Urban Metabolism: An integrated approach to exploring the challenges of resource management for urban sustainability in developing countries

Driven by climate change and scarcity of resources, resource management has become crucial for urban sustainability worldwide. There is an increasing interest in urban metabolism as a concept as it enables researchers to identify environment-related deficiencies in urban systems. The existing literature on urban metabolism studies shows a huge gap for such studies in the Global South. This gap is addressed in this thesis by employing the urban metabolism framework to better understand complex issues regarding the resource management system of Cairo Governorate (Egypt), an example of a rapidly urbanizing city in the Global South. This research was guided by a mixed methods approach to gain an in depth understanding of the barriers and drivers of resource management of the case study and to overcome the lack of reliable data. The findings of this study show that the flow of resources of Cairo Governorate are primarily linear flows. Cairo Governorate mainly relies on primary resources (inputs of cities: such as fossil fuels and fresh drinking water) and secondary resources (outputs of cities: such as solid waste and wastewater) are not used efficiently to feed them back into the city and develop circular flows. Sludge-to-energy and waste-to-energy projects, and the utilization of greywater present a huge potential for Cairo’s urban sustainability. The nature of urban form, the existing infrastructure, lack of an integrated sustainable waste management system, subsidies of primary resources, informal settlements and illegal connections, public behaviour, and the technical, financial and institutional capacities have a huge impact on the quality and the losses of the flow of resources of Cairo Governorate and the expansion of renewable energy projects. The outcome of this study indicates that the key challenge of resource management in developing countries is the lack of a comprehensive understanding of the interplay and interdependencies between resources and various flows. This study confirms the importance of understanding the flow of resources, the existing urban carrying capacity of cities and the limits of urban development to create robust sustainable strategies.


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