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These winning photos capture the future of sustainable cities

Xueman Wang's picture
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The premise behind the Sustainable Cities photo competition was simple. We wanted to learn what people around the world “see” when they hear the words “sustainable cities.”
 
The submissions – and we at the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities received more than 90 entries from over 40 countries around the world – are very revealing.

What the photographers tried to communicate was a need: both the urgent need for infrastructure that leads to more resilient, sustainable cities, or a need to aspire to greener ideals of building sustainable communities for all.

There is no better day than today, World Cities Day, for us to share with you the 10 finalists – including 3 winners and an honorable mention for climate action – of the photo competition.

In the winning photo by Yanick Folly, one can practically feel the chaos of a city in Benin, the smell of exhaust fumes as cars crawl up alongside motorcycles and pedestrians down narrow alleyways.

Yanick Folly (Benin) – Winner
Growing day by day, our world is always moving. Just see the big vibrant Benin market. #SustainableCities

The photo is also a reminder that cities are made of people. Any set of solutions for “sustainable cities” will have to make sense to a city’s inhabitants, who tread its streets daily.
 
In other photos, the aspiration is palpable. 

Many of the photographers are nationals of developing countries from all over the world. Yet quite a few of them shared photos of cities we regard as environmentally friendly: Singapore, Amsterdam, London, and Paris... We saw many photos of parks in developed countries, and heard the same message: These green spaces and pedestrian walkways are what we want in a city.
 
Adedapo Adesemowo (UK / Nigeria)

From a waste dumping ground for oil, tar, arsenic, and lead to an Olympic park. #SustainableCities
Many photos also reflect the vast difference between the aspirational city, and what most people actually live with.
 
We received photos of what many of us may categorize as rural areas, but we should reconsider these preconceptions: some “cities” in developing countries are little more than makeshift towns.
 
So, it is all the more reason why we are excited about this winning photo by Oyewolo Eyitayo from Nigeria. You might think this is an uneventful photograph of a typical urban suburb. Except that the half dirt roads are lined with solar panels.
 
Oyelowo Eyitayo (Nigeria) – Winner
Going solar is a simple & impactful #climateaction that can help combat climate change. #SustainableCities

Indeed, cities in low or middle-income countries may be candidates of “leapfrogging.” Perhaps the solar panels powering this town is only part of the city’s larger aspirations for renewable energy for all. Perhaps the modest bungalows lining this street all have wireless connectivity as well.
 
If a picture is indeed worth a thousand words, then we hope that this photo represents the future of thousands of sustainable cities.
 
Take a moment to enjoy and share the finalists of the Sustainable Cities photo competition, and tell us what #SustainableCities look like to you.
 
Other finalists
 
Juan Pablo Angulo Salazar (Colombia) – Winner

From old canals in industrial cities to cultural hubs. Revitalizing cities to become  #SustainableCities
Gustavo Yamin (Argentina) – Honorable Mention for Climate Action
Wait, stop, and take refuge under this symbol of protection for a while.  #SustainableCities
Adedapo Adesemowo (UK / Nigeria)
Once a dumpsite for broken fridges, this is now a world class public pool. #SustainableCities
Ayodeji Ogunro (Nigeria)
A Fulani settlement along Kuje, Abuja. #SustainableCities
Gautam Kumar Pandey (India)
With #technology, many Urban Planning & Infrastructure issues can be solved to make #SustainableCities.
Phoutthakone Bounchalern (Laos)
Walking towards #SustainableCities in Lao PDR.
Souad El Ouafi (Morocco)
Bicycles are more than transport as they catalyze development in #SustainableCities.
Jesse Mendes (Angola)
"Grow skateboarding while Prospering in a City of Growth" #SustainableCities.
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