Self Sufficient and Sustainable Desert City

2017 Politecnico di Milano - Thesis Project

"Nabo" is an sustainable and self sufficient island city in the middle of Namibia Desert (Sand Sea). It's located in Erongo Region of Namibia Desert. The location of the desert island is 1 km far from the nearest coast of Atlantic Ocean and has 10 meters height from the sea level. Also, it’s settled between the major roads and railway of Namibia. It connects them with the road going through the city. Moreover, the settlement is established between 2 main cities which are Swakopmund and Walvis Bay in Namibia. These cities have airports and train stations. The chosen site is in one of the non-protected coastal areas  and also, next to the ocean. So the city can take  advantage of sea-water. The name "Nabo" comes from the danish word which means "neighbor", because in this city, people (researchers) are living a commune life which means  there is no price for anything , they are producing their own food and sharing it, so neighborhood has a main importance in this island for survival. Moreover, the name was inspired by the Namibia Desert's name and one of the planets in Star Wars series which is called Naboo (peaceful and green planet).


Walvis Bay is an economic and environmental hotspot in Namibia. It has been designated as a free-trade area and placed on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. The Walvis Bay lagoon, the largest area of shallow, sheltered water on the Namibian coast, supports a wide range of birdlife. Walvis Bay’s tidal channels, mudflats, and sandbanks support roughly 150.000 birds, including the African black oystercatcher, lesser and greater flamingo, chestnut banded plover, and black-necked grebe. Walvis Bay’s solar evaporation facilities process 24 million metric tonnes of seawater each year, producing more than 400.000 metric tonnes of high-quality salt. The solar evaporation process occurs in a series of connected ponds through which seawater flows, evaporates, and deposits salt in crystallizing ponds. In 1973, the salt evaporation ponds were still relatively small (red and blue rectangles in the centre of the image). By 2005, however, they had grown to cover 3 500 hectares in the lagoon. Most of the energy required to extract salt from seawater comes simply from sunlight and salt produced by this method is 99.7 per cent pure. About one-third of worldwide salt production uses this method, which, when properly managed, is very environmentally friendly.


Swakopmund is the capital of the Erongo Region and has about 34,000 inhabitants. Swakopmund is known as activity centre of Namibia, nowhere else in the country travelers will find such a variety of possible activities.



According to the Desertification Synthesis Report, today one of the greatest environmental challenges is desertification and in drylands. Even it becomes hard to supply basic human needs. Also, biological productivity is affected as well as the livelihoods of millions of people. A combination of human and natural factors, that contribute to an unsustainable use of scarce natural resources, causes it. Tthe world’s poorest populations are threatened by desertification. It's shown that global desertified area is likely to increase by various scenarios that explore the future of desertification and human well-being in drylands.



The idea is to design a sustainable and self-sufficient desert city(NABO) for researchers with the support of "Sahara Forest Project" in the middle of Namibia Desert which is also called Sand Sea, for that reason "Nabo" can be called as desert island. It's a city for experimental activities that researchers can search how to survive in desert conditions. Maybe in the future, human being have to survive and live with extreme conditions. "Nabo" can be an experimental first step for this kind of possible scenarios. Morever, it can host the immigrants who have to leave their countries because of the lack of opportunities and non existing optimum conditions. Nabo is a sustainable and self-sufficient city which is producing its own food, energy and water with different technologies used in "SFP" like solar panels, evaporative hedges etc.



NABO is based on 2 basic strategies; one of them its location and the other one is the technology used in Sahara Forrest Project. First strategy is the location of the proposal. Namibia Desert was chosen as a project site because it’s one of the deserts in the world which is located next to the ocean , so that sea water can be used as a water and energy source for the city where there are residential units, fields and green houses where people can produce and harvest their own food. Second strategy is the technology used for the fields in Sahara Forest Project. For example, salt-water cooled greenhouses, evaporation hedges, solar panels, mariculture, algae farm, halophytes, livestock, bioenergy, integrating waste CO2, salt ponds, traditional desalination etc. All these technology have already existed and developers of Sahara Desert Project, which launched as a novel way of greening the deserts by bringing environmental technologies together inspired by biomimicry, used them for it.



Master Plan's aim is to establish that the economic and human intellectual resources, which urban areas has it in general, can be effectively used to spread development more equally, and to create an united society. This is, more often than not, presently not the case in regard to the way cities are planned, developed and are functioning. The aim of the planning exercise has been to identify a broad framework and structure within which all development in NABO, whether physical or socio-economic, can fit. It is also to include a structure of existing and planned land-use, indicating the possible progress to be made in development of the various parts of the city's development and forming a clear and transparent basis for its overall direction.

© 2018 by Maral Gunenc