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Urban jungles in jeopardy

Ivo Germann's picture
Why the world’s cities are at risk – and what we can do to make them more resilient

We may not know exactly what the world will look like in two decades, but we know this: it is going to be a world of cities.
The global population is becoming increasingly urban, and at an astonishing rate. Each year, urban areas are growing by an average of more than 75 million people – more than the population of the world’s 85 smallest countries combined.
For the world’s economy, this is great news, since cities produce 80 percent of global GDP, despite currently being home to only 55 percent of the population. But it is a problem for urban infrastructure, which can’t keep up with such fast-paced growth. As a result, cities, already vulnerable, are becoming increasingly susceptible to natural disasters – from flooding and landslides that can decimate informal housing settlements, to earthquakes that can devastate power grids and water systems.
These risks could be disastrous for the urban poor, 881 million of whom currently live in slums (up 28 percent since 2000). And climate change – which is increasing the intensity and frequency of natural disasters – will only exacerbate the problem. For this reason, multilateral and government institutions now see resilience and climate adaptation as integral pillars of development.
The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), for example, considers low-emission and climate-resilient economies to be key to global competitiveness. A recent report by the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) found that climate change may force up to 77 million urban residents into poverty by 2030 – unless we take action to improve the resilience of cities around the world.

It’s not all about toilets: Debunking 7 myths about urban sanitation on World Water Day

Martin Gambrill's picture
Today, on World Water Day, which this year is dedicated to wastewater, we’d like to seize the occasion to debunk some of the myths that prevent sector experts and city managers all over the world from implementing effective urban sanitation solutions:

Chart: Globally, 70% of Freshwater is Used for Agriculture

Tariq Khokhar's picture

In most regions of the world, over 70 percent of freshwater is used for agriculture. By 2050, feeding a planet of 9 billion people will require an estimated 50 percent increase in agricultural production and a 15 percent increase in water withdrawals.

Water Access in the Philippines: Fixing the Institutions that Fix the Pipes

Aileen Castro's picture
Photo: NorthEyes Production/World Bank

As we celebrate World Water Day, I find myself thinking about my work and one central question: how do you reach 8 million Filipinos with no access to clean water? I remember growing up in Pampanga, a province north of Manila, and visiting my aunt’s house every weekend where I had to pump water from a deep well and carry buckets so we could water plants, wash clothes, and clean the backyard pig pen. Fortunately, these days there’s always water from the faucet so we don’t work as hard to do chores.

But the story isn’t the same for everyone. While our local water utility largely improved its services over the years, I can’t say the same for the rest of the country, especially in rural areas. While there are already over 4,700 water utilities in the Philippines, about half are very small and unregulated.

The “5Ds”: Changing attitudes to open defecation in India

Vandana Mehra's picture
In the village of Bharsauta in Uttar Pradesh, India, construction worker Vishwanath lives with his wife, four children and their elderly parents. Three years ago, the government paid to build a toilet in their house. But the job was not done well: the pit was too shallow, it overflows frequently, and the smell makes it suffocating to use.

Marrakech solved the water riddle — through wastewater

Stephane Dahan's picture
Marrakech, Morocco, 1950s: Situated 160 miles south of Casablanca, and 100 miles inland on the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, the Red City is being supplied as it has been for centuries with water through an intricate, self-sufficient network of “Khettaras” — man-made underground tunnels that captured runoff from the flanks of the Atlas.

Water utilities in Africa: How will they cope with a rapidly growing, thirsty population?

Caroline van den Berg's picture
Africa’s population is growing fast. Very fast. Sub-Saharan Africa is currently home to more than 1.2 billion people, and it is estimated that another 1 billion will be added by 2050. Economic and political instability, climate change and overall decline of employment in agriculture has accelerated urban migration. In 2016, almost 40 percent of the population in this region was living in cities compared to 31 percent in 2000.

Building institutional capacity for rural sanitation: India’s Uttar Pradesh State

Mariappa Kullappa's picture
Uttar Pradesh (UP), India’s most populous state with about 200 million people, has historically not performed well on sanitation. According to census figures from 2001 and 2011, the proportion of rural UP dwellers with a toilet increased slightly during the first decade of this century. However, the population grew as well, meaning that, overall, 13 million more people were defecating in the open in 2011. 

Helping Afghan farmers build better lives

Mohammad Hassan Ibrahimi's picture
Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy

I am a messenger between local farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL). That’s my role as provincial coordinator of the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP) for Daykundi Province. I lead agricultural trainings, visit farmers, oversee all project activities in the province—there is no typical day. I’m constantly working to understand and help improve the situation of Daykundi’s farmers. I usually learn as much from my interactions with farmers as I teach—one of the favorite parts of my job is when farmers share the wisdom they’ve gained farming the land for generations.
Most of the farmers we work with are very poor, and it is easy to see the direct impact our work has in improving their livelihoods and lives. In teaching basic horticultural skills, creating sustainable livelihoods, and giving farmers the resources they need, we are helping rebuild Afghanistan from the grassroots. With support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), NHLP works to promote the adoption of improved horticulture practices and spark grassroots efforts that will be self-sustaining beyond the direct work of our projects.
Since NHLP launched in Daykundi Province in 2014, we have established 1,400 jeribs, or 280 hectares, of grapes, almonds, apples, and apricots, and we’re working to build 18 water harvesting structures to improve irrigation across the province.