On the streets of Shimla, residents stare at a strange group of visitors. The group looks and acts different from other tourists to this hilly capital of India’s mountain state of Himachal Pradesh.
Not Indian, and definitely not the usual European retirees. Oh, and even stranger, the group starts taking photos of parking lots, trash cans, and the tiny alleys that snake up and down the city.
That was how a group of global experts in a gamut of urban matters appeared to the citizens of Shimla. It was the group’s first day in a town they had never seen, nor ever imagined they would visit.
But here they were - experts at solid waste management, urban parking, public transportation, IT and city planning - at the request of the government of Himachal Pradesh (HP). HP is renowned for its pleasant climes, verdant forests and snow-clad peaks that not only act as a carbon sink for India’s burgeoning economy but also serve as a source of five perennial rivers that sustain the lives of million in the teeming plains below.
The inspiration for the experts’ visit came from the highest levels of the state government. Dr. Shrikant Baldi, the state’s additional chief secretary, had visited Korea to attend a global green growth conference sponsored by the World Bank. There he saw the real-life application of strategies that his government needed to take their own green growth agenda forward.
“City plans must fit the people, not the other way round.” Jane Jacobs, journalist and urban studies author
Ibadan, the third largest metropolitan area in Nigeria after Lagos and Kano, has organically grown from around 60,000 inhabitants in the early 1800’s to more than three million today, and is projected to reach 5.6 million by 2033. The city’s urban footprint continues to sprawl due to weak land use planning that leads to the proliferation of informal settlements in flood prone areas.
In our previous blogs: Fecal Sludge Management: the invisible elephant in urban sanitation, 5 lessons to manage fecal sludge better, and A tale of two cities: how cities can improve fecal sludge management, we outlined the neglect of Fecal Sludge Management (FSM) and presented new tools for diagnosing urban sanitation challenges and how they can be used. Today, on World Cities Day, we are looking more deeply into a city — Lima, Peru, to shed light on how cities around the world can meet opportunities and address challenges of urbanization including providing improved sanitation for a rapidly growing number of urban residents.
Build it well, build it wisely, and build it only once — How investing to create a permanent site for the Olympic Games, ideally in their historic home of Greece, could reduce waste, deliver economic stimulus, and avoid "white elephant" monuments to extravagance.
The jeering of angry taxpayers and frustrated favela-dwellers may drown out some of the cheering of sports enthusiasts this weekend, as the 2016 Olympic Games begin in Rio de Janeiro. The government of Brazil and local officials in Rio have certainly done their best to stage the Games successfully, addressing a range of challenges that include the Zika virus outbreak, the doping scandal among athletes and the country’s prolonged economic slump and political traumas. Yet an enduring scandal in international finance — the chronic design flaw in the way that the Games are planned for and paid for — has again imposed an enormous economic burden on the Olympic host city. Struggling economies can ill afford the extravagance of repeatedly building use-once-throw-away sports facilities.
It was surely startling to see the deep degree of scorn and sarcasm with which many workaday Brazilians, who are now enduring a deep economic downturn, hurled derision at the arrival of the Olympic torch in Rio this week. They evidently saw that Olympic arrival ceremony as a symbol, not just of athletic ambition, but of financial folly.
The anxieties that Brazil has endured on the road to Rio 2016 should underscore a longer-term, Olympic-sized concern: Mismanagement by the Games' promoters has now been thoroughly documented, underscoring the abusive way that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the global sports-industrial complex have habitually foisted reckless costs on the taxpayers of hapless host cities.
By goading Olympic-wannabe cities to make ever-more-extravagant financial commitments – stoking their dreams of a media moment of purchased publicity – the mega-event industry has helped shatter the finances of one host city after another. No wonder that so many cities are now shunning the IOC’s bidding process, dreading the deadweight losses that are almost certain to burden any Olympic host.
Welcome as the IOC’s recent “Olympic Agenda 2020” reform proposals may be, it’s long past time to rein in the financial excesses of mega-event promoters. With a claque of financiers and flacks who are ready to manipulate the gullibility of the would-be hosts, the Olympic spirit has fallen victim to the self-interest of construction firms, property developers and publicists who seek to profit from host cities’ overspending.
An invaluable book documenting this Olympic-scale threat – discussed in detail at a World Bank’s InfoShop book-and-author seminar in June 2015 – should be top-of-mind for Olympics-watchers this week, as Rio de Janeiro enjoys its moment in the spotlight. “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup” — by Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College — can help other cities avoid an impulsive rush for momentary Olympic notoriety. A video of Zimbalist’s InfoShop presentation is archived at http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/PUBLICATION/INFOSHOP1/0,,contentMDK:20289125~pagePK:162350~piPK:165575~theSitePK:225714,00.html
As water specialists, we care a lot about our clients being able to provide good water service to their customers on a sustained basis, but many utilities in the countries we work for struggle to provide consistent service. Imagine how much more challenging this will become in the next two decades, when two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas.  
Non-Revenue Water (NRW) is water that is placed into a water distribution system and not billed because of leaks or commercial failures. Efficient management of NRW offers significant financial benefits to utilities while bringing economic and environmental benefits to societies around the world. Why, then, does NRW still present governments with such intractable problems?
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Great news: people around the world are living longer than ever
The World Health Organization has some good news for the world: Babies born today are likely to live longer than ever before, and the gains are particularly dramatic in the parts of the world where life expectancy has lagged most. Worldwide, life expectancy is just under 74 years for women and just over 69 years for men. Babies born today across Africa can expect to live almost 10 years longer than those born in 2000, the biggest gains in life expectancy anywhere in the world.
To Fight Disease Outbreaks, Scientists Turn to Cell Phones
Cell phones ride in our pockets or purses everywhere we go, which makes them a powerful tool for monitoring explosive epidemics. Epidemiologists rely on computer models to simulate the spread of disease and determine how best to intervene, and tracking human movement is key to accomplishing this two-headed task. Now, a team of researchers says mobile phone records can provide better data about population movements, which in turn helps produce more accurate epidemic models. To prove this approach can work, researchers compiled cell phone records, from 2013, generated by 150,000 users in Senegal to track population movements and model a cholera epidemic that ravaged the country in 2005.
African Economic Outlook 2016: Sustainable Cities and Structural Transformation
The African Economic Outlook 2016 presents the continent’s current state of affairs and forecasts its situation for the coming two years. This annual report examines Africa’s performance in crucial areas: macroeconomics, financing, trade policies and regional integration, human development, and governance. For its 15th edition, the African Economic Outlook takes a hard look at urbanisation and structural transformation in Africa and proposes practical steps to foster sustainable cities. A section of country notes summarises recent economic growth, forecasts gross domestic product for 2016 and 2017, and highlights the main policy issues facing each of the 54 African countries. A statistical annex compares country-specific economic, social and political variables.
If history is any guide, this growth in urban population will provide tremendous opportunities for increasing prosperity and livability. One can look at the successes of a few Asian cities such as Tokyo, Seoul, and Singapore to demonstrate how, with the assistance of good policies, urbanization and economic development go hand-in-hand. More generally, no major country has ever reached middle-income status without also experiencing substantial urbanization.
Yet cities can grow in different ways that will affect their competitiveness, livability, and sustainability. The more successful cities of Asia have been effective at creating opportunities, increasing productivity, fostering innovation, providing efficient and affordable services for residents, and enhancing public spaces to create vibrant and attractive places to live. But many, many, more cities have neglected fundamental investments in critical infrastructure and basic services, and have mismanaged land, environmental and social policies. This has resulted in traffic congestion, sprawl, slums, pollution, and crime.
Among the many complexities of urban development that have contributed to success, two critical factors stand out – investing in strategic urban planning, and in good urban governance.
- livable cities
- competitive cities
- Public Spaces
- Affordable Housing
- housing policy
- land use
- urban sprawl
- metropolitan planning
- urban planning
- municipal governance
- municipal finances
- Sustainable Communities
- Urban Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- South Asia
- East Asia and Pacific
Last year two of my friends welcomed new babies into their families: James and Maureen (not their real names). Both babies were born in Metropolitan Nairobi - the fastest growing urban area in the country. Their births added to the growing urban popluation in Kenya, which will double to 24 million by 2035 and more than triple to 40 million by 2050. The Kenya Urbanization Review projects that by that time, that there will be nearly as many Kenyans living in urban areas as there are Kenyans today. Kenya’s urban transition has begun.