[Kyoto World Cities 20/20 Challenge] 28/04/05. Cities and towns need sustainable development (Dhaka)
Editor’s note: Where can we look for lessons and guides in the struggle to sustainable cities? What about the following commentary coming in today from Dhaka, a city of 10, 11, 12 million people half of whom living in slums and shanties, most of whom living “off the economy” and with average income on the order of a dollar a day. To get around in their city most people today simply walk or take rickshaws (bicycle taxies). But both these forms of transport, sustainable thought they may be, are coming under pressure from many directions. In order to put the “transportation policy paradox’ into contact, we suggest that in parallel with the following you have a look at the challenging synopsis prepared by a joint task force including representatives of the Work for a Better Bangladesh project (www.wbbtrust.org), the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (www.itdp.org), and the World Carfree Network (www.worldcarfree.net) – “Dhaka's Rickshaws Under Threat: Stop the World Bank's War on the Poor” (http://worldcarfree.net/dhaka/). But here is what our friends from Dhaka want us to understand - that whatever we do in the area of transportation must be deeply understood in its full context:
“Around the world, environmentalists say that a strong civil society and grassroots initiatives are considered important for lasting solutions to poverty and environmental degradation. Urban transformation cannot take place without changing the old incentive systems. Local innovations can never achieve scale without cross-sectoral partnerships involving government, business, NGOs, academia, media, and grassroots groups. A climate conducive to experimentation, mutual learning, and collaboration needed to be created. The sustainable city of the 21st Century must have social justice, political participation, economic vitality, and ecological regeneration. Only with all these social elements our cities can be truly sustainable.”*************************************************************
Cities and towns need sustainable developmentSyed Ishtiaque Reza, financialexpress.com, 4/28/2005
CITY planners on many occasions said that Dhaka is becoming unlivable because of its chaotic growth. Overpopulation, poor civic amenities and environmental degradation are cited as the main problems of the city.
The inevitable process of urbanisation has brought with it environmental degradation affecting the quality of life and striking at the root of sustainable development of cities and towns. This is more pronounced in the developing countries like Bangladesh.
In such a context, the World Environment Day 2005 will be observed June 5. The slogan of the day this year is "Green Cities: Plan for the Planet". Robust urbanism has resulted in migration of people from villages to cities. Now half of the world population of six billion lives in cities and by 2030 the share will go up to 60 per cent. So it is clear that society's future will largely depend on how urban environmental problems will be addressed.
Cities today are the breeding grounds of pollution, poverty, disease and despair and, with careful planning, they can be turned into flagships of sustainable development. This sort of observation is heard from the United Nations and other international bodies. In fact, this is not only a warning, but also a declaration of faith in the ability of nations to turn the expansion of urban centres into an effort that would benefit all.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) believes that providing improved sanitation to the slums will protect freshwater resources and the sea into which all rivers flow, besides helping save the lives of many of the thousands of children who die every day from preventable diseases associated with the lack of safe water and poor hygiene.
The challenges presented by growing urbanisation are daunting. But it is also felt that these challenges are not unbeatable. In towns and cities, cars, trucks and industries are causing climate change. These emissions can be drastically cut by a combination of clean energy technologies coupled with enlightened city planning.
The degree of urbanisation in Bangladesh has been one of the fastest in the world. The rise of urban population is staggering. The number of towns has risen while Dhaka itself turned into a mega city with more than 10 million people. Yet there seems a sort of complacency everywhere about the consequence of such fast urbanisation.
The adverse impact of unregulated growth in urban population on urban infrastructure and services is evident in worsening water quality, excessive air and noise pollution and the problems of disposal of solid wastes and hazardous wastes. In official documents most of the urban households are provided with water supply. But, in reality, the water supply system is very poor and irregular.
There is also inequity in distribution. Within cities, poor citizens face the worst environmental consequences. In low-income settlements, services such as water, sewage, drainage and garbage collection are often non-existent. The poorer sections, the slum-dwellers, are the worst sufferers. There is also contamination of water supply owing to poor maintenance and mixing with drainage and sewerage water. Water supply is an important function for a city as sanitation plays a crucial role in public health. The poor sanitary conditions, particularly in slums, lead to outbreaks of cholera and gastroenteritis. It is well known that water-borne diseases are a major cause of mortality.
A huge number of urban households, especially slums, are without latrines or connections to septic tanks or sewerage. For them, low-cost sanitation can be a better solution. This is useful not only for the majority of urban centres but also for places where the costly option of underground drainage is not feasible.
There should be sufficient awareness among policymakers and administrators about the importance and urgency of taking up measures to improve the management of urban waste water and solid waste. It is recognised that there is no proper system of collection, transportation, treatment and disposal of solid waste in most cities and towns. This has become a cause for concern.
Air pollution in cities has been on the increase due to increased number of vehicles and consequent increase in the emission of pollutants. To reduce vehicular pollution, emission standards are being prescribed by donors and international environment bodies.
Inadequate housing stock and increase in the number of slums have added to environmental concerns in urban areas. The shortage of housing in urban areas resulted in providing some amount of civic amenities in a non-coordinated fashion.
Admittedly, tackling the innumerable problems of urbanisation requires effective urban governance, which is beset by problems such as fragmentation of responsibility, incomplete devolution of functions and funds to the elected urban local bodies, unwillingness to progress towards municipal autonomy, adherence to outmoded methods of property tax and reluctance to levy user charges. The central government (the secretariat based ministries) lacks faith in the capability of urban local bodies to meet their obligations as institutions of local self-governance.
Urban environmental, social and economic sustainability is essential for the country's sustainability. Concentrating human population in cities is an environmental necessity to create resource efficiencies. Alleviating urban poverty is essential to ensure urban environmental regeneration. The urban poor tend to occupy the most ecologically fragile and service-deprived areas of our cities. Without alternative locations to settle and sufficient income, their survival will increasingly be eroded against environmental needs.
Around the world, environmentalists say that a strong civil society and grassroots initiatives are considered important for lasting solutions to poverty and environmental degradation. Urban transformation cannot take place without changing the old incentive systems. Local innovations can never achieve scale without cross-sectoral partnerships involving government, business, NGOs, academia, media, and grassroots groups. A climate conducive to experimentation, mutual learning, and collaboration needed to be created. The sustainable city of the 21st Century must have social justice, political participation, economic vitality, and ecological regeneration. Only with all these social elements our cities can be truly sustainable.
Posted by Eric Britton to Kyoto World Cities 20/20 Challenge at 4/28/2005 09:44:00 AM