How would you define the area of Indonesia’s capital city, Jakarta?
a: Simply using the administrative boundaries of the Special Capital Region of Jakarta?
b: Based on the extent and density of population?
c: Using nighttime lights data?
d: Or, what about a definition based on commuting flows as used in the U.S. approach to defining metropolitan statistical areas?
Globally, a growing number of cities spill across their administrative boundaries, meaning that many urban issues now need to be addressed at a metropolitan level. However, to do this, it is first necessary to delineate the “true” extent of a metro area. How else, after all, will policymakers be able to identify which local governments need to work together to provide transport and other essential public services?
There is a unique space where you can encounter everyone from developers of self-driving cars in Silicon Valley to city planners in Niamey to humanitarian workers in Kathmandu Valley: the global OpenStreetMap (OSM) community. It comprises a geographically and experientially diverse network of people who contribute to OSM, a free and editable map of the world that is often called the “Wikipedia of maps.”
What is perhaps most special about this community is its level playing field. Anyone passionate about collaborative mapping can have a voice from anywhere in the world. In the past few years, there has been a meteoric rise of locally organized mapping communities in developing countries working to improve the map in service of sustainable development activities.
The next opportunity to see the OSM community in action will be the November 14th mapathon hosted by the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR)’s Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI). Mapathons bring together volunteers to improve the maps of some of the world’s most vulnerable areas, not only easing the way for emergency responders when disaster strikes, but also helping cities and communities plan and build more resiliently for the future.
For more than 30 years, Madam Toh has lived in Bukit Batok, a Singapore public housing town that accommodates more than 110,000 residents. Their flat was constructed by the Singapore Housing and Development Board – known as “HDB” – which provides public housing for 82% of Singapore’s residents.
While working at the World Bank’s Singapore Infrastructure and Urban Hub, I was fortunate to meet Madam Toh, who, together with her husband, raised their three children in their three-bedroom flat. When asked about her experience living in an HDB neighborhood, her immediate reactions were that it was both “convenient” and “comfortable” – “I can get everything I need within 10 minutes on foot.”
She is now 64 years old and takes a daily 10-minute walk to the metro train station (Mass Rapid Transit, or “MRT”) via a linkway – an activity she likes because the covered footpath seamlessly connects her home and the community’s amenities, making them excellent shelters from the rain or sun for pedestrians.
After exploring several of Singapore’s neighborhoods, I found that they offer “down to earth” examples of livability and showcase excellent integrated urban design qualities.
In the first part of this blog, I introduced the 5D framework and discussed the first 2Ds – Density and Diversity in the context of Singapore’s public housing neighborhood, i.e. HDB towns. In the second part of the blog, I will share the observations of how the HDB neighborhoods reflect the other 3Ds – Destination, Distance, and Design.
“Comfortable” and “walkable” access to public transportation is just one of the many examples that Singapore has done for its neighborhoods, and the total length of Singapore’s covered walkways has now hit 200km!
In order to decrease distance to transit, Singapore encourages people to cycle, which helps resolve the issue of the first and last mile connectivity to public transportation. Many MRT stations and bus interchanges provide multi-level bicycle racks as part of cycling infrastructure to make the city cycle-friendly. In fact, starting July 2016, any new constructions for schools, commercial, retail and business parks (up to a certain scale) must put in place a Walking and Cycling Plan to ensure the public space has adequately incorporated the design that facilitates walkability and cycling.
Poorly managed waste is contaminating the world’s oceans, clogging drains and causing flooding, transmitting diseases, increasing respiratory problems from burning, harming animals that consume waste unknowingly, and affecting economic development such as through tourism.
Without urgent action, these issues will only get worse. Here’s what everyone should know.
Such economic concentration is a built-in feature of human settlement development and a key driver of growth. However, while some countries have succeeded in spreading economic benefits to most of their citizens, many other countries have not.
Especially outside the economic centers that concentrate production, there are “lagging areas” with persistent disparities in living standards and a lack of access to basic services and economic opportunities.
Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which struck the country in 2013, was considered one of the strongest tropical storms ever to make landfall (at 380 kilometer / hour wind gusts). It caused over 6,300 fatalities and affected 1,472,251 families in 171 cities and municipalities across the 14 provinces in 6 regions. Total damage and loss was estimated at $12.9 billion (Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda 2013).
It is 7:45 p.m. in Ponto-cho, the historic narrow alley at the core of the Japanese city of Kyoto. Close to the Kaburenjo Theater – where still today Geikos and Maikos (Kyoto Geishas) practice their dances and performances – the traditional adjoining buildings with restaurants and shops are full of guests. Local people, tourists, students… On this Saturday in mid-April, the warm weather brings a lot of people to the streets nearby.
At 7:46 p.m., a M 5.1 earthquake strikes. Seven seconds of swaying. It doesn’t cause major damage, but it is enough to spread panic among a group of tourists. Screams, shoving, confusion… drinks spill, candles fall, people rush.
At 7:49 p.m., the fire starts spreading through the old wooden structures, also threatening the historic theater. Access is difficult due to the narrow streets and panicking crowd.
What happens next?
It could be a fire in the Ponto-cho traditional alley. It could be an earthquake shaking the historic center of Kathmandu (Nepal), the archaeological site of Bagan (Myanmar), or the historic town of Amatrice (Italy). It could be Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines or Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean, blasting sites with rain, flooding, and gale-force winds.
Cultural heritage assets around the world are at risk. They are often vulnerable due to their age, as well as previous interventions and restorations made without disaster risk or overall site stability in mind. Heritage sites reflect legacies, traditions, and identities. With all this, they carry a large cultural and emotional value of what could be lost – certainly beyond the traditional calculus of economic losses.
In many cases, it is not possible or advisable to conduct reconstruction on cultural heritage sites post-disaster. Therefore, the essence and soul of a cultural heritage site is at risk of being lost forever, making preparedness and preservation even more critical.
The challenge of anticipating and communicating the risk of volcanic eruptions to communities requires complex decision-making. Ecuador’s Cotopaxi Volcano and Indonesia’s Mount Agung are recent examples where the warning signs were present (small earthquakes, increasing gas emissions, and more), yet an eruption came much later than expected. Volcanic eruptions are therefore a double-edged sword that often creates a decision-making dilemma. While signs of volcanic activity can provide adequate time for preparation and evacuation, the very same signs can also create conditions of extreme uncertainty, which can be exacerbated by piecemeal communication around eruption events.