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Livability is an economic imperative for cities

Sangmoo Kim's picture
Sarbamati Riverfront Development before
Sarbamati Riverfront Development before
Sarbamati Riverfront Development after
Sarbamati Riverfront development after

Robert Solow once said: “Livability is not a middle-class luxury, it is an economic imperative.” But how related are livability and economic development?  Furthermore, how can we define and measure livability?

Recently as part of the South Asia Urbanization Flagship Report, Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability, our team compared a sample of South Asian cities with peers from around the world. The report’s framework considered livability (along with prosperity) as being a key outcome of urbanization.

We wanted to highlight that while urbanization has undoubtedly contributed to economic growth in South Asia, its impact on livability is more complex. As they have grown, South Asian cities have faced challenges arising from the pressure of their populations on basic services, infrastructure, land, housing, and the environment.  This has helped to give rise to what the report terms “messy” urbanization, characterized by slums and sprawl, not to mention levels of ambient outdoor air pollution that rank amongst the highest across cities globally.

The report suggests that to have a full understanding of the urbanization process in South Asia, it is necessary to discuss not only the positive productivity benefits that are associated with urban size and density, but also the negative “congestion” forces.  How successfully South Asian cities manage these forces will help to determine the quality of life not only of the region’s current half a billion urban residents, but also of the additional 250 million that will be added over the next 15 years.

The sunny side of PPPs: Rooftop solar, public-private partnerships, and the promise of a brighter future

John Kjorstad's picture
In 1899 American Ada Blenkhorn—inspired by a disabled nephew—wrote the popular folk song Keep On the Sunny Side. As legend would have it, Blenkhorn’s nephew always wanted his wheelchair pushed down the “sunny side” of the street. Not for the first time, sunshine was linked to optimism and the lyric stuck with working-class audiences.

Four ways governments are making girls’ lives better

Alua Kennedy's picture

Also available in: العربية

As the International Day of the Girl Child is coming up on October 11, it reminds us of an important role governments can play to help girls lead their own lives. Investing in girls’ empowerment is a smart way to invest in a country.
Check out these four videos about how governments of Liberia, Senegal, India and Burundi are working to empower girls in their countries. 

The secret to India's success on rooftop solar PPPs? Satisfying stakeholders' needs

Pankaj Sinha's picture
When our team at IFC got the mandate in 2010 for a PPP to set up a 5MW grid connected solar rooftop (SRT) in Gandhinagar (Gujarat, India), some thought that the project was too small to make a difference.

Why are Indian firms five times less productive than American ones? One reason is land.

Ejaz Ghani's picture
How important is land as a factor of production in India? In a recent paper (The misallocation of land and other factors of production in India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7221), we focused on its role, and examined how the misallocation of land has impacted the country’s manufacturing sector.

Raise your PPP IQ

Tanya Scobie Oliveira's picture
Throughout history, people have recognized the power of the sun to improve peoples’ lives. In India, and in households and business throughout Gujarat state in particular, that idea lives on in a brand-new incarnation: rooftop solar panels.  The newest edition of Partnerships IQ, “Rooftop Solar Public-Private Partnerships: L

Campaign art: Fighting neglected tropical diseases one step at a time

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Filariasis, also known as elephantiasis or filaria, leaves a giant footprint in India. A shocking 500 million people in India – one half of the country’s population— are at risk of infection!  It is one of seven neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that attacks nearly one in six people globally.

Filaria occurs when an individual is infected with filarial worms, which are transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. The worms later mature in the lymphatic vessels, causing painful, disfiguring swelling of the legs and genital organs.  

While Filaria can be fatal, especially for children, it also has a greater public health impact because it interferes with physical fitness and cognition. Moreover, those with severe symptoms of the disease are often unable to work and may suffer significant social stigma as a result of their disfigurement. In this way, Filaria can trap people in a perpetual cycle of poverty.

In response, the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, an initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, was created to raise awareness about the seven most common NTDs (through its END7 campaign) and to work with governments to deliver low-cost treatment for NTDs. In December 2014, the Indian Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW) launched a national campaign called “Hathipaon Mukt Bharat” (Fliaria Free India) to rid the country of filaria within the next few years. It is one of the largest public health campaigns in India’s history and aims to provide more than 400 million people with free medication that could protect them from the disease.
VIDEO: Giant footprints!

Can better spatial planning and management transform South Asian cities?

Jon Kher Kaw's picture
Aerial view of Dhaka
Aerial view of Dhaka

South Asia’s urbanization has been described as “messy, hidden and underleveraged." A lot has to do with how South Asian countries manage their cities’ spatial development.

Having visited many cities in South Asia, the sight of the built environment in the region is a familiar one–a rapid expansion of built-up areas and an accompanying low-density sprawl that has, all too often, gone hand-in-hand with poorly managed transportation systems, planning constraints, underutilized land, and a lack of institutional capacity and resources. These forces result in high land and rental costs that make it extremely challenging for cities to support affordable housing and commercial space, and to maintain a livable public realm.

Get smarter: A world of development data in your pocket!

Nagaraja Rao Harshadeep's picture
Many dinner conversations and friendly debates proceed in a data vacuum: “The problem is big… very big!” How big exactly? Most likely your friend has no idea. 

It is often said that we live in a new data age. Institutions such as the Bank, UN agencies, NASA, ESA, universities and others have deluged us with an overwhelming amount of new data obtained painstakingly from countries and surveys or observed by the increasing number of eyes in the sky. We have modern tools such as mobile phones that are more powerful than old mainframes I used to use in my university days. You can be in rural Malawi and still have access to decent 3G data networks.
Open data for sustainable development