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Urban Development

Building sustainable cities starts with smart urban design

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
The global conversation about urban sustainability focuses primarily on the big picture: how to reduce the carbon footprint and energy consumption of cities? How can we provide the infrastructure and services necessary to meet the needs of a soaring urban population? How can cities create enough jobs for everyone?
 
These issues are critically important, no doubt. But what about the city itself as a physical space? What should a sustainable city "look like"? Are there any big design principles that all successful urban planners should follow?
 
Because urbanization is often a chaotic process, many countries feel like they don't have the time or resources to address those questions. Yet evidence has shown that considerations about urban form and design are anything but cosmetic: creating vibrant public spaces within a city, for instance, can boost competitiveness, improve health outcomes, and strengthen social cohesion.
 
In this video, Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez and Jon Kher Kaw delve deeper into the linkages between urban spaces and sustainability, and describe the many benefits that come with a well-designed city.
 
If you want to learn more about this topic, we invite you to discover our latest Sustainable Communities podcast.
 
Related:

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

CIVICUS
The 2016 State of Civil Society Report, produced by CIVICUS, provides a comprehensive `year in review’ as well as 33 guest essays focusing on the topic of exclusion. Addressing exclusion is an urgent political issue, which gained renewed emphasis with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. In the past year, civil society responded to profound human rights abuses caused by conflicts and worked to alleviate human suffering in the wake of disasters, yet faces major challenges including dubious attempts to silence dissenting voices. CIVICUS documented serious violations of the freedoms of association, expression and peaceful assembly in 109 countries over the course of 2015. In an increasingly unequal world where human rights are being undermined, civil society is challenging exclusion in innovative ways.
 

Leave no city behind
Science Magazine

Close to 4 billion people live in cities. As the driver of environmental challenges, accounting for nearly 70% of the world's carbon emissions, and as sites of critical social disparities, with 863 million dwellers now living in slums, urban settlements are at the heart of global change. This momentum is unlikely to disappear, as approximately 70 million more people will move to cities by the end of this year alone. The good news is that recent multilateral processes are now appreciating this key role of cities and are increasingly prioritizing urban concerns in policy-making. Yet, how can we ensure that these steps toward a global urban governance leave no city, town, or urban dweller behind?

Five ways to increase citizen participation in local waste services

Silpa Kaza's picture
ICT services offered by I Got Garbage in Bangalore
Web platforms, apps, and citizen surveys are changing how solid waste management services are conducted globally and showing that waste infrastructure alone is simply not enough. These interactive platforms provide incentives, quantify actions, and increase pressure on service providers, and thereby improve waste management with greater citizen engagement.
 
The World Bank recently hosted five individuals representing organizations and projects that use information and communications technology (ICT) to engage citizens with local waste services. Their varied approaches reveal incentive models that effectively lead to strategic behavior change.

Success when we deemed it failure? Revisiting sites and services 20 years later

Sumila Gulyani's picture
Between 1977 and 1997, the World Bank supported “sites and services” projects in 27 cities across India
A freshly-minted architect stood staring at a sea of toilets. Row after row of them, on small “housing plots” meant for low-income families who would build their house incrementally as their incomes and savings grew. The neighborhood was “planned” and provided with services—under a World Bank-supported “sites and services” project—to serve as the anti-thesis of and an antidote to the slums that were, at the time, increasingly becoming the only housing option for low-income families.

It was 1980 and the architect, Barjor Mehta, was deeply disappointed. There were no houses, no people and no chance that they would ever come, given the seemingly god-forsaken location—in an area called Arrumbakkam—so far from the city center in Madras (now Chennai). Having just completed his thesis on housing, he wrote a scathing news article in the Times of India denouncing the sites and services approach. Barjor wasn’t alone in his critique, and by the mid-1990s the World Bank had almost entirely abandoned such projects.

In October 2015, Barjor, now Lead Urban Specialist at the Bank, invited me to revisit Arumbakkam and other neighborhoods developed, between 1977 and 1997, under four Bank-supported sites and services projects: With my colleagues Kate Owens and Andrea Rizvi, I visited 15 of the 28 sites developed in Chennai and Mumbai. We also reviewed archival material, analyzed satellite images, and recently presented our preliminary findings. Now, Barjor and I agree that previous assessments of failure may have been both premature and erroneous. Why?

A worldwide effort to improve PPP practice

Jyoti Bisbey's picture



Although institutions and the private sector have devoted both money and time to capacity building in public-private partnerships (PPPs) for infrastructure, results have been mixed. A misalignment of expectations remains – and this manifests itself in too few deals reaching the market and the wrong projects being proposed as PPPs. But a group of multilateral development banks (MDBs) is committed to solving this problem with the new APMG PPP Certification Program. This innovative, collaborative approach to setting standards for PPP professionals will ultimately result in PPP projects that are appropriate solutions tailored to the needs of the people they serve. This is the first time the MDBs have come together to support a global curriculum on PPPs, which is accessible to anyone with an internet connection – and part of it is offered at no cost.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Boston Review
The power to accuse someone of a grave crime on the basis of hearsay is a heady one. I have done it, and I faced the consequences of being wrong. Twenty years ago in the Nuba Mountains of central Sudan, I met a man, Chief Hussein Karbus, whose murder I had reported three years earlier. He was introduced to me by the man I had accused of ordering his death, a leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. The mistake had appeared in a report I authored for Human Rights Watch; it was the kind of error that human rights researchers sometimes make and rarely admit. The three of us sat together and laughed about it. Not all such missteps turn out so well.
 
Foreign Policy
They call it “the Internet of Things” — the rapidly growing network of everyday objects equipped with sensors, tiny power supplies, and internet addresses. Within a few years, we will be immersed in a world of these connected devices. The best estimates suggest that there will be about 60 billion of them by the year 2020. We’ve already seen internet-accessible sensors implanted in dolls, cars, and cows. Currently, the biggest users of these sensor arrays are in cities, where city governments use them to collect large amounts of policy-relevant data. In Los Angeles, the crowdsourced traffic and navigation app Waze collects data that helps residents navigate the city’s choked highway networks. In Chicago, an ambitious program makes public data available to startups eager to build apps for residents. The city’s 49th ward has been experimenting with participatory budgeting and online voting to take the pulse of the community on policy issues. Chicago has also been developing the “Array of Things,” a network of sensors that track, among other things, the urban conditions that affect bronchitis.
 

In the market for good practices on performance-based contracts for non-revenue water management

Jemima Sy's picture

As water specialists, we care a lot about our clients being able to provide good water service to their customers on a sustained basis, but many utilities in the countries we work for struggle to provide consistent service.  Imagine how much more challenging this will become in the next two decades, when two-thirds of the world’s population will live in urban areas. [1] By 2025, 1.8 billion people will live in areas with absolute water scarcity. [2]
 
Non-Revenue Water (NRW) is water that is placed into a water distribution system and not billed because of leaks or commercial failures. Efficient management of NRW offers significant financial benefits to utilities while bringing economic and environmental benefits to societies around the world. Why, then, does NRW still present governments with such intractable problems?


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