The Ecotopia 2121 Project details the futures of 100 cities across the globe as though they've somehow overcome all environmental challenges and become super-ecofriendly. This month, we highlight the future of the proposed new Georgian city of Lazika on the Black Sea coast.
(For a Georgian-language preview of the Ecotopia 2121 project, see National Geographic Georgia).
The Georgian government planned to build a brand new city of a half-a-million people completely from scratch on a swamp beside the Black Sea. It’s been named Lazika, the ancient Greek name for this part of Eastern Europe.
Building cities on swamplands certainly has historical precedence; Rome, Bangkok, St Petersburg, Rio De Janeiro, New Orleans, Dublin -- all were built on swamps. Sometimes this was because the swamp served to deter invaders, at other times it was because swamp zones happened to be in useful locations for maritime trade.
In the 21st century, the ecological value of swamps is slowly being recognized by urban planners worldwide. Swamplands in cities improve water quality, reduce flood damage and erosion, provide recreation for city-dwellers, and provide for habitat for wildlife, including economically-valuable wildlife.
All these services are provided for the city free by nature but if we had to engineer them from the ground up they would cost billions. Currently, the Lazika plan is to wipe these ecological services clean away to build the new city; a plan that would also endanger the pristine habitat of the Kolkheti National Park nearby.
An alternative plan, Lazika 2121, seeks to develop a smaller scale coastal city that utilizes the swamp to provide eco-services for various traditional crafts of Georgia. Any new heavy industry, though, must be built at least five miles inland from the coastal swamps.
Here, too, though, the environment is protected via the Frog Laws which state that only industries that do not harm the many species of happily chirping Georgia lake frogs are given permits to operate. Every six months, the noise level of the frog-inhabited lakes and streams surrounding the inland factories of Lazika are monitored, and if they are found to be too quiet, the owner companies must restore the frog habitat by the end of next half year or else forfeit their profits.