Some of my colleagues in the Vietnam office of the World Bank, working with Sai Gon Tiep Thi newspapers, recently organized a photo contest and exhibition on the topic of natural disasters. I thought I’d share some of the finalist entries, which are remarkable in their composition and relevance. It’s important to note that these pictures are not related to the disasters that have hit several East Asian and Pacific countries in recent weeks. Nevertheless, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to click through the pictures below, which focus on the human toll of natural disasters in Vietnam. Check back in a couple days for more photos from the same contest.
|Children breathe thick, toxic smog from thousands of stoves in Ulaanbaatar's ger districts, which are home to 60 percent of the city's population.|
Worst of all, imagine you and your children breathing the thick, toxic smog from thousands of stoves 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unfortunately, this is not imagination, this is the real situation for over a half million people living in the ger districts of the capital. Not a pretty picture.
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.
If you are a visual learner like me, or you just happen to like nifty animated maps, a site called SHOW World may be worth spending an afternoon coffee/tea break or two to check out. Similar to the popular WorldMapper collection, this site displays a lot of data from a number of sources (including, apparently, the World Bank) in map form. On an Excel spreadsheet, the information would just look like numbers or a boring old graph.
|The poor need to be empowered, and solutions have to be designed by them. Community organization, a difficult yet key element to successful slum upgrading, is often successfully carried out.|
|More than 1,600 children from around the world participated in a photography project, designed in part to educate children about traffic safety.|
|Workers scale one of the skyscrapers under construction in Cambodia.|
But, for all this, this connection more and more misses a key fact: over the last couple of years, Cambodia has achieved a relative peace that has enabled dramatic social and economic change.