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Sustainable Communities

What can South Asian cities learn from Colombia's Medellin?

Sangmoo Kim's picture
Cable Car in Medellin
The Metro Cable in Medellin has facilitated greater access to mobility, services, and opportunities through connecting poorer neighborhoods with facilities and services throughout the city. Joe Qian/World Bank
Cities are created for human experiences and not for satellites in the sky. So why are there so many cities that while look impressive on a map, exclude so many of their residents from enjoying the full extent of their benefits? The key may be that details matter for inclusion of cities.
                                                                                               
Inclusion means that all people and communities have access to rights, opportunities, and resources. Urbanization provides cities the potential to increase prosperity and livability. However, many suffer from poor environments, social instability, inequality, and concentrated pockets of poverty that create exclusion. In South Asia, as in other regions, segregation within cities cause poorer areas to suffer from the lack of access to facilities and services that exacerbate misery and crime.

Medellin, Colombia was once the most dangerous city on the planet with astounding gaps between the wealthy and the poor, vastly different access to services, and the highest homicide rate in the world. Its turnaround has been impressive. Much of the progress has been attributed to the thoughtfulness of its planning to ensure greater inclusion. What can South Asian cities learn from this South American city?

Planning policies and action have often been concentrated on the broad structures and functions of cities. However, drilling down the details can realize an inclusive urban environment that improves life for all in public spaces. In our definition, inclusive cities provide:                                                                              
  • Mobility: A high level of movement between different neighborhoods that provide opportunities for jobs, education, and culture;
  • Services: All neighborhoods have a basic level of facilities and affordable necesities such as housing, water, and sanitation;
  • Accessibility: Urban spaces are designed so that everyone can easily and safety enjoy public spaces. 
 Social inclusion requires greater planning at a micro scale
Scale matters: Inclusion requires greater planning at a micro scale. Sangmoo Kim/World Bank

What happened in Medellin, Colombia? Medellin offers an inspiring example of how improved planning and sound implementation can increase social inclusion. Two decades ago, Medellin was the homicide capital of the world. Illicit drugs were a major export and hillside slums were particularly affected by violence. In response, the government created public facilities inclusive of libraries and schools, public transportation links, and recreational spaces in the poorest neighborhoods; and connecting them with the city’s commercial and industrial centers. As a result of a planning model that seeks to serve all residents, the city has become safer, healthier, more educated and equitable. 

Reflections from the field: On the road with communities in Myanmar and Laos (Part 1)

Susan Wong's picture

So I just returned from a terrific mission to Myanmar and Laos, two countries experiencing strong annual growth rates, and both facing challenges of making rapid growth inclusive and just for all its citizens.

Helping cities finance sustainable urban development

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Building low-carbon, climate-resilient cities requires large infrastructure investment that often exceeds the financial capacity of cities in the developing world. In this video, Roland White, World Bank Global Lead for City Management, Finance and Governance, elaborates on some of the practical steps cities can take to put their financial house in order and mobilize the funds they need to finance greener urban development.
 
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Introducing our new Sustainable Communities blog series

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Making sure that villages, cities, but also countries and societies at large can grow in a sustainable way will be key to achieving the World Bank’s twin goals of eliminating poverty and boosting shared prosperity. This new blog series on “Sustainable Communities” will provide a platform for our experts to explore the multiple aspects of sustainability – environmental, social, economic, and discuss what concrete solutions can be implemented to pave the way for a brighter, more sustainable future.
 
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How Ho Chi Minh City got a facelift: sustainable development solutions are changing a city

Madhu Raghunath's picture



When I visited Vietnam for the first time three years ago, I imagined a Ho Chi Minh City out of Hollywood movies, with panoramic buildings of French architecture, tree-lined, long boulevards and the melting pot of Indochine cuisine.

After I began working in the city as an urban professional in 2012, I quickly learned to see it as much more: a vibrant, young, hip and energetic city with a vision and determination to become a leading metropolis in East Asia, not just in Vietnam, one of the fastest-growing emerging economies in the region.

And it has taken all the right steps just to do that, combining infrastructure development with social services to make sure the city is more livable and growth more sustainable. As the World Cities Day approaches, I thought it would be useful to share the city’s experience with the world. 
 

Using Satellite Technologies to Protect African Farmers from Climate Shocks

Keiko Saito's picture
A farmer sorts tomatoes in Ethiopia. Photo: Stephan Bachenheimer / World Bank


Farming can be precarious. This is especially true if you are poor and living in an area susceptible to climate shocks. In sub-Saharan Africa[1], with approximately 1 billion inhabitants, agriculture still accounts for roughly 64% of employment. Moreover, more than 95% of its arable land relies solely on rainfall, without the luxury of irrigation[2]. As a result, climate shocks such as drought frequently cause crop loss and livestock death across the continent, sending large parts of the population into turmoil. A changing climate is expected to make the situation worse.

Paying it forward in a digital age: A global community committed to a mapped world

Alanna Simpson's picture
Specialists in Sri Lanka receive training on the InaSafe risk assessment platform. © World Bank
Specialists in Sri Lanka receive training on the InaSafe risk assessment platform. © World Bank

​​When I first heard about OpenStreetMap (OSM) – the so called Wikipedia of maps, built by volunteers around the world – I was skeptical of its ability to scale, usability in decision making, and ultimate longevity among new ideas conceived in the digital age. Years later, having working on many disaster risk management initiatives across the globe, I can say that I am a passionate advocate for the power of this community. And I continue to be struck by the power of one small initiative like OSM that brings together people across cultures and countries to save lives. It is more than a technology or a dataset, it’s a global community of individuals committed to making a difference.

Building African nations and communities’ financial resilience to climate and disaster risks

Christoph Pusch's picture
West African Sahel and Dry Savannas @ FlickR / CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems

Sub-Saharan Africa is making significant economic and development strides. Yet, natural disasters, combined with the effects of climate change, rapid urbanization, and conflict situations are threatening these gains, keeping vulnerable and poor communities in a chronic cycle of poverty:
  • 425 million people who live in Africa’s drylands are highly exposed to climate shocks, and this number is set to grow by at least 50% by 2030. We cannot fully quantify the human cost, but Kenya alone suffered losses of $12 billion in the 2008 to 2011 drought. Official development assistance (ODA) in humanitarian aid to the Horn of Africa after the 2011 drought was $4 billion, 10% of all aid to Africa.
  • Africa’s coastal cities are engines of growth, but are highly vulnerable to flooding and sea-level rise. In the last three years, major floods have hit cities such as Maputo, Dakar, Lagos and Douala. Like droughts, floods won’t go away. Along with periods of extreme heat, strong winds and coastal storms, they are likely to become more frequent.
  • Ebola Virus Disease outbreak, from March 2014, was the most widespread, and reached epidemic proportions. The poor bore the brunt, lost their jobs and incomes, had difficulty accessing medical services and suffered psycho-social trauma. On a macro-level, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are estimated to lose over $1.6 billion in forgone economic growth in 2015.
  • Conflicts and disasters often reinforce each other to worsen negative development impacts and increase human suffering. From 2005 to2009, more than 50% of people affected by disasters lived in fragile and conflict-affected states (globally). Fourteen out of the 20 most conflict-affected states are in Africa.

Why do we need to talk more about risk reduction in Central Asia

Joaquin Toro's picture



Imagine yourself in the last century, walking down one of the streets of a large Central Asian city. You are surrounded by architecture dominated by the Soviet style, with common building types stretching across the blocks. As you walk the streets, suddenly, the ground under your feet starts wobbling and everything around you starts shaking. Buildings, trees, and cars start to shake and you cannot walk any more. Instantly, many structures start to collapse and there is dust and screams everywhere. There is chaos and desperation. An earthquake of magnitude 7+ has hit the city.  This story, a true story, has happened several times in each of the Central Asian countries in the last century.

Shrinking ice: A potential meltdown for South Asia

Saurabh Dani's picture
View of flooded Ganges Delta
View of flooded Ganges Delta. Credit: World Bank
In mid-August, close to a 12.5 sq. km of chunk of ice separated from the Jacobshavn glacier in Greenland and tumbled down into the sea. The Jacobshavn is rumored to be the glacier that downed the Titanic. While the event was small compared to the huge ice chunk break-aways in the Antarctic, the spotlight was welcome. A few weeks back, Obama become the first US President to visit the Arctic.
 
Halfway across the globe, in the South Asia region, another ice-snow regime is under threat, and although less scrutinized by the media, has the potential to trigger catastrophic economic and social consequences.
 
The Hindu Kush-Himalayan region is widely called the third pole and in this ice-snow regime of the third pole are the origins of three mighty rivers – Ganges, Brahmaputra and the Indus that indirectly support over 700 million people across South Asia.
 
The ice and snow regime is among the most fragile earth systems that will be impacted massively by a changing climate and the melting and disappearing of the three poles (the Antarctic, Arctic and high-altitude mountain glaciers) will in turn exacerbate sea level rise and extreme weather patterns.
 

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