Tag Archives: urbanization

Nations Adopt Plan for Breakneck Urbanization

Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township is seen in this picture taken October 4, 2016. Picture taken October 4, 2016. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Johnny Miller - RTSRXXL

Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township is seen in this picture taken October 4, 2016. Picture taken October 4, 2016. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Johnny Miller 

By Paola Totaro
October 2016

QUITO, Ecuador (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The United Nations formally adopted a global road map to grapple with rapid urbanization on Thursday Oct. 20, capping nearly two years of behind-the-scenes international negotiations aimed at designing development priorities for cities and towns over the long term.

The New Urban Agenda (NUA) sets out a host of general goals such as development of sustainable and compact cities that do not harm the environment and redevelopment of informal settlements with the participation of residents.

The 23-page document was agreed upon at the U.N. Habitat III conference, held every 20 years to discuss the future of the world’s cities, by the U.N.’s 193-member nations.

“Urbanization is happening at an unprecedented pace and scale, and 3.7 billion people now live in cities. We think in the forthcoming years, by 2050, this will rise to 7 billion,” said Joan Clos, executive director of Habitat III.

“It is historic in the sense that never in human history have we seen such a transformation of human society,” he said. “This represents huge challenges, and the NUA aims to guide strategy to face these challenges.”

Unlike the 2015 climate negotiations in Paris that sought legally binding agreements on global warming, the NUA is non-binding. Clos said it should be seen as a guide to generate debate before implementation at the national level.

“We want to say that we need not fear urbanization,” he said. “There are some countries that want to stop urbanization, put a wall against it. We want to guide it.”

Many points in the NUA are related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the U.N. last year to end poverty and inequality by 2030. One SDG calls for making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

The NUA drew sharp criticism from a number of scientists who say it fails to address the urgency of growing urbanization and contains no tangible plan.

“(This) is entirely absent from the NUA. The planet has already moved beyond critical planetary boundaries related to climate, biodiversity, land use and fertilizer use,” said

Timon McPhearson, assistant professor of urban ecology at The New School in New York.

Nearly one billion poor people live in urban slums and informal settlements in about 100,000 cities around the world, in dire need of clean water, energy, food, sanitation and health services, he said.

The U.N. estimates that number will triple by 2030.

“Without a clear plan for implementation of the NUA and related SDGs, we will not make the needed progress for even basic quality of life and livelihoods in informal and other urban settlements,” McPhearson said.

Some members of the global scientific community plan to join forces at an international conference in 2018 to explore urban issues and solutions and look at what has been implemented from the NUA.

Habitat III was seen as particularly significant as it was held when for the first time, more people live in cities than in rural areas.

In 2014, 54 percent of the global population lived in cities but by 2050, the U.N. expects this figure to reach 66 percent.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Reporting by Paola Totaro, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Related on F&O:

In Quito, the world tackles the future of cities, by Barbara Norman and John Colin Reid  Dispatch

Tens of thousands gathered in Quito this week for the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. The stark facts about our global urban future  include growth of the global population from seven to nearly ten billion by 2050, that of the seven billion people in the world, 6.7 billion live with pollution above WHO clean air standards, and that 12 million in East Asia alone will be at risk from coastal inundation.

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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In Quito, the world tackles the future of cities

By Barbara Norman and John Colin Reid 
October 22, 2016

Quito's old town. Photo Deborah Jones © 2013

Quito’s old town. Photo Deborah Jones © 2013

As the global population grows from seven to nearly ten billion by 2050, we will need to build the equivalent of a city of one million people every five days to house them.

The world already has ten cities with more than 20 million inhabitants, including Tokyo (37 million), Beijing (21 million), Jakarta (30 million) and New Delhi (25 million). Out of the seven billion people in the world, 6.7 billion live with pollution above WHO clean air standards.

By 2050, around 12 million people from 23 cities in East Asia alone will be at risk from coastal inundation. Planning for climate change will be critical to minimise risk to these areas.

These are just some of the stark facts about our global urban future. With these issues in mind, up to 50,000 participants gathered in Quito this week to discuss a New Urban Agenda at Habitat III – the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development.

The adoption of the agenda will set standards for sustainable development with a strong emphasis on social inclusion, cultural diversity, urban prosperity, urban governance, urban spatial development, and integrated urban planning including climate change.

From Paris to Quito

The Paris agreement on climate change will come into effect in November 2016. Cities will be at the heart of achieving its aim to limit global warming to less than 2°C. Planning for a low-carbon and resilient urban future is now our greatest global challenge. It is critical to achieving emission reduction targets and planning cities for climate change.

After all, cities produce 76% of carbon dioxide emissions and account for 75% of energy use worldwide. The focus is now on implementing the Paris agreement; that is where the New Urban Agenda, proposed for agreement at UN Habitat III, comes into play.

Key issues being discussed include affordable housing, urban transport, gender equity, empowerment of women and girls, poverty, and hunger in all its forms. Involving communities in the future and design of cities is essential. Better urban governance of our growing cities and urban regions is a core theme.

Observing the range of activities here at Habitat III, it is impressive to see the significant engagement of the private sector as well as governments and NGOs. This mix of partnerships is vital if we are to make positive change in the planning of our cities.

Global companies are present as well as local consultancies. They can clearly see there is a market for them in more sustainable futures. This brings great hope for the future.

The scientists are less happy, and are seeking greater engagement in future discussions. In the latest issue of Nature, the commentary says “Scientists must have a say in the future of cities” and argues that they should have been more involved in the Habitat III processes.

Clearly, better connecting scientists with planners with communities is important in finding sustainable solutions. A key component in improving city planning is sharing knowledge and expertise.

Cities are often connected through global urban networks such as C40, a network of megacities advocating for action on climate change, and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives.

Another important strategy being presented is improving the sharing of knowledge and expertise between “like climate regions”. It is equally important to improve communication of the major urban challenges with wider audiences.

Researchers with the United Nations University developed an art strategy as part of the preparatory process for Habitat III, with the intention of stimulating thought and discussion on health and well-being in cities. The overall message from UN Habitat III is that the sustainable planning and design of our cities and human settlements is fundamental to improving the health and well being of our urban communities and acting on climate change. Through that, we tackle the stark facts of urban pollution, our response to climate change, and the future liveability of our cities.

Our moment to act

We are living in a unique time for cities, with multiple UN agendas coming together at once: the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris climate agreement, Sendai Framework for Risk Reduction and the Small Island Developing States Partnerships Framework. National urban policies are seen as crucial to implementation of all these agreements. As the New Urban Agenda states:

the persistence of multiple forms of poverty, growing inequalities, and environmental degradation remain among the major obstacles to sustainable development worldwide.

Through better urban governance, we can make significant inroads to address the ongoing barriers to achieving more sustainable cities. The proposed agenda particularly highlights transportation and mobility as a priority to support action. Habitat III offers an opportunity to raise global understanding of the enormous challenges facing cities, and a platform for nations to collaborate in developing more sustainable urban futures. This will require considerable effort from everyone.

The ConversationCreative Commons

Barbara Norman is Chair of Urban & Regional Planning & Director of Canberra Urban & Regional Futures, at University of Canberra.  John Colin Reid is a Visual artist at Australian National University This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Related on F&O:

Nations Adopt Plan for Breakneck Urbanization, by Paola Totaro

The United Nations formally adopted a global road map to grapple with rapid urbanization, capping nearly two years of behind-the-scenes international negotiations aimed at designing development priorities for cities and towns.

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.
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Public Health Crucial for Urbanized World

Concentrated populations are often seen as a boon for the environment because resources can be easily shared. But so can pathogens. How can cities discourage infectious disease?

By Nate Berg
July 30, 2016

CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=357998

Memorial to John Snow’s public health breakthrough in London. Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Near the corner of Broadwick and Lexington in London’s Soho neighborhood, a single spot on the ground has influenced more than 150 years of urban development. It’s the location of a water pump that in 1854 physician John Snow pinpointed as the source of contamination leading to a widespread outbreak of cholera in the neighborhood that killed more than 600 people.

Snow connected the dots between incidents of illness in the neighborhood and the use of water from the pump in a feat of early data science that is heralded as a milestone in public health. It’s literally a textbook example of the link between disease and population density — a link that’s becoming even more important today as the world undergoes a dramatic process of urbanization.

And it’s no longer just contaminated wells we need to worry about, but wall-to-wall housing; poorly built, densely packed homes; unchecked informal development; insufficient infrastructure; and readily accessible international travel that can quickly carry life-threatening illnesses across continents and oceans.

Crammed and Connected

About 4 billion people — 55 percent of the global population — now live in what are considered urban areas; the United Nations expects that number to grow to more than 6 billion by 2050. Much of this growth is happening in countries such as India, China and Nigeria, where rural residents are flocking to cities at the same time cities are seeing their populations multiply from within.

Such urbanization is hailed by many as a positive development: Planners and social scientists have argued for decades that denser concentrations of people lead to more efficient use of resources, reduced impact on the environment and a generally more sustainable form of development.

But the concentration of people can also mean a greater risk of exposure to pathogens and a higher likelihood that infectious diseases will spread.

In Brazil, for example, an outbreak of the Zika virus is causing major concerns about public health as Rio de Janeiro prepares to host the Olympics in August. Spread to humans by mosquitoes and between humans through bodily fluids, the virus has proven to be a pernicious urban problem, with dense populations providing a ready conduit for its spread.

And it’s not just major cities that are vulnerable. As the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014 showed, what matters for infectious diseases is the availability of pathways for travel, even if it’s from village to village.

The risks of urbanization are closely interrelated with globalization.“Before, when Ebola would pop up in an isolated village, it wouldn’t spread so much. But now the areas are so large, they’re so interconnected,” says Emily Blodget, a specialist in infectious disease at the University of Southern California. “Because of the urbanization of those areas we’ve had outbreaks. and the amount of people that have been affected is just so much more.”

Blodget says the risks of urbanization are closely interrelated with globalization, which has made it relatively easy for someone who’s unknowingly carrying Zika, Ebola or countless other diseases to get on a plane and land in a densely packed city. The SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in the early 2000s was blamed not only on density but also on the high rate of people traveling into and out of the city, according to Blodget.

Controlling the spread of disease through global travel should be a top priority, according to an article in Places Journal by Thomas Fisher, dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. Fisher argues that airport operations should be augmented to include disease detection and prevention — something like the firewalls a computer uses to prevent viruses. Some airports have instituted fever checks at the gates of arriving planes, hoping to catch people with symptoms before they can enter the city so they can be tested for infectious diseases and treated as needed. But these interventions are limited.

Basic Infrastructure

By Hilnik - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41659953

Affordable household toilets near Jaipur, Rajasthan. Photo by Hilnik via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

A much more widespread problem in cities than spread of disease through travel is related to the lack of sanitation. Informal developments and slums in cities like Mumbai, Sao Paulo and Lagos often lack formal sanitation or sewage systems, and the contamination of drinking water causes the spread of gastrointestinal illness from salmonella, shigella and even the bacteria that cause cholera — the public health danger John Snow identified back in 19th century London. Between 1990 and 2012, urban dwellers without access to sanitation facilities such as sewage systems and clean water grew from 541 million to 756 million, according to a 2014 report from the World Health Organization and UNICEF. This increase was linked primarily to population growth outpacing the provision of basic infrastructure.

Reducing global poverty is crucial, according to Fisher. He cites a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that estimates the economic harm of a pandemic ranging from US$71 billion to US$166 billion. Those potential costs far outweigh the estimated US$16 billion the World Bank has lent over the past three decades for shelter improvement. Fisher argues that more aid should be directed to impoverished places to improve conditions now and avoid the huge costs that could arise if a pandemic breaks out.

Improving access to sanitation and upgrading infrastructure is a straightforward way of reducing health risks. However, there are clear challenges to building such systems in parts of cities that grew informally and outside of any plan or government control. Groups like the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers have made progress in the slums of Indian cities by building community-run toilet facilities. But public works like this are expensive, and they’re not going to prevent all diseases from spreading.

The sheer variety of diseases and methods of transmission mean that even the best prepared city with the cleanest infrastructure can still be vulnerable to outbreaks.“Not all diseases are as related to not having access to sanitation,” says Adriana Pacheco-Coral, an infectious disease specialist with the University College London. With something like Zika, she says, “you may find these types of diseases in very well-developed cities affecting certain areas with vulnerable people and then spreading out.” From one side of the city to the other, the risk of disease can vary widely.

Develop and Design

The sheer variety of diseases and methods of transmission mean that even the best prepared city with the cleanest infrastructure can still be vulnerable to outbreaks. Blodget says cities need to develop robust public health surveillance and response systems if they’re going to be able to recover if an outbreak does occur. This can mean anything from relying on teams of epidemiologists to track disease flare-ups to a simple communication campaigns to warn about unsafe water sources.

“It won’t take the place of hygienic practices and having a proper sewage system, but it does help and it’s relatively simple,” Blodget says.

Others are thinking about these problems from an even more basic level. The nonprofit ARCHIVE Global is using architectural design to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Recognizing that many diseases are spread because of cramped conditions and poor ventilation, ARCHIVE Global has worked with immigrant neighborhoods in London that suffer from high rates of aerially transmitted tuberculosis to identify design flaws in their homes and schools that are likely contributing to its spread. Another project in Dhaka, Bangladesh, focuses on the mud floors of huts, which have been found to play a significant role in spreading bacteria and pathogens, particularly among small children. By replacing mud with concrete flooring that’s easier to clean, the organization is reducing the likelihood that these easily avoidable illnesses will be contracted.

There is no one solution to preventing infectious disease, which takes many forms in cities. But experts agree that while the risk of outbreaks can rise in urban settings, cities don’t have to be breeding grounds for pathogens. By encouraging the development of proper infrastructure, enabling alternative infrastructures and disease prevention mechanisms in informal and vulnerable places, and building up a public health system to monitor and respond to outbreaks, cities will be better prepared to prevent diseases from afflicting their residents, and to fight them when they do.

Creative Commons

This story is published under a Creative Commons licence. It appeared first on Ensia. View Ensia homepage

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