PEEP INTO BUILDING SMART CITIES IN DESERTS In Deserts
If you want to know how extensively a desert can be transformed into a smart city, look Dubai.
The Emirate of UAE has apparently translated the wildest imaginations into reality. It is worth
praising the accomplishments as it is not a cakewalk to develop a full-fledged city with all kinds
of modern amenities, in the middle of a desert.
Not to mention, a desert is a place where building a smart city is just like digging an oasis
from nowhere. Take, for example, Sahara, the largest hot desert in the world where the extreme
temperatures and unusually low levels of rainfall are the biggest challenges to survive. Yet,
there is a smart city – better known as an eco-friendly city – thriving as an oasis and one of the
most sustainable places in the region. Their story is not just interesting but inspiring too!
The First Eco-friendly City In Sahara Desert
The first chapter of the first eco-friendly city called ‘Tafilalt’ in the Sahara Desert covering
Algeria, began 20 years ago. A team of intellectuals, scientists and architects, coming from Beni
Isguen Ksar, meaning “castle” in Arabic, united to establish Amidoul Foundation (non-profit) in an
effort to solve the local housing crisis. During the time, thousands of people were living in
slums spread across the M’Zab Valley in the Ghardaïa Province, Algeria. The costs for houses were
Therefore, Amidoul Foundation bought a rocky hill with a vision to transform the place into an
eco-friendly city with low-income housings. Studio apartments and villas were constructed in
Tafilalt with a cost that was three times cheaper than Algeria’s average. The houses built,
preserved the traditional way of the Mozabite community (natives of M’Zab Valley) to relate to the
natural world. The model was based on eco-construction and energy saving with a new ingredient,
patio. Hence, the non-profit rolled out the initiative to rehouse homeless families both with a
social and eco-conscience.
Today, the residents are empowered to own and occupy the houses and pay the property cost in
installments over years. However, before residents buy a property, they need to sign the ‘green
charter’, an obligation for the occupants to plant and grow trees. This should include one palm
tree and two varieties of fruit trees. Hence, the entire idea of building this smart city, more an
eco-friendly city, revolves around the coexistence of human and nature.
The Eco Factor
Tafilalt is a place situated in a desert. Hence growing vegetation was a challenging task. The
residents covered the rocky ground with four layers of fertile soil. Because the soil quality was
poor, it took three years in growing plants and trees.
Today, the community is developing an eco-park where a variety of plants are grown. Due to the
lack of space for independent vegetable gardens, the city is extending the eco-park to be able to
grow plants and veggies, as a part of city food sharing programme. All the inhabitants of the city
are in charge of growing the food. The resulting harvest will be given for free to every resident,
making them self-sufficient.
The eco-park is home to different species including date palms, fruit trees, medicinal plants,
shrubs – all being grown without pesticides and chemical fertilisers. In the future, the truly
smart city is aiming to have its own advanced pharmaceutical laboratory which produces their own
traditional herbal remedies.
Moreover, the residents of Tafilalt gather their food waste and feed it to the animals of a newly
opened local zoo. In return, they are rewarded with fresh milk and eggs free of charge. This is a
part of the local recycling programme where nothing goes into the trash. The residents are also
responsible for cleaning up their neighbourhood on the basis of a week-long rotation.
In addition, the small eco-friendly city is also experimenting with sustainable strategies to
fight the water crisis. They are testing an innovative system of wastewater treatment. They are
using a phyto-purification technique to water the plants in the eco-park with recycled water. For
this, they have three concrete reservoirs and pipes equipped in a corner of the eco-park.
The environment is priority for the citizens of Tafilalt. And so, their children, the next
generation is educated at school with the complex environmental problems along with a regular trip
to the eco-park.
This smart city in the Saharan desert teaches the world that citizens should not wait for green
governmental reforms. Instead, they should take a step to help the environment positively.