When I visited Vietnam for the first time three years ago, I imagined a Ho Chi Minh City out of Hollywood movies, with panoramic buildings of French architecture, tree-lined, long boulevards and the melting pot of Indochine cuisine.
After I began working in the city as an urban professional in 2012, I quickly learned to see it as much more: a vibrant, young, hip and energetic city with a vision and determination to become a leading metropolis in East Asia, not just in Vietnam, one of the fastest-growing emerging economies in the region.
And it has taken all the right steps just to do that, combining infrastructure development with social services to make sure the city is more livable and growth more sustainable. As the World Cities Day approaches, I thought it would be useful to share the city’s experience with the world.
Sanitation brings numerous benefits such as reducing the burden of disease, improving quality of life, promoting the safety of women and girls, not to mention the excellent economic investment that sanitation represents. Yet, to realize these benefits, new approaches are needed that work at scale and promote equality of access. As Eddy Perez, Lead Sanitation Specialist at the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program, recently highlighted in his excellent blog posts, eliminating inequalities and achieving universal access requires transformational change and a departure from ‘business as usual’. (Read ‘How and Why Countries are Changing to Reach Universal Access in Rural Sanitation by 2030’ and ‘Fixing Sanitation Service Delivery for the Poor to Meet the Twin Goals’).
In the quiet village of Bantayanon in Negros Occidental, Ligaya Almunacid showed off her new toilet. “This is my dream toilet,” she told us. Hers is not the typical structure made of palm-thatched roof and walls commonly seen in the area, but rather made of concrete hollow blocks with galvanized iron roofing.
The 48-year old lady was all smiles throughout our conversation, telling us what she liked about the toilet. “I wanted my toilet to be durable especially since our house sits in the middle of a flood-prone area.” Ligaya recalled how difficult it was in the past when her family had to share their neighbor’s toilet, or take the risk of getting bitten by snakes in the field just to relieve themselves. On closer examination, it would seem that she made the right decision in building a hygienic and resilient structure in securing her family’s health and welfare.
Bicara soal sampah: kecenderungannya adalah kita tidak terlalu memikirkan apakah sampah yang kita hasilkan itu organik atau non-organik. Kita mungkin juga tidak terlalu peduli ke mana larinya sampah itu. Sementara kenyataannya: di Indonesia, sampah rumahtangga kita akan bercampur dengan sampah jutaan rumahtangga lainnya, hingga terbentuklah gunung-gunung sampah yang tak semestinya di tempat pembuangan akhir (TPA) berbagai kota.
Bicara soal pengelolaan sampah yang ideal, para pakar akan mengatakan bahwa tanggungjawabnya bukanlah milik pemerintah kota semata, tetapi milik bersama.
Jumlah penduduk terus meningkat, begitu pula pola konsumsi. Volume sampah pun kian meluap di berbagai TPA.
Lantas apa yang bisa dilakukan? Saat ini di Indonesia, Bank Dunia tengah mengkaji berbagai cara untuk memperbaiki sistem pengelolaan sampah. Salah satu pilihannya adalah memperbanyak jumlah bank sampah. Belum lama ini saya bersama tim proyek pengelolaan sampah Bank Dunia mengunjungi bank sampah di beberapa kota untuk belajar lebih banyak tentang cara kerjanya.
When you’ve grown so used to tossing all manner of garbage into the trash bin, without giving a second thought to whether it is organic or non-organic waste, it’s easy to not care where your garbage ultimately ends up. But the reality is that, in Indonesia, your garbage gets mixed together with the garbage of millions of households, creating mountains of toxic waste too large to contain in municipal landfills.
As experts in the field would vehemently argue, solid waste management is not the sole responsibility of a municipal government, but a collective one. As populations grow and consumption patterns increase, more and more solid waste is created– and landfills can only take so much waste!
So what to do? The World Bank in Indonesia is currently exploring how to improve solid waste management, and scaling up ‘waste banks’ is one option. Recently I went on mission with the Solid Waste team to see these waste banks at work.
Two kids wash their hands with clean water. Their home in Thai Binh Province, Vietnam got access to clean water in 2011. Watch video: Providing clean water in rural areas: an example from Vietnam
Despite Vietnam’s significant economic growth in recent years, there continues to be a gap between urban and rural areas when it comes to access to clean water and hygienic sanitation facilities. Many poor households in rural areas still do not have access to clean water or to a toilet. During one of our earlier field visits for the Red River Delta Rural Water Supply and Sanitation (RRDRWASS) project which began almost 10 years ago, I was struck by what a lady from a community told me. She questioned why people in urban areas have access to good water supply and sanitation services while those in rural areas do not. She said that compared to urban residents, perhaps people in rural areas were happy with a lower level of service and that the demand for better services was simply not there.
At first I thought that she might be right but I later came to realise that this is not the case. There is demand for improved services in rural areas, and more importantly, people have a fundamental right to have access to those services.
So what are the reasons for the gap?
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