cities such as Los Angeles and San Paulo (people sit in their cars an over-time of 39% then the ideal one).

Protect the World’s Natural and Cultural Heritage: ​Rome has 7 UNESCO sites of the 1073 in the entire World (data of 2018). It is one of the cities with the highest concentration of cultural heritage in the world and with the highest squared meters distribution of natural parks and areas in Europe. Rome has the 67% of the metropolitan territory of green areas: around 840 km2 over 1.290 km2. Notwithstanding the impressive records, the administration helds only 180 gardeners taking care of more than 300 000 trees; and the Italian government grants the equivalent of 45,94 euros per capita for the Cultural Heritage management and expenses. It is the 10th city in Italy. An interesting aspect to consider is that Rome has in its inside the State of Vatican, which owns a very high number of monuments and churches, which are a key part of the tourist attractions in the capital .

Reduce the Adverse Effects of Natural Disasters and ​Reduce the Environmental Impact of the Cities: ​being a city with a very ancient history, basing the majority of the mobility on cars and streets, having more than 300 000 trees and many green areas, every atmospheric agent out of “normality” could cause huge environmental impacts.

Every autumn Rome is experiencing some days of very strong rains, which always cause holes in the streets’ asphalt, floods in the subway stations, falling trees over cars, river-like streams in every single road. This is due to the inefficiency of the sewers, which until the 1970s weren’t considered as mandatory for every new building and urban area. The estimation of investments to complete the sewers in the metropolitan area is of about 250/300 millions of euros: a massive amount if considering all the urgent needs to be tackled.

There is the need of an increase of the central government in the public expenses toward the parks’ care; new basements for the streets basements, which prove of being not consistent with the protocols and breaking at every strong rain; an improvement of the sewers’ system.

As regards as the waste management, here lies one of the key problems of the capital. Rome produces an average of 4600 tons of waste every day, of which 2000 are considered recyclable. In 2017 the city had to export 310 000 tons of non-recyclable waste to other cities. Rome only disposes of 4 biological-mechanic plants of dismantlement, where they separate the organic from the non-organic material; 1 incinerator in the metropolitan area and 2rubbishdump.Anevidentshortageinassetstotackleabigcity,whichexportsalmost the half of its rubbish outside of the region of Lazio (5.9 millions of inhabitants, comprehensive of Rome).

Provide Access to Safe and Inclusive Green and Public Spaces: Rome has plenty of public spaces and green areas, as mentioned before. The issue is that the majority of those are concentrated in the central or semi-central areas. The periphery is supposed to have access to green parks and cultural spaces, but very often there is not enough care spent by the public toward their maintenance. Letting a peripheral theatre work, means providing for public fundings because it is hard to make it self sustainable. Letting squares become as community meeting places means taking care of them, renewing them. The challenge is not only making new ones, but letting the people feel that the government is close the the ones that are already there. Rome has 471 play areas for children spread all over its territory, which are preserved by the same department of the environmental care. Good assets, but not enough care and long term projects.

Rome is an amazing city from the cultural and environmental assets. There is the need of investing more into the requalification of its transports system and housing protocols; the strong necessity of more government expenditure toward green areas and cultural heritage management; a more inclusive and integrated view to be applied in the peripheral areas; and a strong shift into the waste management techniques and cycles toward a more sustainable system.

Giovanni Crisanti

References and Sources:

About the urban design and the building regulations: w3EFEE1opOm97DM5AnBxAjDKKrJlQj4E1Q

About traffic datas: alia-ACiME5L

About the cultural heritage and environment expenses 19/07/il-rapporto-openpolis-sulla-spesa-per-la-cultura-in-italia-tra-le-grandi-citta-trionfa-firenz e/

About sewers

About play areas



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