The Potential of Developing a Habitable City in the Amazon Basin
Author: Jamie Walker
At: July 21, 2023
For my project, I have chosen to research the possibility of designing and constructing a sizeable habitable city in currently uninhabitable regions/foreign places of the planet, focusing on the tropics of the Amazon Basin for its harsh environment and its feasibility for future design development. To put it simply – the construction of a livable city in the Amazon Basin, where there is a focus on all aspects of creating a community and systemizing this process.
The motivation behind this project is to investigate the efficiency of this system in the most uninhabitable places. Choosing the Amazon for the reason being it is one of the largest businesses on land that is diverse ecologically – in wildlife, weather, humidity, and temperature, amongst many other aspects which are interesting to investigate. More interestingly so, most of the Amazon and the Basin are explicitly uncharted but have been home to many civilizations that have come and gone but gone for reasons; with inevitable exponential population growth and ever-growing cities, systems like these will need to be implemented (Amar, 2013).
There is substantial relevance in this project across all aspects of civil engineering. The design of living spaces in harsh conditions will be an inevitable civil engineering task that must be sustainable as society progresses. Systemizing this process in a sample environment of the most diverse needs will be interesting to research and evaluate future development as many issues could arise.
The purpose of this review is to establish and evaluate the bank of research carried out to date by scholars that are relevant to the project. This topic is fascinating as there is not much research currently that looks specifically at the designing of cities/superstructures in new terrains and its future effects on society and quality of life. Moreover, despite much trade in the Amazon, there are currently no bridges over the Amazon River, the region where I will be researching. In my literature review, I have chosen sources that focus on the analysis of the ecology in the Amazon, the current and past infrastructure, how the environment can be characterized, the design of a city in this/similar regions, and assessing the best structural and material choices based on environmental demands. To structure the process, I have organized the research thematically by topic relevance in chapters – the study was attained via Google Scholar, Science Direct, Compendex and Latek.
2.1. Chapter no 1 – The Ecology of Amazonia
The Amazon region has ample solar energy reserves; therefore, the tropical rainforests usually have warm temperatures. The range of the tropical forests lies between the degree of 72-93°F (22-34°C) range. If the case of the woods at a higher elevation is considered, they are usually more relaxed. An example of the forest of Amazon in which a relatively cooler temperature is present is cloud forest. The region o Amazonia is essential because it is one of the most biodiverse regions of the World. Amazonia plays a critical role in boosting the richest biodiversity of the planet Earth. The statics have approximated that at least 10% of the entire World’s species of wildlife are found in the region of Amazon (Andrea, 2014).
The region in Ecuadorian Amazon is ranked as the most biodiverse region in the World because of the various types of trees that are present there. The area of Amazon is blessed with the most significant ecosystem in the World. The primary factor that drives the ecosystem is the presence of the Amazon River, which is spread over thousands of miles, and the basin of the river is heavily humid. Rainfall levels also impact the ecosystem significantly (Eugenio, 2016).
The Amazon region is not explored yet because it is enormous. It can be called the impenetrable green hell that contains diverse types of vegetation, a variety of animals, insects, swamps, mud, and humidity. The main factors that hinder the exploration of the region of Amazonia are its colossal size and the difficulty to access (by rivers). The other factor that played an essential role in making the Amazon region unexplored is the density of the forest and a large number of unwelcoming insects that are present in the area of Amazonia. The part of Amazonia provides a home to many jaguars, harpy eagles. Other species like pink river dolphins, sloths, black spider monkeys, and poison dart frogs. Ten per cent of the total species on Earth are present in Amazonia, and it contains more than 40,000 plant species. The region of the Amazon is blessed with 3,000 freshwater fish species, and it provides refuge to 370 types of reptiles.
There are various sorts of issues that are threatening the beautiful diversity that is present in the region of Amazonia. Deforestation is an important issue, and the statics depict the fact that 7,900 square kilometres of the World’s largest rainforest were destroyed (August 2017- July 2018). Deforestation has devastated the region of the area that is nearly five times the size of London in the mentioned tenure. The rainforest is facing fires, particularly Brazil’s Amazon fires. The rate of increase of Amazon fires is 13% in the first nine months of the year. Dr. Duffy stated that:
“The combined effects of reduced precipitation and increased temperatures can reduce the capacity of tropical forests to cycle and store carbon.”
Figure 1- Satellite image to illustrate varied land cover types in Amazon Rainforest. source: Jahre, M., Kembro, J., Adjahossou, A. and Altay, N., 2018. Approaches to the design of refugee camps. Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management.
2.2. Chapter no 2 – Characterization of the environment in the Amazon basin
Various factors are considered when expressing the broad term of environment. There are multiple types of elements that could characterize the Amazon region, like the temperature zones, rainfall, etc.
As far as the Amazon River basin is considered, it is the largest basin on Earth, and it provides fresh water to the World, and the statics show that it allows for about 15% of the freshwater discharge worldwide. The issues that are faced by the Amazon basin include the significant risk of habitat modification because it can affect the coastal/marine ecosystems. Studies have shown that if the deforestation rate is not controlled, Amazon Rainforest and Cerrado would eventually disappear in hundred years, and these changes would adversely impact the World’s climate. There is a need to draft effective policies that could prevent the degradation of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The figure below depicts the region of Amazon and its classifications and depiction of parameters.
Figure 2- Region of Amazon and its classification of parameters. source: Salovaara, K.J., Cárdenas, G.G. and Tuomisto, H., 2004. Forest classification in an Amazonian rainforest landscape using pteridophytes as indicator species. Ecography, 27(6), pp.689-700.
Various factors impact the environment of the region of Amazon-like factors like rainfall, temperature, size, weather patterns, deforestation, wildlife, etc., and have an impact on the characterization of the environment of Amazon. According to statics, nature has a significant effect on the life of humans and the environment. Human beings harm the wildlife, and human beings’ intervention has impacted the ecological balance of the host region (Marcellus M. Caldas, 2015).
Wildlife of the Amazon is a significant part of the food chain, and if their lives are endangered, it could impact the species. There is a need for the protection of wildlife to protect endangered natural resources and species. Britain’s wet weather would become even worse if the present deforestation is continued. As carbon is being stored in trees in the Amazon, therefore deforestation would enhance the effects of global warming. In addition to it, the latest research conducted by the University of Virginia, trees perform argues that trees are the “lungs” and “sweat glands” of the World. Trees of the Amazon play an essential role in controlling temperatures and rainfall by removing moisture from the soil (Alison, 2019).
2.3. Chapter no 3 – Infrastructure of Amazonia
Many projects are being planned for the Amazon region. Research conducted by a team of top researchers from areas like the US, Bolivia, and Brazil depicted that road projects that the government has planned for the Amazon rainforest do not undergo tests of environmental or economic impacts. Research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences depicted 75 planned road-building projects (Malhi, 2009).
The researchers have planned that they will build 12,000 kilometres of roadway in Amazonia, and the cost of the project is approximately $27 billion. As the government is planning to make roads in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Brazil, it will result in deforestation in about 2.4 million hectares of rainforest. In addition to it, the team of researchers proved that almost seventeen per cent of the proposed road projects violated environmental regulations or Indigenous rights. In addition to it, some of the projects do not contribute to economic gain, and almost 50% of these projects would be at a loss. Even if the government only cancels the failed projects, they can save $7.6 billion and prevent the loss of 1.1 million hectares of forest area (O’Malley, 2014).
Research has indicated that the region of Amazonia anciently included various old cities and civilizations. The study was started in 1925 by British Adventurer Colonel Percy Fawcett was lost in Amazon and discovered the town named “Z.” In addition to it, researchers have founded River, where Fawcett was mistakenly lost in an area that was covered with dense foliage. In addition to it, various researchers like Michael Heckenberger and Kuikuro people in Mato Grosso discovered 28 towns, villages, and hamlets present in Amazon. According to the estimate, the area supported more than 50,000 people within roughly 7,700 square miles (20,000 square kilometres) of the forest. Other research in which the remains of the ancient Amazonian houses and ceramic cooking utensils depicted that humans lived in the region about 400 years ago. Various researchers have different views about how these regions were destroyed, like Heckenberger had opinions that these people died due to European explorers’ diseases in the 16th century. Heckenberger said: (Overman,2010).
“These people were involved in the same kinds of human cultural innovation as elsewhere in the World. Amazonians were no less capable of human cultural innovation than anyone else,”
Figure 3- Amazon Road Networks under Avianca Brasil. source: Spracklen, D.V. and Garcia‐Carreras, L., 2015. The impact of Amazonian deforestation on Amazon basin rainfall. Geophysical Research Letters, 42(21), pp.9546-9552.
2.4. Chapter no 4 – The design and systemization of the community in an inhospitable region
Various projects are already being considered, and people are trying to discover the possibility of residence of the community in some inhospitable area. There are many important concepts of the possession of people in the lunar region. NASA and the European Space Agencies are planning to start the moon colonies. To realize the lunar residence, there is a need for advanced life-support systems and shielding from cosmic rays. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is the famous firm that has designed the building of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. They are developing the lunar base in collaboration with European Space Agency (ESA) and MIT (Huera-Lucero,2019).
Many people in World have a particular interest in living on the moon, like planetary scientists who want to discover the moon’s composition, Astronomers who want to start telescopes on the moon, etc. Chinese volunteers also lived for a year in Lunar Palace 1 to test life-support systems. The main factor that is considered most important while assessing the possibility of life on the moon is the suitable location for living. The cities that are planned on the moon are scheduled based on the rule that the primary source that was used to build the house on the moon is the rocks and materials that are available on the moon itself so that they need not be transported there (Folhes, 2015).
Many refugee camps are designed for the living of people in war or uncertainty mostly. Adjahossou is a famous researcher working in the Dollo Ado refugee camp in Ethiopia, hosting 200,000 refugees. He decided to change the cities’ layout and make them more suitable for the refugees, and he discussed the needs of people. He planned the camps into U-shaped compounds, and the design helped in interactions between families and improved security. The latest and innovative design of the refugee camp included the space for a small garden in each centre. Refugees could even have enough space to care for a small garden in each compound. Therefore, people started shifting towards durable housing solutions for refugee camps as well. Elon Musk also planned a smarter city and proposed the explanation that if cities are equipped with a 3D network of underground tunnels, it could play an essential role in alleviating traffic congestion (Huera-Lucero,2019).
The proposed plan of the tunnel system would reduce the wastage of time of people due to traffic, and he suggested that one can create more and more tunnels under the Earth to reduce the traffic. He explains that the World could shift to flying cars, and the surface of Earth is good at absorbing vibrations. He introduced the World to his proposed tunnelling company, “The Boring Company.” Apart from the ideas mentioned above, there are many plans of starting inhabitancies in areas that appear as inhabitable areas. The cities are designed smartly according to available resources and the requirements of the regions. Many people are residing in such cities temporarily and permanently as well; therefore, it is very suitable and possible to plan residence in the area of Amazonia.
2.5. Chapter no 5 – The comparison of the city system design between the UK and Amazonia
BREEAM is a standard method used to assess, rate, and certify the sustainability of buildings. BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) is the most used method, and it is used to determine the sustainability of houses in the UK and other important factors. The refugee camps or residences in regions like the moon or Amazon are evaluated on different standards. Green Materials and Processes Program started in Universidade Federal do Amazonas (UFAM) is gaining popularity. The central theme was analyzed in “First Amazonian Meeting of Green Materials and Processes,” 2008. Researchers have drafted the idea of creating a multifamily house village where they utilized only green building processes. There were many essential concepts, including rainwater utilization and ecological sewage treatment (Lowe, 2020).
The city was designed with traditional construction materials and bamboo-based wall panels. The houses in Amazonia were constructed with the help of wood and bamboo, and they were heated in the solar kiln as well. The sewage pipes that were used in this case were made of plastic. Roofs were covered with the help of clay tiles. Clay and bamboo chips were used to fill wall gaps in the walls of the house. In addition to it, the house’s construction was facilitated with the help of chips and bamboo. The walls of the homes were painted with the use of hydrated lime of carburet. The city was planned, and a prototype of eight houses was constructed in the region of Adolpho Ducke Forest Reserve in Manaus. The research was conducted by a detailed overview of high-performance green composites and other processes. The houses were made of suitable materials that are locally available and are cost-effective. The construction of environmentally friendly houses in Amazonia was a big step, and different standards tested the sustainability of the homes there. Different standards test the traditional houses of the UK, but the families in Amazonia would be tested by their sustainability and location constraints (Folhes, 2019).
The material choice is also impacted by the constructed houses’ location because the people living in the UK will need a better place made with concrete, bricks, etc., as it is locally available. In the cases of construction of houses in remote regions like Amazonia are considered, there are only a few locally available resources. The homes constructed in Amazonia would be preferably made from locally available materials like wood, etc. Similarly, if the region of construction of cities is considered, it also impacts the way the city is powered because, in the house that is being constructed in the UK, the power would be supplied by local power suppliers. If the location of the Amazonian city is considered, energy would be created by renewable or non-renewable resources that could easily be installed nearby. Therefore, the planning of the towns and the house construction would be significantly impacted by the houses’ location.
Various factors that impact the environment of the region of Amazon, like factors of rainfall, temperature, size, weather patterns, deforestation, wildlife, etc., have an impact on the characterization of the environment of Amazon. Based on the literature review research, the most evaluative way to research this topic would be to create a system for establishing communities in an inhospitable environment by characterizing the environment with standardized conditions and requirements. The motivation behind this project was to investigate the efficiency of this system in the most uninhabitable places. Choosing the Amazon for the reason being it is one of the largest sites on land that is diverse ecologically – in wildlife, weather, humidity, and temperature. The way of construction of the houses, planning the cities would be affected by the location of the house planning. Different standards test the traditional homes of the UK, but the places in Amazonia would be tested by their sustainability and location constraints. There are many plans of starting inhabitancies in areas that appear as inhabitable areas like the moon, camps, etc. The cities in those remote regions are designed smartly according to available resources and the areas’ requirements. The location of the houses would significantly impact the phase of planning of the towns and the house construction.
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