Reunderstanding Cairo through urban metabolism: Formal versus informal districts resource flow performance in fast urbanizing cities

Urban expansion can be seen as the most pervasive human impact on the environment where its high resource use contributes negatively to climate change and resource scarcity crises. Many experts call for decoupling resource use, economic development, and related urban development especially within cities of the Global South. This paper focuses on investigating resource efficiency through the lens of urban metabolism. It investigates current resource flows, through material flow analysis, from source to sink, in two diverse districts in Cairo: a formal district and an informal one, regarding materials (waste) and mobility. Consequently, the paper discusses locally responsive interventions that address local priorities as opposing to citywide one‐size fits all solution. The paper relies on parcel audits, which are embedded in an Urban Metabolism Information System developed by the Ecocity Builders and their partners, through a joint project with Cairo University. The methodology couples crowd‐sourced data, parcel audits, and experts’ knowledge to better understand resource flows based on a bottom‐up approach, given the unavailability of governmental data on the local level. The paper further correlates the perceived quality of life with the actual resource flows. It utilizes fieldwork investigations to argue against the local misconceptions regarding the inefficiency of informal areas/systems versus the higher efficiency of planned areas/systems. The paper concludes by proposing integrated solutions that respond to local needs and resources. It highlights the challenges and lessons of this tailored bottom‐up approach and its applicability in other cities worldwide.

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