May 27, 2002

Environment need not be threatened by urbanization, study concludes

Future population growth in Toronto and surrounding communities can be accommodated without threatening the region's natural environment, particularly the Oak Ridges Moraine, a new study has concluded. The City of Toronto's Oak Ridges Moraine steering committee recently released a summary report of the study findings.

Growing Together: Prospects for Renewal in the Toronto Region relays the findings of GHK Canada and Earth Tech Canada. The team of consultants examined what impacts the future population growth of Toronto and its surrounding neighbours will have on the economic vitality of the area, the quality of life for residents, and its surrounding natural environments, particularly the Oak Ridges Moraine.

"The report found that solutions to our urbanization problems are possible without threat to the Oak Ridges Moraine," said Councillor David Miller, Chair of the Oak Ridges Moraine Steering Committee. "In fact, the Oak Ridges Moraine will not need to be used to accommodate new urban development even if the population was to reach 10 million, expected in the next 50 to 80 years."

The study acknowledges that large areas of agricultural land will have to be converted to urban areas (60,900 hectares by 2031) in order to accommodate the population growth of Toronto and its surrounding cities. In order to minimize the urbanization of agricultural areas, the report proposes that cities foster increased population densities by permitting rental suites to be created within detached, semi-detached and row houses.

The consultants also evaluated the effects of the forecast population growth on greenhouse gas emission levels, air pollution, and natural environments. They concluded that if air pollution continues to rise, if road congestion is not addressed, and if drinking water sources and natural environments are ignored, quality of life will decline dramatically in these urban areas. The economic stability of the region will suffer as well, they added.

The report emphasized that cities must significantly improve public transit networks in order to address growing population demands and enable people to rely less on the automobile. It further proposed methods for limiting urbanization by redeveloping older communities, creating pedestrian-friendly environments and limiting the rezoning of our countrysides.

Leading the GHK Canada and Earth Tech Canada team were: Dr Eric Miller of the University of Toronto's Joint Program in Transportation; Robert Wright and Peter Gozdyra of U of T's Centre for Landscape Research; and Mary Neumann. The study was conducted for Toronto's departments of Works and Emergency Services and Urban Development Services, and the Oak Ridges Moraine steering committee. Headed by Councillor David Miller, the committee includes Councillors Raymond Cho, Ron Moeser, Irene Jones and Joanne Flint.

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