It is one of the oldest port cities in history. Located on a large bay along the Aegean Sea, Izmir has enjoyed being a gateway to the world, thanks to its favourable position, at the crossroads of western and eastern civilizations. Today is driving smart city development in Turkey.
Transport is one of the main assets of the city, with almost 4 million inhabitants. The metropolitan area of 12,012 km² offers an extensive transport network, allowing people to move easily from one side to another. In operation since 2010, the modern commuter train Izban, links the airport to the city centre in less than half an hour.
A 41 km cycle lane and a tram service run along the bay, where the metro is not available, explains the architect Öget Cöcen, member of Bornova Municipal Council, one of the districts of the Izmir.
“It is the only city in Turkey where I want to live,” says Suleyman Kume, a 30-year old inhabitant, “We have the routes and facilities for riding bikes, the climate is good, the seaside is close,” he adds.
The municipality is also planning to switch to electric buses, as relates Simone Favaro, an Italian resident, publisher of Il Levantino, an online magazine about Turkey, distributed to Italian-speaking community around the world.
Public transport is affordable and offers a prepaid travel card for use on the metro, buses, ferries and bikes. A single fare allows users access to the network for a 90-minute period. “All these amenities are in fact an invitation to leave cars and benefit from public transport,” explains Favaro, “Even if many people are still very much tempted to use cars”.
Other utility services coordinated by the municipality, such as waste management, water and sewage systems, are monitored and controlled using information technology solutions.
In particular, according to the councillor of Bornova district, the water system is one of the strongest resources in the metropolitan municipality. “It is the most profitable and self-sustained system, and saves enough money to be spent on other projects,” Cöcen explains.
The existing 35 water treatment plants in the city are able to clean and recycle 25% of Turkey’s water. “Nevertheless, water treatment is quite recent and the population hasn’t yet come round to drinking tap water, despite it being safe theoretically”, Favaro says.
As for electricity resources, the current legislation doesn’t allow Izmir to run its own electricity system. Power is provided by the State and distributed by private contractors. Electricity bills tend to be higher for the older, less-well insulated buildings whereas they are lower in new buildings since they consume less energy.
“Over the last 5-6 years, the municipality has started refurbishing old buildings to improve energy efficiency, lower the electricity bills and, at the same time, ensure their ability to withstand earthquakes”, reveals Favaro, since Izmir is situated in an area with high seismic activity.
Because of its potential for smart city development, Izmir has been selected by the European project CITyFiED. Together with other 11 “cluster” cities, it will replicate an integrated strategy and model - tested at the project’s demo sites - to achieve near zero energy districts.
Report from Turkey by Sorina Buzatu
Photo credits: Thomas Depenbusch
1 September 2016