Archive for Infrastructure
At the EESC Public Hearing 7th of February, Croatian MEP Tonino Picula mentioned that the islands of Europe, if grouped together, would rank as Europe’s ninth nation. I double-checked him, making a table based on Wikipedia, from which I excluded islands that are nations (Great Britain, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta) but included all the remaining 2.136 ones, summing up their areas and their populations.
The result is a complex, widespread, divided, illusive island nation with an area of 454,753 km2 and with 18,889,077 inhabitants. Were it a nation, it would population-wise place itself after Romania but before Kazakstan. Counting by area, it would rank as the 4th nation of Europe, just after Norway. Assuming humans are more important than land, the islands of Europe grouped together would rank as the number 11 among the 50 sovereign states of Europe. Were it a nation, it might be called ISLANDIA.
Is this 11th nation of Europe different from the other 28 nations of Europe? Yes: it has some very valuable assets: (1) shores, that attract hundreds of millions of tourists every year; (2) seas, that contain tides, waves, oil, gas, fish, motorways of the seas as well as more ordinary waterways; (3) unrivalled natural and cultural heritages.
This 11th imaginary nation also has an invisible obstacle surrounding it: remoteness – a permanent handicap causing extra costs for its small-scale societies, enterprises and inhabitants. There are 671 ro-pax ferries connecting the islands with the mainland. On the one thousand smaller islands, 38% of the total energy spent is used for sea transports, larger islands somewhat less. To reengineer these sea transport systems would be an economical, ecological and social revolution.
The event is organized by European island authorities and actors and builds on the outcomes of the 1st Smart Islands Forum hosted by on 21-22 June in Athens, Greece. For more information on the Forum, see http://www.dafni.net.gr/en/archives/250616.htm
Key objective of the event is to present the Smart Islands Initiative, currently supported by 70 island authorities from 13 countries across Europe. Further, during the event representatives from island local and regional authorities will sign the Smart Islands Declaration.
Overall the event will engage EU policy-makers and representatives from local and regional authorities, research institutions, the private sector and civil society on a discussion about islands’ potential to drive Europe’s transition into a low-carbon, sustainable and inclusive economy.
This is a link to five documentary films on five exceptional islands, beautiful and fascinating, but above all exemplary. Farmers, business people, engineers and scientists on these islands have taken on the challenge or revolutionising energy provision – without oil, coal, gas or nuclear power.
The people who live on these islands have been battling against the forces of nature for centuries. Now they intend to use the power of water, the waves, the tides, the wind, geothermal energy and the sun for a better future. These islands are laboratories of hope that are showing the rest of the world how climate protection can be achieved and, above all, that it works.
The Danish island of Samsø, the Canary island of El Hierro, Madeira, Iceland and Orkney in Scotland have discovered pathways to the future without destroying their breathtaking landscapes.
Researchers Luca De Benedictis and Anna Maria Pinna from the University of Cagliari have launched the term ‘bad geography”. They have explored the geographical dimension of insularity, measuring its effect on trade costs. An interesting report with many different aspects on insularity http://www.siecon.org/online/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/De-Benedictis.pdf.
I quote: ”Insularity is not in general considered the worst condition in terms of ’bad geography’. According to both empirical and theoretical literature, the most immediate case of exterme geographical condition is the lack of direct access to the sea. This is considered to be a fundamental cause of heterogeneity among countries. One out of four countries in the world is landlocked; in Africa, it is one out of three. On the contrary, having direct access to the sea is the geographical condition that has been found to be the most advantageous for the economy of a country: coastal countries are wealthier and experience 30% more trade than landlocked countries But the direct access to the see can generate extreme geographical conditions. Islands are completely surrounded by sea. This full land discontinuity raises costs by eliminating alternatives in the connection system of an island and by raising the level of uncertainty for the remaining alternatives. The small and remote nature of island countries should be considered in view of these characteristics, revealing the crucial physical difference between islands and coastal countries. But also not all islands are made the same.”
Benedictis and Pinna conclude that to be an island is not bad per se in terms of trade costs. Bad geography can be reversed by connectedness and open institutions.
Easy said, hard to do. Let me quote Spilanis, Kizos and Petsioti “Accessibility of Peripheral Regions: Evidence from Aegean Islands”: On islands, where “everyday transportation is not available, many services are provided locally even if their quality or variety may not always satisfy local needs. Therefore, the increase of the availability of intermediate services locally in bigger mainland settlements is unsurprising, since the size of the population justifies the provision of private services (selling furniture, electric appliances, home products, physiotherapy services) and the existence of public services (tax office, town planning). Establishing and maintaining such services in areas where the level of population is lower than the threshold for its “spontaneous” emergence raises the cost for both private and public services. For public services, a revealing example is provided by ESPON (2011) for Notio Aigaio Region (40 inhabited islands). If all its population was living on one island, a maximum of three ports would be sufficient, while now there are 50, along with 14 airports instead of one, 21 power production plants instead of one, five hospitals instead of one, 90 primary schools instead of 211, 35 waste water treatment units instead of eight, and so on.“
If the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea (Notio Aigaio) could be grouped together, life would be so much simpler for everyone. Same thing were they municipalities in Germany. I believe they do suffer from ‘bad geography’.
Some Aegean islands grouped together
Some of the Aegean islands migrated to Germany (adapted from Jean-Didier Hache, CPMR)
As reported here on the ESIN blog in February, the Koster islands https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koster_Islands have a “water problem [that] puts an end to everything”.
To solve this problem, a project is describing Koster’s geophysical water resources (“the water of the island”), the human water footprint on the island (“the water of the islanders”) and way the water is distributed, how the system is managed, financed and administrated (“the water of the municipality”). The project’s website is http://kostervatten.com
The project will present a three-level description of the island’s freshwater systems, and a sustainable system solution that takes all three levels into account.
Meanwhile, it is already evident that the islanders need to save water. A first water saving project will start now at the new built hotel “Kostergården”. It will monitor, in real time, how hotel guests use water for different purposes – showering, flushing the toilet, drinking etc. Each guest can follow their own consumption and the consumption of the whole hotel. They will be involved in saving water in a fun and simple way, backed up by information on the ferries, in the hotel reception and on websites. The hotel – and the island – has the ambition to be a benchmark of sustainability among large hotels on small islands.
The project is using professor Andy Bäcker as an advisor. It will by no means be penalizing or pry into people’s private life, just be smart, fun and creative, turning something repressive into something positive as for example the “Speed Camera Lottery” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iynzHWwJXaA did.
Koster island would like to start an “island water lab” project with a handful of other small European islands to explore the possibilities of saving water, both by technical means and by changing human behaviour. Islands who are experimenting simultaneously with smart water management techniques could learn from each other and eventually show others how to save water.
Such islands would typically be under 100 km2 in (land) size, have a maximum all-year population of 1,000 people, have a scarcity of freshwater and lots of tourists.
Interested? Just comment here!
One of the old factories on Favignana, where they used to can the results of “la mattanza” – the bloody tuna slaughter
Projects often aim for repeatability, acting as role models for others – but how often do we actually succeed? For some time, the Italian renewable energy company ENEA has been working on Favignana, one of the Egadi islands, 20 km2 big with 3,400 inhabitants, west of Sicily.
The Progetto Egadi – Egadi Project – has included a composting plant for transforming organic waste into fertilizer; treatment and reuse of wastewater and the installation of a ‘water house’ powered by solar panels (to reduce the use of plastic bottles); patented a procedure for replanting the seabed; created an eco-label, run by the Marine Protected Area of the Egadi, for local companies that have embarked on a path of improvement and environmental impact of their activities. So far, 60 businesses have been certified for meeting the sustainability criteria set out for each tourist category.
It was presented at the smart islands conference in December, 2015 http://www.smartisland.eu/en/.
On July 14 2016, ANCIM, the Italian member of ESIN, signed an agreement with ENEA to use Favignana as a stepping stone to develop the environmental, cultural and social aspects of all the 36 small islands of Italy: diffusion of efficient energy, saving energy, renewables, alternative mobility, sustainable water use, waste disposal and tourism. Defined “minor” for the size of their territory, the islands involved in the project are scattered in seven regions, representing an area of about 1,000 km2 with 220,000 inhabitants, which become millions during the summer season.
The president of ANCIM, Mario Corongiu, is very happy:
”Since its establishment, ANCIM has been trying to create an economic and social development model for small islands. These principles are also encoded in the framework bill of the smaller islands, currently wauiting for the Italian Senate’s approval. We are trying to make the best use of all the skills to maximize the effects of action of institutions, private bodies and entities. The agreement between ANCIM and ENEA is particularly significant for the smaller islands because their size is often an obstacle to have adequate technical expertise and a modern and effective local government ”
The cooperation will also include cooperation in identifying sources of funding, training and information for administrators, operators, citizens and visitors.
One of the first will be Procida, an island halfway between Naples and Ischia, quite small (4 km2) but with more than 10,000 all-year inhabitants, says President of ENEA Federico Testa. A summer school in ”Efficienza Energetica” is already set up on Procida.
Summer school poster and street in Procida
An Italian model, that seems to be working. We can all learn from this.