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Cities are growing at a staggering rate, changing our world beyond recognition. For the first time in history, over half the population -- 55 percent -- lives in urban areas. By 2050, that number will rise to 68 percent. This rapid urban growth has given rise to sprawling megacities, many of which are in Asia and Africa.
Perhaps no place epitomizes this trend better than Shanghai. In 1990, the city was still primarily an industrial hub with a population of 13 million. By 2016, the figure had ballooned to 24 million, making Shanghai one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and the financial and economic hub of China.
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As an undergraduate student in Kampala, my head was full of thoughts about how I was going to make a living after my studies. Back then Rich Dad Poor Dad was still a best-seller, and I thought to myself: I can become a billionaire if I sell a billion of something to a billion people. Needless to say, it would have to be something that anyone can afford, like toothpaste or chewing gum.
So, I wondered, what does every human need? It dawned on me: everyone needs water, food, and energy, every day. The next question was how I could make valuable goods from all the three as a civil engineer.
After spending several years in front of a computer every day, I began to feel removed from those people who were the real reason for my work, which aims to build a safer, healthier and more prosperous environment. But when people I knew were directly affected by the issues I was working on, my work took on more meaning and urgency.
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The 8th World Water Forum was held in Brazil a few days ago. What's ironic is that the more than nine thousand of us attending this Forum were discussing water-related issues in a city of three million grappling with a severe water shortage. After checking in at my hotel, the first thing I found in my room was a notice from the Government informing guests of this crisis and recommending ways to reduce water use. We recently learned of the predicament in Cape Town, South Africa, which was on the verge of running out of this essential liquid—a plight facing many cities around the world.
As authors of the WASH chapter of DCP-3, we wanted to share some of our key takeaways below:
On a busy street corner in Nairobi, Kenya, Abuya uses water to prepare and cook the food she sells to passersby. At the market in Hyderabad, India, Dimah splashes water on her fruit and vegetables to keep them fresh. In the make-shift hair-cutting salon in her basement in Medellin, Colombia, Isabela uses water to wash her customer’s hair.
Imagine that you must flee home at once. You may be fleeing violence, social tensions, poor environmental conditions, or even persecution. You and your loved ones may walk for several days to find safety, and may even go for periods without food.
What would you need to survive?
The answer is clean water. Finding drinkable water is one of the first steps in your journey to a new home. If you instead consume contaminated water, you risk exposure to several diseases. Drinking water unfit for consumption may not only harm your health in the short run -- drinking unclean water may cause life-long health problems. And of course, these problems multiply if entire communities, or even cities, face these health problems.
At the end of this leg of the journey, you may end up in a densely populated refugee camp. Many refugee camps quickly become quasi cities that suffer from poor planning, poor water supplies, and poor sanitation. Keeping these makeshift cities clean and safe is a herculean task. For many refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in these water scarce cities, it is difficult to access water supply and sanitation facilities.
The situation is even more dire for refugees or IDPs in the water-scarce Mashreq subregion*. The demographic shock of mass migration compounds already complex challenges in the region -- from climate shocks to crumbling infrastructure. According to the World Bank report Turbulent Waters: Pursuing Water Security in Fragile Contexts, water security is more difficult to achieve in fragile contexts because of a range of factors, including weak institutions and information systems, strained human and financial resources, and degraded infrastructure.
Dwifina loves art. Every day she looks forward to making her thread canvasses. Her only wish is that she had more time to spend on them. Being paralyzed, she spends a significant amount of time on mundane activities like getting ready for school and sorting out school supplies and books. She needs to ask friends to assist her in using the bathroom in school, as it lacks the design features for her to use it independently. Between homework and these extended activities of daily living, Dwifina finds little time for her true passion.
There are about a billion people with physical, cognitive, or psychological disabilities in the world, who struggle to access basic services required to perform daily functions. Unfortunately, most of these barriers to access are socially constructed.
In the lead-in to World Toilet Day, we hear a great deal about the role of toilets in sanitation and in better health and human development outcomes. Toilets are good development. Period.
We hear less about the fact that toilets are often sites and instruments of social exclusion.
Let me explain.
Segregated toilets for males and females were intended to give women privacy and to respect the “intrinsic” physical differences between the sexes. In fact,
But the story is more complex.