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UNECE supports cities of Almaty and Podgorica to become smarter and more sustainable

UNECE supports cities of Almaty and Podgorica to become smarter and more sustainable

Almaty left Podgorica right cities

Faced with complex challenges of rapid urbanization, the cities of Almaty (Kazakhstan) and Podgorica (Montenegro) will benefit from new UNECE recommendations to help sharpen their efforts for smart and sustainable development. The Smart Sustainable City Profiles, presented today to the UNECE Committee on Urban Development, Housing and Land Management, draw on a data-driven evaluation process using UNECE/ITU KPIs, conducted in partnership with the city authorities.  

Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, is the largest city in the country and remains its major commercial and cultural centre.  

In the past two decades, Almaty has almost doubled in size, from covering an area of 33,300 hectares in 2001 to 68,000 hectares in 2021. Its population has increased from 1.13 million in 2001 to 2.1 million in 2021. If the current pace of growth continues, its population is expected to exceed 3 million people by 2030, which will create new challenges for urban planning, warns the Profile. At present, only the city centre is being developed in line with the population growth, which contains around 70% of the social infrastructure of Almaty.  

Despite the positive economic and demographic conditions, the Profile highlights that the city still faces important challenges. Key findings and recommendations include to: 

  • Promote clean and sustainable mobility: pollution from traffic and congestion are major challenges. Recommendations include temporary measures during peak-pollution periods, restricting the circulation of old and polluting cars from the city centre, improving access to higher-quality fuels and electric vehicles, and developing intelligent transport systems, public transport (86% of inhabitants living within 0.5 km of a public transport stop) and active mobility (only 0.1% of the city area is designated as a pedestrian/car-free zone).  

  • Ensure housing affordability: the rapid growth of Almaty has had significant impact on both housing prices and demographics. Real estate prices have more than quadrupled between 2001 and 2016, which has made it difficult for many people to afford to live in the city. 3.7% of the city population was reported to live in slums, informal settlements or inadequate housing in 2022.  

  • Refurbish buildings: many public buildings were built several decades ago and have limited insulation and high energy consumption. Recommendations include to carry out inventory work on old residential buildings, and to develop a programme for improved municipal management and self-governance in the housing sector. 

  • Improve waste management: 86% of total waste is sent to sanitary landfills and only 14% is recycled, although the city aims to increase waste recycling by 30-40% by the end of 2030. Recommendations include to conduct further studies, to undertake awareness raising, and pursue sustainable waste management long-term strategy development. 

  • Air quality management: pollutants from stationary sources including centralized heat plants and localized boilers have more than tripled between 2005 and 2022, and motor vehicles are responsible for more than 50% of total emissions. Recommendations include to increase capacity for environmental monitoring and management, and to draw up air quality plans and programmes. 

The Profile also highlights the need to strengthen the capacities of the city government and institutions to enable participatory and intersectoral approaches.  

Mr. Andrey Shovkoplyas, Chair of the Board of the Almaty Development Centre, confirmed the Profile and its recommendations will help the city government to move towards a vision of a modern city that is comfortable to live and work in, attracting tourists, flows of goods, innovation and capital. 

Podgorica had a population of 191,637 in 2021, which is about 30% of the total Montenegrin population. As the principal destination of migration from other regions of the country, Podgorica is experiencing rapid expansion.  

The Profile highlights controlling urban expansion and ensuring urban infrastructure and services keep up with the demands of the growing population as the biggest challenges for the city.  The Profile also highlights the need to improve and balance environmental management policies. 

Key findings and policy recommendations for Podgorica include to: 

  • Improve urban data collection at the city level and ensure accessibility of the collected data to a wider range of stakeholders; and develop a system for evidence-based decision making and planning.  

  • Develop and update the cadastre and improve the process of urban and spatial planning documentation preparation.  

  • Improve the institutional and governance framework for the legalization of informally constructed buildings and support the legalization process. The city government estimates that there are currently at least 2,000 settlements not conforming to national legal standards. 

  • Promote energy efficiency of public buildings, including by updating insulation to reduce heat losses and minimize energy used for cooling. 

  • Introduce measures to increase the share of renewables in energy consumption.  Recommendations include to incentivize the use of renewables over fossil energy, such as by subsidising renewable energy use, or to introduce programmes that offer discounts on solar panels for households.  

  • Strengthen low-carbon emission mobility and transport: although investments in transport infrastructure have increased from EUR 10.7 million in 2018 to EUR 13 million in 2022, infrastructure remained insufficient for the growing number of vehicles. Recommendations include to introduce park and ride systems; reduce or stop the issuance of taxi licenses; improve urban–suburban connectivity through public transport; and to strengthen multi-modal mobility with tram, bus, car sharing, and bicycle. 

  • Develop and diversify funding of urban greening measures.   

Speaking at the Third UNECE Forum of Mayors, Ms. Olivera Injac, Mayor of Podgorica, expressed her commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Profile.  

About Smart Sustainable Cites Profiles 

In 2013 UNECE joined the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) initiative, a UN initiative supported by 19 UN agencies and programmes Under the U4SSC and at the request of cities, UNECE conducts a performance evaluation using the UNECE/ITU key performance indicators for smart sustainable cities. Based on the evaluation, concrete recommendations to cities’ policy makers are formulated; further UNECE supports the cities with implementation of the recommendations through technical assistance and advice on the use of innovative financing mechanisms. 

UNECE has already supported Grodno (Belarus), Astana (Kazakhstan), Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) and Tblisi (Georgia) in the development of the smart sustainable cities profiles and to implement their recommendations through capacity-building activities.  

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