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.
I learned this week that Durban got its name in 1835 from Sir Benjamin d’Urban, the first governor of the Cape Colony. His name seemed particularly apt as COP17’s urban-in-Durban yielded important contributions. During the first weekend at Durban City Hall, just next to the COP17 venue, 114 local governments signed the Durban Adaptation Charter, committing signatory cities to accelerate local adaptation efforts, including conducting risk assessments and more city-to-city cooperation. An impressive complement to last year’s Mexico City Pact that calls for similar efforts to measure and promote mitigation in participating cities. More than 200 cities have now signed on to the Mexico City Pact.
The following Monday at the COP venue, an important partnership was announced. All five multi-lateral development banks (MDBs) launched an unprecedented partnership committing all of the world’s development banks to particularly cooperate on cities and climate change efforts. The MDBs – that provide about $8.4 billion of basic services support to cities annually – will work toward common tools and metrics for GHG emissions and urban risk.
During COP17 itself, cities that were leading this effort shared their experiences: Rio de Janeiro presented their revised GHG emissions inventory, an important leadership contribution; Tokyo outlined the impressive first year operation of its first-ever city-based emissions trading system; Mexico City issued the first Annual Report of the Mexico City Pact; Mayor Parks Tau of Johannesburg chaired a well attended C40 event. By my count, in just seven days, there were at least 100 events highlighting the critical role for cities to lead the world’s mitigation efforts, and better prepare to adapt to changing climate.
Civil Engineering students graduate knowing at least three things: you can’t push a rope, gravity never takes a day off, and a three-legged table won’t wobble. They are now learning a fourth: You can’t build a city without civility.
Civil engineers are largely responsible for our built environment. Generally they’re a studious and busy lot; and they are about to get a lot busier – in the next twenty years they have to help build cityscapes for about 2 billion new urban residents. But today what’s needed even more than civil engineers is more civility. A few recent examples, big and small, come to mind.
On Thursday I had the honor and privilege to make a presentation on issues of sustainable urbanization and urban poverty at a small summit organized by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in New York City. Vice President Gore is writing a book about drivers of global change that will cover a range of topics including population and demographics, which was the focus of the meeting.
His team identified about 12 experts from a range of disciplines—a sociologist; demographer; geographer; researchers working on issues of family, aging, and gender; a writer; and an economist to explore patterns, trends, and current research. I was on a panel along with Saskia Sassen of Columbia University and David Owen of the New Yorker magazine. We all sat in a small room for 9 hours, presenting different perspectives on demographic change, each contributing from our own disciplines.
They inhabit two different worlds—buildings and climate change—both outside and within the World Bank. It should not be that way as the building sector could be central to both mitigation and adaptation efforts.
Buildings are important for climate mitigation because they account for about 30% of global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. According to the International Energy agency (IEA), energy use in this sector is expected to increase globally about 30 % over the next two decades if recent trends continue; however, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report concludes buildings offer by far the largest potential source for low cost reductions in CO2 emissions. The World Bank has many projects and analyses addressing this opportunity including a recent ESMAP (Energy Sector Management Assistance Program) report on the benefits and obstacles to effective building codes. These could address over 60 % of building energy use but remain weak and often unenforced in most Bank client countries.
The Urban Bus Toolkit is designed to help government officials and policy makers evaluate existing and alternative urban bus systems in developing and transitional countries. It offers practical advice to enact fundamental system reforms.
I recently spent a day in a township near Cape Town, South Africa called Langa. My colleagues and I met a family of four who recently moved from a bleak room within a hostel to a shack in the back of a private house. They were immensely grateful for their good fortune (all sharing one bed and one room) explaining how much better their lives were with access to a private toilet.
What struck me was the optimism of the middle daughter, her desire to improve her life, her hope, and her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. She smiled as she told us she could not play outside because it was not safe and had no heating as winter approached. But she was grateful because of another reality she knew too well.
It is a paradox that India which is among the most densely populated countries in the world, is also among the least urbanized. The figure below compares urbanization rates with income for more than 100 countries. It shows that an increase in urbanization rate is positively associated with real per capita income. This is the iron law of development—i.e., growth is associated with the reallocation of labor and capital away from traditional (rural) sectors to modern (urban) sectors. Spatial transformations that give rise to urbanization accelerate growth because households and firms benefit from scale economies, mobility, and specialization. Increased urbanization contributes to growth, job creation and poverty reduction. This can indeed become a virtuous circle.
The developing world is rapidly urbanizing, as a previous World Development Report noted. Low and middle-income nations are home to three quarters of the world’s urban population. Urban areas are likely to absorb almost all of the world’s population increase over the next two decades. The most populous urban areas tend to concentrate in coastal zones--China and India alone have more than a quarter of the world’s urban population and the world’s largest population living in low-lying coastal zones. Even Africa, generally considered a rural continent, has two-fifths of its population in urban areas, and a large concentration of coastal cities.