Implementing Small-scale Sustainability Initiatives

Sponge city solutions and water-wise landscaping can promote circularity and sustainability in GCC communities, believes Chandra Dake, CEO of Dake Rechsand
Staff Reporter | UAE | Facilities Management

Across the GCC, multi-family communities form a sizable portion of urban environments. Such communities enjoy certain privileges that enable them to drive positive change locally. The internet is rife with examples of successful community-level strategies, such as rainwater harvesting. Backed by strategic planning and multi-stakeholder participation, such initiatives can form the basis for the circular economy, where the consumption of a valuable resource like water is supported through simultaneous production.

According to Chandra Dake, CEO of Dake Rechsand — a Dubai-based company specialising in sustainability solutions — community-level sustainability initiatives across a city can lead to stratospheric positive impact, just like how little drops make a mighty ocean. “Communities can easily achieve the consensus for small-scale sustainability initiatives and possess the faculties required to ensure efficient implementation and life-cycle operations. In GCC, sponge cities and water-wise landscaping are among the most actionable initiatives at the community level,” Chandra explains.

Sponge Cities: Urban Centres with Permeable Surfaces

The region has witnessed uncharacteristic changes in precipitation patterns, followed by floods, in recent years. Experts globally attribute that phenomenon to climate change and recommend adaptation measures. Among the viable adaptation solutions is sponge cities — urban centres paved with permeable surfaces that can harvest rainwater runoffs and either drain them to appropriate areas or redirect them to underground storage. Chandra Dake, citing Dake Rechsand’s IDer product range, explains the feasibility of Sponge City for community-level sustainability initiatives.

Rainwater is the purest form of natural water. Sponge city solutions like IDer, implemented in rain-exposed common areas in communities, can avert flooding and simultaneously provide potable water for various purposes. Unlike conventional, cost-intensive, high-maintenance centralized rainwater harvesting systems, sponge cities are decentralised alternatives with one-time investment and perennial value. In essence, they transform the challenge of erratic rains into an opportunity to advance water security.

Chandra Dake, CEO of Dake Rechsand

Sponge cities solutions are available in the form of pavers, kerbstones, and bricks for implementation on different surfaces, such as roads, parking lots, and playgrounds. The air permeability function of such solutions ensures the freshness of the stored water for a long time without requiring chemical or electrical treatments. In water-stressed regions, such an infrastructure could contribute to community-level resilience and security. Moreover, decentralised rainwater harvesting Chandra Dake says, can support landscaping and greening initiatives in communities. The implications of natural greenery for a community’s aesthetic appeal, liveability, and sustainability are profound.

Water-Wise Landscaping: Creating Multi-Fold Value in Communities

Natural greenery, which was solely perceived as an aesthetic element in communities previously, is increasingly being viewed as a driver of sustainable transition in communities. That shift in perception is linked to the growing awareness of the critical role of trees in sequestering atmospheric carbon. A tree can capture up to 25 kg of CO2 per annum. Likewise, a patch of greenery interspersed with trees of different species can significantly support biodiversity and reduce the need for home cooling while beautifying the community.

“Greenery is a feast for the eyes, as well as a catalyst for atmospheric decarbonisation — an important, time-sensitive endeavour because of binding agreements like net-zero 2050. Natural greenery has been scientifically linked to mental wellness, making a case for their development in communities. However, greenery is hard to sustain in water-stressed areas. Under such circumstances, surplus water from sponge city solutions could turn the vision of a green community into reality without aggravating existing scarcity,” notes Chandra. “Sustainable, water-wise landscaping is the gateway to multi-fold, human-centric value in communities.”

Chandra’s beliefs are shaped by the well-documented impact of breathable sand, a revolutionary solution of Dake Rechsand. Breathable sand supports water-wise landscaping in communities by producing optimal plant yield while consuming 80% less water compared to conventional methods.

In tandem with sponge city solutions, breathable sand can be a lever for communities to cost-effectively harvest water and develop greenery while contributing to regional sustainability and net-zero targets and unlocking multiple secondary outcomes such as wellness, aesthetic surroundings, higher rental yield, and good standards of living.

“Governments aren’t the only ones obligated to net-zero emissions; such ambitious goals call for a whole-of-society approach, with communities as key stakeholders. The adoption of actionable solutions like Sponge Cities could be communities’ way of championing the circularity and sustainability cause of the region. From communities to clusters to cities, the initiatives can be scaled to achieve outcomes that can move the needle on climate actions and forge a path to a sustainable future,” Chandra sums up.

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