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Sustainable Communities

Inclusive cities for informal workers

Martha Chen's picture
In most developing countries, well over half the urban workforce is informal. Yet informal workers - and their livelihoods - tend to be ignored or excluded in city planning and local economic development.  No amount of social or financial inclusion can make up for exclusion from city plans and economic policies. The urban informal workforce, especially the working poor, need to be recognized, valued and supported as economic agents who contribute to the economy and to society.

Sustainable cities, two related challenges: high quality mobility on foot and efficient urban logistics (Part II)

Bianca Bianchi Alves's picture
In our latest post we explained why mobility on foot and urban logistics are closely related. There are several challenges of delivering large quantities of goods to concentrated urban areas, particularly in cities with limited infrastructure, as is the case of most cities in our client countries.
Photo: by Felipe Gomes - São Paulo City


Despite the challenges, however, there are also some important opportunities to improve urban logistics and deliver goods more effectively. First, the level of consumption in these cities is still low when compared to higher-income cities, although inequalities may result in large variations within the cities’ landscape. Second, some of the solutions, such as bicycle or on foot deliveries and pick-up points (the latter a common solution for slum areas), seem to be efficient alternatives for dense neighborhoods, and because of their lower costs are also attractive for lower-income cities. These solutions can be bundled with investments for non-motorized transport, such as improvements on sidewalks and bikeways facilities.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil, for example, recent investments in 400km of bikeways have boosted the growth of deliveries on bikes. (Read more about the study) The numbers are still small, with some 500 bike couriers compared to 200,000 motorcycle couriers.  But bike deliveries are cheaper for trips under 10km, generate around 10 times less CO2 than motorized trips, even taking into account the additional dietary intake of a cyclist compared with that of a motorized user, and promote health benefits.

The Bank is currently working on initiatives to support urban logistics in middle and low-income countries, and because of the general data scarcity, has been working to lay down the basics first. At least two projects stand out: one in Casablanca, Morocco, and the other in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Casablanca is a city with traditional retail channels, where 80% are small or nano-stores. This project is a comprehensive initiative that developed a methodology and support tool to measure the effects of policies with limited data, and was undertaken by a group of World Bank colleagues in the Trade and Competitiveness group, the University of Eindhoven, and the Agence Marocaine de Développement de la Logistique (AMDL).
 

Sustainable cities, two related challenges: high quality mobility on foot and efficient urban logistics (Part I) ​

Bianca Bianchi Alves's picture
 
Peatonito is a Mexican transport specialist using humor to interact with drivers and create awareness about the need to respect traffic rules. Photo: Peatonito / Flick


Walking is the cheapest, most non-polluting, and possibly healthiest mode of transport. And dense cities seem to be a pre-existing condition for enabling us to meet our daily walking needs, along with diversified land uses, typically called “mixed-use development”. Densification and “mixed-use development” are currently seen as a strategy for designing sustainable cities, and many high-quality mobility plans, which consider the interactions between land use and transport, also pursue this type of urban development.

But densification and “mixed-use development” present (at least) two challenges. The first is how to provide quality pedestrian infrastructure that encourages non-motorized mode choices. The second is how to efficiently deliver the large quantities of goods required in these dense cities. These were the themes of successful seminars recently held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, thanks to a World Bank’s Global Environmental Facility grant.
The “mobility by foot” seminar was a four-day learning event on pedestrian mobility organized by Brazil’s Associação Nacional de Transportes Públicos.  In Brazil, as in most cities in Latin America, around 35% of people’s daily trips are on foot, and there is evidence that this number is underestimated given the limitations of current data collection methods. Given the priority in reducing the impact of our carbon “footprint” (or “carprint”), governments need more evidence and incentives to move the sustainability agenda forward.

Risk in Vienna City Hall

Joaquin Toro's picture
 
The Vienna City Hall (Rathaus) is one of the landmarks of the Austrian Capital. Visitors are amazed by its Gothic architecture and magnificent interiors - which are famous for hosting lavish events and balls. However, perhaps in direct contrast to these types of events, the Wappensaal of the Rathaus hosted the first ever Understanding Risk Austria event.

Where in the 18th century these halls hosted the Viennese bourgeoisie, in January these halls now received disaster risk management professionals, decision makers, policy makers, technical institutions, and representatives from the private sector, NGOs and academic institutions from around Austria to discuss disaster risk management issues in the country.

This demonstration of support for GFDRR and the Understanding Risk brand was an important step in further integrating the rich experience of DRM that Austria offers the global UR community.
 

How can South Asian countries make the most of urbanization?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
The World Bank recently completed a comprehensive study that looks into the specifics of urban development across South Asia, and provides policy recommendations to help countries in the region build more prosperous, livable cities. One of the most innovative features of this South Asia Urbanization Review is that it relies extensively on geospatial mapping and satellite imagery, especially night-time light data. This approach allowed World Bank experts to overcome the lack of reliable, cohesive urbanization data across South Asian countries, and to measure the footprint of urban settlements in a consistent way. They quickly found out that urban expansion in South Asia remains largely unplanned, and often spreads to areas that are not officially considered urban - prompting them to describe urbanization in the region as "hidden" and "messy". In this video, Peter Ellis provides a more detailed overview of the main findings, and describes how South Asian countries have a unique opportunity to get urbanization right as their cities continue to grow.

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Emergency response in the Whatsapp era!

Deepak Malik's picture
Cyclone Hudhud.  Photo Credit: NASA Earth Observatory
On October 12, 2014, Cyclone Hudhud, a category 4 cyclone with wind speeds exceeding 220 km/hour bore down on to the city of Vishakhapatnam in the state of Andhra Pradesh on the eastern coast of India. The city, with a population of over 1.8 million people and neighboring districts suffered massive devastation. The World Bank’s South Asia Disaster Risk Management team jointly undertook a post-disaster damage and needs assessment with a team from the Asian Development Bank and with the Government of Andhra Pradesh with the support of Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

 
Whatsapp Messages
Whatsapp to help restore connectivity. 
During field visits, the assessment team interacted extensively with the community and local government officials.  The one story that seemed to resonate consistently was the efficiency in clearing roads blocked by fallen trees and debris to make sure connectivity was restored at the earliest. Following any major disaster, such as cyclone Hudhud, restoring connectivity is amongst the most challenging and critical activities. Restoring connectivity allows for more efficient flow of much-needed emergency relief, medical supplies and helps foster early recovery. We decided to dig deeper to find out what had been done differently here.
 
One evening, while returning from a field visit to Srikakulam district, we posed this question to Mr. V. Ramachandra, Superintendent Engineer of Public Works Department (PWD), what had been done differently. Mr. V. Ramachandra’s face lit up and he pulled out his smart phone. He showed us a “closed group” that the PWD engineers had created on Whatsapp.  For the first three days after cyclone Hudhud, there was no electricity and no mobile connectivity. As the connections were restored, the PWD closed group became functional and that acted as the main tool of communication for information sharing. For any breach of road, the Engineers shared information through the Whatsapp group with a clear location and a short explanation of the problem. The person responsible for the area responded with a message stating how long it would take to clear the block. Even requests for tools and JCBs were made on the group. This helped identify and access required resources. The action taken was narrated on the group discussion page once the problem was solved. An updated photo showing restored road connectivity was uploaded to the group.

No meetings and no discussions at the district headquarter level had to be organized. The District Magistrate joined the group and gave instruction to the department through the closed Whatsapp group. Most roads were functional within three to four days. The whole department worked to provide its services through a messaging system, without any meetings and formal orders.

Social media has become a part of our daily lives and is a very powerful tool for emergency management if used properly. Social media and pre-designed apps are effective when written reports and formal meetings are not required. It is important to learn from such experiences and institutionalize them for effective and efficient use during periods of early recovery and emergency response.

Call for Papers: Forced displacement and gender issues

Dilip Ratha's picture

Background

Forced displacement is a multifaceted phenomenon caused by persecution, conflict, repression, natural and human-made disasters, ecological degradation and other situations that directly endanger lives, freedom and livelihoods. Displacement may be triggered by such diverse actions as development projects, land and assets expropriation and human trafficking, among others. Since women and men traditionally have different socio-cultural-economic roles and positions they are also affected in different manners by forced displacement. Gender play an important role in the decision to flee, throughout the displacement process as well as in the decisions and experience related to finding solutions. The different dimensions of displacement have gender differentiated impacts, requiring a better understanding of how different parts of displaced and host communities are affected at each phase of the displacement cycle.

Investing in preparedness – the best protection against disaster

Laura Bailey's picture
If you are a parent in Armenia, what worries you more: getting a better education for your kids or ensuring their safety in school? For countries like Armenia – prone to disasters such as earthquakes, and with vulnerable housing and school building stock – this is not a rhetorical question! It’s a problem that parents seriously worry about and governments grapple with.
 
Armenia has always been vulnerable to earthquakes. The devastating Spitak tremor in 1988 took 25,000 lives, injured another 19,000 people, damaged half a million homes, and caused a US$15-20 billion loss to the country’s economy. More than two-thirds of that tragic human toll in 1988 was children – with most school-age children sitting in class when the quake struck.
 
While it is true that disasters generally occur unannounced, risks can nevertheless be managed in order to reduce the loss of lives, homes, infrastructure, and economic activity. But, governments have difficult choices to make: should they spend scarce investment resources on preparing for disasters, forgoing other top priorities, or should they hope for the best and deal with the consequences after disaster strikes?
 
In Armenia, we are now seeing a stronger recognition that natural hazards threaten the country’s development, and a shift to prioritizing disaster risk management. This move toward proactive disaster risk reduction has seen a wide range of stakeholders – communities, government agencies, donors – mobilize together. Disaster preparedness and risk management requires capacity, finance, knowledge, information and cooperation, and no government can succeed alone; it takes a strong partnership.

Chart: By 2030, Delhi’s Population Will Approach Tokyo’s

Tariq Khokhar's picture
According to the UN's World Urbanization Prospects, by 2030, the world is projected to have 41 mega-cities with more than 10 million inhabitants each. Tokyo is expected to remain the world’s largest city in 2030, followed closely by Delhi. The fastest-growing cities will be in Asia and Africa.

But what exactly is a city?

Chandan Deuskar's blog explores exactly this question. There's currently no standard definition of an "urban area" or "urban population" - each country relies on its own definition and collects data accodringly. This is an important area of data to improve - the Sustainable Development Goals include many indicators and targets explicity concerning cities and new standards and approaches such as using satellite imagery may provide more accurate data and definitions. 
 

Want to build sustainable, resilient cities? Start with quality infrastructure

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Rapid urbanization has put considerable pressure on developing countries to deliver more infrastructure - and, preferably, to deliver it fast and in a cost-effective way. But this sense of urgency should not lead cities to compromise on quality, or to focus only on the upfront cost of building infrastructure rather than to consider the full cost of construction, operation and maintenance over the entire lifecycle of a project.
 
To discuss some of the key infrastructure challenges faced by its client countries, the World Bank recently hosted its first International Conference on "Sustainable Development through Quality Infrastructure” in Tokyo, Japan. But what exactly do we mean by "quality infrastructure", and what role can it play in creating resilient, sustainable cities?

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