Urban development and ecosystem go hand in hand

By Edwin Eng Jan 25th, 2010

THE Development Master Plan for Brunei Darns-salam’s capital,
Bandar Seri Begawan, is being prepared by an international group of
planning, environmental, economic and infrastructure consultants who are
working closely with the BSB Municipal Department and the Minister of
Home Affairs.

The team is being directed by HOK International with cooperation from
Jones Lang Laselle, Meinhardt, MVA Hong Kong Ltd, the Biomimicry Guild
and OWMD International.

Besides giving the general public an opportunity to address concerns
about the impact of development on the ecosystem, the BSB Development
Master Plan will also make the prevention and mitigation of ecosystem
impacts a central feature of the overall plan.

Sedimentation of the natural waterways and river
system running
through the urban area is _another issue that can be addressed in the
Master Plan.

In addition to the guidelines concerning stabilising soil and
retaining storm water, the naturalisation of the banks of waterways and
rivers will slow down the sedimentation process by naturally filtering
storm water as it flows into the waterway.

Naturalisation of shorelines will also slow down the flow of the
watercourse, allowing for more natural absorption of storm water and
less potential for flooding during major storms.

Another major factor affecting ecological function in the city is the
pollution of river systems, the statement said.

The Master Plan will address the issue in providing sanitary
infrastructure for Brunei’s picturesque water village, Kampong Ayer,
while also improving sewage treatment infrastructure and storm water
management strategies across the urban area.

In addition to these major infrastructure improvements, which will
affect the larger urban environment, the’ Master Plan will address the
naturalisation of river banks and reintroduction of mangroves to improve
the capacity for natural filtration and purification of river waters.

The ecosystem of Bandar Seri Begawan could be improved through the
reintroduction of a wider diversity of native plant species in the
landscaping of public and private open spaces in the city.

Native plant species respond effectively to local climate and soil
conditions, thereby improving the overall functioning of the natural

Guidelines and specifications concerning planting and landscaping
throughout the city will be also addressed in the new Development Master

Those interesting in participating in the forum can contact OWMP
International at 2335553 or visit web site www.bsb-masterplan.com.bn.

Public participation and discussion are essential components of the
master planning process and important in the evaluation and final
recommendations for the BSB Development Master Plan.

A press release highlighting the importance of improving ecosystem
functions stated that urban development has had a “significant” impact
on the ecosystem because development has taken place without benefit of
detailed planning guidelines.

The finger was also pointed at construction that did not “consider
impacts on the ecosystem as a primary issue”.

One of the primary problems related to the ecosystem in the capital
is soil destabilisation.

As the city has developed over time, the natural vegetation on
construction sites had been cleared to make way for buildings, parking
lots and other amenities. Construction has also often taken place on
hillsides and other steep sites.

According to the press release, this has led to the displacement of
topsoil and also to high volumes of storm water run-off from buildings
with hard roofs and from areas that are paved with impervious surfaces.

The impacts of soil destabilisation are significant and have major
impacts on the functions of

the ecosystem. Sediment carried by storm water run-off in developed
parts of the capital settle in natural waterways and prevent the
movement of water draining through the city.

The high levels of storm water run-off from impervious surfaces on
developed sites also place a huge burden on the waterways and rivers in
the capital, sometimes causing flooding.

The Master Plan can address many of these issues through simple and
clear guidelines about existing and future development.

Boundaries for new urban development can be established to prevent
urban sprawl and to minimise the need to strip the natural vegetation
from development sites and destabilise the soil.

New development can be of higher density and primarily limited to
sites and areas of the city that are already urbanised. New development
can also be limited to sites that will have less ecological impact if
developed. Construction on steeply sloping sites can be restricted so
that destabilised soil do not get washed away so easily.

Guidelines can also be developed to improve the permeability of the
ground in urbanised parts of the city. This allows rain to naturally
percolate into the water table, rather than running off site and causing
significant problems in drainage systems downstream.

Among the suggestions highlighted in the press release included using
permeable materials for paving driveways and parking areas, creating
“Green Roofs” on new buildings that can absorb rainwater and slow down
run-off water, creating open areas around the site with vegetation that
can effectively retain and slow down water flows, and creating swales
and other storm water control features in low-lying areas.

The press release went on to say that guidelines should establish
metrics for development that “effectively require development sites to
retain and ,manage all or most of their own storm water on site”. Bandar
Seri Begawan is in a rainforest, so the issue of managing storm water
while protecting and retaining soil is a primary ecological concern, the
statement said.