Saturday, 20 January 2007

Copenhagen-on-the-Sound: A 10 million+ MegaCity

The Danish environmental minister released January 18-07 a development plan for Greater Copenhagen with the aim of extending the city further out on the island of Zealand. The plan is based on the famous Finger Plan from 1947. It will make it possible to construct housing for a several hundreds of thousands more people in the region and to make traffic smoother and environmental conditions better, among other reducing the CO2 discharge with 100.000 tons /yr. In that sense, it is a well thought out, constructive plan, facilitating a gradual increase in the business-as-usual activities of the region.

However, seen from a growth oriented and futuristic perspective, this new plan is not all ambitious. Let me propose a development of a Greater-Copenhagen-on-the-Sound to a level of 10 million+ people: a Nordic MegaCity, including the Swedish cities located at the coast of Øresund.

Sure, I am not expecting this increase in population to happen by a sudden increase in fertility of the nice Danes and Swedes living in the region. However, an ambitious development plan would produce a centre of gravity, which can attract people from all over the world and particularly from Copenhagen’s traditional hinterland, which is the Baltic area.

The increase could be made up by a million Danes from our western provinces, a million Swedes & Norwegians & Fins, 3 million East Europeans from Russia, the Baltic States and Poland and a million people from Asia, Africa etc.

Of course, such an ambitious plan would have several preconditions. First of all, the mindset in Denmark has to get used to the fact, that growth of population is a very good thing, if done in the right manner. Furthermore, Denmark has produced laws, which strictly limits immigration. This is understandable, as the rather homogenous Danish tribe for a while was being overrun by galloping immigration, particularly from cultures, who are hard to integrate with Danish values. However, globalisation without giving people access to move freely from one country to the other is not real globalisation. So the Danes need for many good reasons to change their ways in this regard, and we at the very least should start by discarding the “East Agreement”, which limits the free movement to Denmark of even the newly appointed East European members of EC.

The new Copenhagen MegaCity will be a cross-boundary city. For this reason it is important as quickly as possible to fully harmonise the Danish & Swedish Rules and Regulations for the region, for the inhabitants to be able to freely move to and from and to work on one side or the other of the Øresund.

Many citizens in the region would worry about such a MegaCity to be crowded, stressful , full of crime, noisy and polluted. This does not at all have to be case. In many respects, the big modern city will be much better on those matters than the existing cities. And it will simply be extended to a somewhat bigger area: About half of Zealand and further into the spacious Swedish province of Skaane.

Quick developments of powerful new technologies will make the new city into a very attractive place. Cars will become silent, hydrogen driven and intelligent. They will not need human drivers and will combine the efficiency of collective transport of trains of cars on the thruways with the comfort of door-to-door transport. Of course, at least one more connection will be constructed over the Sound for cars and trains. The trains will have the critical mass of passengers to run often, efficiently and economically. Air pollution and noise will be a thing of the past, a further development of the trend, which have seen bathing facilities being established in the centre of Copenhagen harbour. We will see a full merging of the physical city with a Virtual Copenhagen, to make on-line networking of people, houses, businesses, cars and trains possible at all times.

Water will be treated locally, rainwater be allowed to seep to the ground or run through the numerous (reconstructed) streams, lakes and ponds, resulting in a gradual de-sewerage of the city. Copenhagen will no longer suck half of Zealand dry for drinking water. By dividing its water supply into very high quality drinking and food preparation water supply originating from groundwater, and a less high-quality supply for washing, toilet flushing etc. obtained from cheap[1] desalination of the brackish[2] harbour water, Copenhagen will easily supply it’s citizens will all their water needs without harming the aquatic ecosystems in the region.

The advantages, challenges and opportunities of this modern MegaCity are enormous. It’s is obvious, that the economic clout of such a big city, which will have a GNP more than the double of Denmark now, will increase opportunities for all kinds of businesses, jobs and education. The cultural diversity can produce a thriving environment for arts, music, movies and restaurants. We will see all kinds of people from the Muslim fundamentalist to the gay agnostic living their life tolerantly in concert and as they see fit.

The soccer loving Copenhageners will see a constant presence of FCK and Brøndby in the Champion League endgames with Real Madrid and Liverpool. Denmark will be a main contender to the World Championship in soccer. Our grand new opera house will have an ensemble, which can match “The Met” and “La Scala”. Our original and well crafted movies and TV-shows will catch even more prizes.

The national economy of Denmark and it’s neighbours will greatly benefit from such a development. We will get the work force necessary for Danish businesses to continue their expansion on their world market. This implies an increase in GNP / Capita higher than the usual 2% / yr. Combined with increased Danish population we could have a Real GNP in Denmark more than 3 times the existing in 25 years. The many young people immigrating would lessen the burden of the top-heavy age distribution.

Finally, the economic system in Denmark is well regarded and efficient. However, most economists agree, that the public sector and the taxation is somewhat too high for Denmark to release all the productive energy of it’s industrious Danes. The proposed population increase in Copenhagen would make it possible in a painless manner to reduce taxation and the relative significance of the public sector and still be able to deliver high quality public services in infrastructure, education, health care and social needs.

A Greater-Copenhagen-on-the-Sound with 10 million+ people is a win-win proposition. Let’s get on with it.

[1] Less than 1.5 kwh/m3
[2] 15 ppt

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