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,"
|The author at one of the roads renovated with NT2 funds (2010 rainy season).|
|The Superbotrechus Bennetti beetle was discovered during a survey of cave biodiversity in China.|
|This is my last week in the World Bank, after working at the institution for 20 years, the last five as country director for China and Mongolia.|
In just fifteen years, two billion motor vehicles are projected to inhabit the world’s roads, doubling today’s population. Most of this growth will occur in Asia, with China leading the way. In order to fuel and accommodate these vehicles, large new energy and urban infrastructure investments will be made, locking in escalating greenhouse gas emissions and resource demands through the rest of the century.
|Children perform during "Call for Green China" – a unique cultural tour to raise awareness about pressing environmental issues in China and possible solutions.|
Other factors are more long term – the sandstorms common when I lived here in 1986 are largely gone, owing to successful re-greening efforts west of here. There was a frenzied pace of construction as modern Beijing was being built, which has naturally slowed down – construction dust was a key part of air pollution here.
There is more room for improvement, but the progress was notable during a lovely April. One key issue going forward will be to continue to control private vehicle use.
A couple weeks ago, blogger Chris Pablo wrote here about a project designed to get more people in the Philippines riding bicycles by creating and designating separate bike paths in Marikina City, a medium-sized city at the eastern edge of Metro Manila.
The project, which started in 2001, seems to have achieved its demonstration effect. From a survey done in 2006, the share of bike trips to all trips in the city increased to 9.5%, from 4% in 1999. Bicycle ownership also grew.
The short World Bank-produced video below gives another look at the successful project:
|It takes me just a few minutes to get to my office roughly two kilometers away. Before the Skytrain came along, the very same journey could take anywhere between 15-45 minutes.|
"I'm on the train, two stops away from you," she told the caller. "Will get there in a heartbeat."
That got me thinking. Getting somewhere in a heartbeat was – at least until 1999 – a luxury no Bangkokian could afford (unless they owned a private helicopter). I remembered when this city's traffic jams topped the list of things that would come to mind when people thought of Bangkok. (The next down in that list would probably be air pollution, but that's a subject for a later discussion!).
During the Martial Law years in the Philippines (1970s to early 1980s), there was a story widely shared (discreetly) about a popular TV variety show host who was made to ride the bicycle all day in a military camp. According to accounts, he apparently displeased the rulers at the time for making a quip about the government's running slogan that goes, "sa ika-uunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan."Loosely translated, it means, "for the country to progress, discipline is what is needed."
What the TV host jokingly proclaimed was – "sa ika-uunlad ng bayan, bisikleta ang kailangan" ("what the country needs for progress is the bicycle"). True or not, the story fascinates me to this day. First, because some people just can't take a good joke. More importantly, because I thought the TV host must be a real visionary! He may have foreseen the traffic and pollution conditions some 15 years in the future and the need for cheaper alternatives for mobility.