The Yangon Circular Railway is the local commuter rail network in Yangon, Myanmar. In this recording, World Bank Country Manager Kanthan Shankar boards the train on a three-hour ride around the city. "You see a panorama of life unfolding before you and you feel a part of the picture," he says, reflecting on the daily lives of the people in Yangon, "There's a huge opportunity for commerce and private sector growth. Yangon and Myanmar is lucky that it has basic infrastructure in place. It's a matter of rehabilitating these and aiming for a smoother ride to pave the way for commerce,"
It’s widely reported that most of the world’s population lives in urban areas. UN-Habitat estimates that 40% of urban dwellers live in slums, and that number is growing by more than 20 million people per year. Perhaps, less commonly reported is that while population is growing rapidly, urban sanitation coverage has only increased slightly.
While toilet access is generally higher in urban areas as compared to rural, sanitary conditions in urban areas are aggravated by high-density living, inadequate septage and solid waste management, and poor drainage. Recent analysis by WSP concludes that to make any significant impact it is essential to adopt a multi-dimensional approach to this complex problem. Here are five reasons why urban sanitation is about more than building a toilet.
Is there a model to track citizen experience of water services and present it in a ready-to-use manner for decision makers and the public? Would better articulation of citizen preferences encourage more meaningful engagement with service providers?
Two kids wash their hands with clean water. Their home in Thai Binh Province, Vietnam got access to clean water in 2011. Watch video: Providing clean water in rural areas: an example from Vietnam
Despite Vietnam’s significant economic growth in recent years, there continues to be a gap between urban and rural areas when it comes to access to clean water and hygienic sanitation facilities. Many poor households in rural areas still do not have access to clean water or to a toilet. During one of our earlier field visits for the Red River Delta Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RRDRWASS) project which began almost 10 years ago, I was struck by what a lady from a community told me. She questioned why people in urban areas have access to good water supply and sanitation services while those in rural areas do not. She said that compared to urban residents, perhaps people in rural areas were happy with a lower level of service and that the demand for better services was simply not there.
At first I thought that she might be right but I later came to realise that this is not the case. There is demand for improved services in rural areas, and more importantly, people have a fundamental right to have access to those services.
So what are the reasons for the gap?
The emergence of mega-regions, as metropolitan areas merge to form a system of cities, has demonstrably contributed to growth in the developed countries. With South Asia experiencing one of the highest urbanization rates, connecting cities presents opportunity to mobilize people, goods and services, and develop supply chains over larger spatial areas. However, this also implies unraveling overlapping commuting patterns, economic linkages, social networks, multiple jurisdictional boundaries- which add to the complexity of decision-making for policymakers and practitioners.
Given that World Water Day, March 22, is not even underway in a large part of the world, at the time of this writing, the amount of World Water Day coverage is no small thing. Here is how World Water Day (eve) has unfolded across the World Bank’s social media and websites.
While on its path to becoming the largest city in the Americas, Sao Paulo used its natural capital - water - to generate electricity, fuel industry, and satiate its ever-growing population. Natural infrastructure was traded for the concrete form and the city’s great rivers paid a high price for industrialization.
The result? Tremendous growth (averaging 5% per annum) that stimulated rapid and unplanned migration to the city and environmental pollution. Urban sprawl generated little to no infrastructure for managing water, sanitation and wastewater, or solid waste. Clearing the land for houses caused erosion and compacted soils, and the resulting increase in runoff has made an already wet city even more prone to floods.
The city of Windhoek is probably best known for the fact that it is the world pioneer of drinking water reclamation from purified sewage effluent.
Windhoek lies in the heart of Namibia, the most arid Country in Sub Saharan Africa. All existing water resources are optimally utilized in a number of different ways. Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) lies at the heart of these approaches, both in using water that is fit for purpose and in diversifying water sources.
Hammerby Sjöstad, in central Stockholm, is integrated urban water management in action. The district, which was intended to be an Olympic Village, once was an old industrial area, but it has been transformed into a sustainable city.
Starting about a decade ago, the planners took on the ambitious goal of reducing the environmental footprint of the neighborhood by 50% compared to other recent developments in Stockholm. They brought in new ideas and put them into practice at surprisingly low costs.
While I was in Stockholm for World Water Week this past week, I spoke to Erik Freudenthal from GlashusEtt in Hammerby Sjöstad about the project.
It is no secret Brazil is undergoing a “renaissance” of sorts. After decades of rough economic times marred by the stigma of deep inequity and social exclusion, Brazil has emerged as an economic powerhouse in the region and globally.
Sustaining such momentum, however, demands and will continue to demand substantial investments in infrastructure. This is particularly true in Brazil’s urban spaces –especially the megacities and a growing number of smaller but important cities and towns-- where more than 80 percent of the country’s population lives.