As a researcher in vehicle safety, my friends in the US often ask, “Which is the safest car to buy?” My friends and family back in India, on the other hand, have never connected with that question. Cars sell for brand-name, comfort and fuel economy, not for the way they perform in a crash.
Can a ramp for people with disabilities make a difference in a big city? The answer may seem obvious to many, but I encourage you to read on to find out the complexities and nuances surrounding the issue of mobility in a large Latin American metropolis. This is a true story. I was attending the launch of a project “Mainstreaming Inclusive Design and Universal Mobility in Lima ”project - financed by the Japan Policy and Human Resources Development (PHRD) program and I was surprised to see people in wheelchairs asked to move away from the table where coffee, pastries and fruit were being served during the break.
At the same time blind, deaf and people with cognitive impairments, among other disabilities, were being actively welcomed.
As the world urbanizes, acquiring land for urban development has become a critical challenge. In China, some estimate that there are as many as 500 land-related protests, riots and strikes per day, making land acquisition one of the greatest threats to the country’s political stability. Indian policy makers are struggling to devise regulations to ease the acquisition of land for the vast amounts of infrastructure and housing the country needs, while avoiding the disruption and displacement that has gone alongside land acquisition in the past. In response to these challenges, there is a renewed interest among urban planners around the world in “land pooling and readjustment”, a mode of land acquisition for urban development. As it happens, this approach appears to have been first used by none other than George Washington, in order to assemble the land he needed to build the US capital city.
For years, the thermal energy beneath the surface of the Earth has been used for many things. Bathing, agriculture, aquaculture, industrial or heating purposes, or even to generate power; the results are often impressive. The Earth’s structure radiates a constant flow of thermal energy outwards to the crust. This phenomenon is a natural, renewable source of heat which provides a substantial contribution to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.
Rapid motorization and traffic congestion are becoming a major challenge for large cities in the developing world, and generating significant economic and social costs. In Cairo, for instance, the World Bank estimates that congestion costs are as high as US$8 billion or 4% of the city’s GDP.
As porteñas as tango, yellow bicycles from the Buenos Aires’ bike-sharing system have undoubtedly become a part of the urban landmark. In a city dominated by buses and taxis, bicycles have recently made a comeback and are slowly reclaiming the road through the bike sharing system –or bicing as we all call it. Known as Ecobici, this system has celebrated the millionth trip last December and is here to stay.
What makes Ecobici different from other bike sharing systems around the world? We think it’s about two simple answers: it is operated manually and doesn’t cost an Argentinian peso.
Also available in Thai
The wet season has already arrived in Thailand, and with it, also memories of the devastating floods that in 2011 affected more than 13 million people, left 680 dead, and caused US$46.5 billion in damages and losses. The impact of the floods on businesses and global supply chains has been well-documented with accounts making headlines throughout 2012. But how about the poor?
The flooding altered the lives of hundreds of thousands of men and women - particularly those in already precarious situations. Two years onwards, what has changed? Having visited two slum upgrading projects in north Bangkok last month, there are insights relevant for other Asian cities grappling with rapidly growing populations, the force of natural hazards, and climatic uncertainties.
‘It’s raining, it’s pouring. The old man is snoring.’ Truth be told, I apparently snore, and I suppose I’m not that young anymore. But hard to believe, I’m sure this nursery rhyme is not about me. And despite the recent Noah-like floods in Europe, Bangkok, Calgary, Dhaka, Jakarta, New York and Toronto, it’s not really about any one city, or any one country, or even any one continent. But, ‘went to bed and bumped his head. And won’t get up in the morning,’ aptly describes our current political paralysis.
Many children know this song. Soon they will learn how their grandfathers and fathers slept through the rain.
Here in troubled Toronto and gritty Calgary, there was the inevitable debate on whether or not the recent floods could be attributed to climate change. ‘If it’s this bad now, what’s the future hold?’ people wondered. ‘Sleepwalking into trouble,’ came to mind for many.
The recently launched report by the High Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda puts forward that the post-2015 agenda needs to be driven by five big, transformative shifts. The first one it highlights is that the new agenda should leave no one behind. It states that:
“We should ensure that no person – regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race or other status – is denied universal human rights and basic economic opportunities. We should design goals that focus on reaching excluded groups.”
Clearly, the world will have to pay particular attention to slum-dwellers, who are left behind in many areas of development and in the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Within the next 30 years, urban populations in developing countries will double and UN-Habitat estimates that around 3 billion people will need housing and basic infrastructure. Already, 70% of existing housing in developing countries is built informally without appropriate structural standards. Thus, the challenge lies in reconciling informal settlements with existing and future planned environments.
In light of these challenges, the South Asia urban team at the World Bank, as part of its urbanization webinar series, organized a discussion on “Upgrading Housing in Informal Settlements.” This webinar highlighted the challenges of upgrading housing in informal settlements, and shared lessons from around the globe where targeted policy interventions and grassroots movements have mobilized resources to create success stories. Guest speakers and experts around the world joined the discussion on informal settlements.