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Big lessons on climate change from a small country

Annette Dixon's picture
Landscape of terrace fields and homes. Bhutan
Landscape of terrace fields and homes in Bhutan. Credits: Curt Carnemark / World Bank

The mountain kingdom of Bhutan may not seem an obvious place to look for lessons on addressing climate change. But on a recent visit I was impressed with how much this small country has achieved and also with its ambition. Bhutan has much to teach South Asia and the wider world. These lessons are especially relevant as the world negotiates in Paris a new pact on climate change at the International Climate Change Summit, known as COP21, which we all hope will eventually move the global economy to a low carbon and more resilient path.

The talks aimed at agreeing a way to keep global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial era levels. There is widespread agreement that going above this threshold would have serious consequences. South Asia is among the regions of the world that is likely to be most affected by climate change. We are already experiencing this. There is increasing variability of the monsoon rainfall, more heavy rainfalls such as those that caused the recent flooding in India, and an increase in the number of droughts.

A World Bank report in 2013 predicted that even if the warming climate was kept at 2 degrees then this could threaten the lives of millions of people in South Asia. The region's dense urban populations face extreme heat, flooding and diseases and millions of people could be trapped in poverty. Droughts could especially affect north-western India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

These are big problems. They may look much bigger than anything Bhutan - a very small country in a populous region - can teach South Asia and the world. But I see three lessons. Firstly, a commitment to ambitious goals will be critical to save the world from climate disaster. To stop the world from warming too much, climate experts estimate that global greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by up to 70 percent by 2050. Carbon neutrality (zero emissions) must be achieved within this century.
 

आइये, खाना पकाने के ग़लत तरीकों से छुटकारा पाएं

Anita Marangoly George's picture

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An Indian woman cooking. Photo credit: Romana Manpreet and Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves


यह एक सच्‍चाई है: लकड़ी, चारकोल, कोयले, गोबर के उपलों और फसल के बचे हुए हिस्‍सों सहित ठोस जलावन (सॉलिड फ्यूल) की खुली आग और पारंपरिक चूल्‍हों में खाना पकाने से घर के भीतर होने वाला वायु प्रदूषण दुनिया में, हृदय और फेफड़ों की बीमारी और सांस के संक्रमण के बाद मृत्‍यु का चौथा सबसे बड़ा कारण है।

लगभग 290 करोड़ लोग, जिनमें से ज्‍़यादातर महिलाएँ हैं, अभी भी गंदगी, धुआँ और कालिख- पैदा करने वाले चूल्‍हों और ठोस जलावन से खाना पकाती हें। हालत यह है कि इतने ज्‍़यादा लोग इन खतरनाक उपकरणों का इस्‍तेमाल कर रहे हैं जो भारत और चीन की कुल आबादी से भी ज्‍़यादा हैं।   

इसे बदलने की जरूरत है। और बदलाव हो रहा है जैसा कि मैंने पिछले सप्‍ताह में एक्‍रा, घाना में संपन्‍न क्‍लीन कुकिंग फोरम 2015 की कई बातचीतों को सुना। घाना के पेट्रोलियम मंत्री और महिला व विकास उपमंत्री की बात सुनकर, मुझे अहसास हुआ कि सर्वाधिक जरूरतमंद परिवारों को स्‍वच्‍छ चूल्‍हे व स्‍वच्‍छ ईंधन उपलब्‍ध कराने की गहरी इच्‍छा निश्चित रूप से यहाँ मौजूद है। लेकिन इच्‍छाओं को सच्‍चाई में बदलना एक चुनौती है। यह बात न केवल घाना में बल्कि दुनिया के कई हिस्‍सों के लिए भी सही है।

बाद में मैंने इस बारे में काफी सोचा खास तौर पर जब हमने पेरिस में होने वाली जलवायु परिवर्तन कॉन्‍फ्रेंस (सीओपी21) पर ध्‍यान दिया जहाँ दुनिया के नेता जलवायु परिवर्तन के दुष्‍प्रभाव कम करने के वैश्विक समझौते पर सहमति बनाने के लिए इकट्ठा होंगे। उस लक्ष्‍य तक पहुंचने की एक महत्‍वपूर्ण कुंजी ऊर्जा के स्‍वच्‍छ स्रोतों को अपनाना भी है। इस लिहाज से, संयुक्‍त राष्‍ट्र संघ का सस्‍टेनेबल एनर्जी गोल (एसडीजी7) का एक मकसद - किफायती, भरोसेमंद, वहनीय (सस्‍टेनेब‌िल) और आधुनिक ऊर्जा तक सभी की पहुंच सुनिश्‍च‌ित करना - यह भी है कि ऐसे 290 करोड़ लोगों तक खाना पकाने के स्‍वच्‍छ समाधान पहुंचाएँ जाएँ, जो आज उनके पास नहीं हैं।  

What can South Asian cities learn from Colombia's Medellin?

Sangmoo Kim's picture
Cable Car in Medellin
The Metro Cable in Medellin has facilitated greater access to mobility, services, and opportunities through connecting poorer neighborhoods with facilities and services throughout the city. Joe Qian/World Bank
Cities are created for human experiences and not for satellites in the sky. So why are there so many cities that while look impressive on a map, exclude so many of their residents from enjoying the full extent of their benefits? The key may be that details matter for inclusion of cities.
                                                                                               
Inclusion means that all people and communities have access to rights, opportunities, and resources. Urbanization provides cities the potential to increase prosperity and livability. However, many suffer from poor environments, social instability, inequality, and concentrated pockets of poverty that create exclusion. In South Asia, as in other regions, segregation within cities cause poorer areas to suffer from the lack of access to facilities and services that exacerbate misery and crime.

Medellin, Colombia was once the most dangerous city on the planet with astounding gaps between the wealthy and the poor, vastly different access to services, and the highest homicide rate in the world. Its turnaround has been impressive. Much of the progress has been attributed to the thoughtfulness of its planning to ensure greater inclusion. What can South Asian cities learn from this South American city?

Planning policies and action have often been concentrated on the broad structures and functions of cities. However, drilling down the details can realize an inclusive urban environment that improves life for all in public spaces. In our definition, inclusive cities provide:                                                                              
  • Mobility: A high level of movement between different neighborhoods that provide opportunities for jobs, education, and culture;
  • Services: All neighborhoods have a basic level of facilities and affordable necesities such as housing, water, and sanitation;
  • Accessibility: Urban spaces are designed so that everyone can easily and safety enjoy public spaces. 
 Social inclusion requires greater planning at a micro scale
Scale matters: Inclusion requires greater planning at a micro scale. Sangmoo Kim/World Bank

What happened in Medellin, Colombia? Medellin offers an inspiring example of how improved planning and sound implementation can increase social inclusion. Two decades ago, Medellin was the homicide capital of the world. Illicit drugs were a major export and hillside slums were particularly affected by violence. In response, the government created public facilities inclusive of libraries and schools, public transportation links, and recreational spaces in the poorest neighborhoods; and connecting them with the city’s commercial and industrial centers. As a result of a planning model that seeks to serve all residents, the city has become safer, healthier, more educated and equitable. 

More than dust in Delhi

Mark Roberts's picture
smog in delhi
The smog over Delhi. Photo credit: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier / Creative Commons

Urbanization provides the countries of South Asia with the opportunity to transform their economies to join the ranks of richer nations. But to reap the benefits of urbanization, nations must address the challenges it poses. Growing urban populations put pressure on a city’s infrastructure; they increase the demand for basic services, land and housing, and they add stress to the environment.
 
Of all these congestion forces, one of the most serious for health and human welfare is ambient air pollution from vehicle emissions and the burning of fossil fuels by industry and households, according to the World Bank report, Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability.”
 
Particularly harmful are high concentrations of fine particulate matter, especially that of 2.5 microns or less in diameter (PM2.5). They can penetrate deep into the lungs, increasing the likelihood of asthma, lung cancer, severe respiratory illness, and heart disease.
 
Data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2014 shows Delhi to have the most polluted air of any city in the world, with an annual mean concentration of PM2.5 of 152.6 μg/m3 . That is more than 15 times greater than the WHO’s guideline value and high enough to make Beijing’s air—known for its bad quality—look comparatively clean.

But Delhi is far from unique among South Asia’s cities.

Shrinking ice: A potential meltdown for South Asia

Saurabh Dani's picture
View of flooded Ganges Delta
View of flooded Ganges Delta. Credit: World Bank
In mid-August, close to a 12.5 sq. km of chunk of ice separated from the Jacobshavn glacier in Greenland and tumbled down into the sea. The Jacobshavn is rumored to be the glacier that downed the Titanic. While the event was small compared to the huge ice chunk break-aways in the Antarctic, the spotlight was welcome. A few weeks back, Obama become the first US President to visit the Arctic.
 
Halfway across the globe, in the South Asia region, another ice-snow regime is under threat, and although less scrutinized by the media, has the potential to trigger catastrophic economic and social consequences.
 
The Hindu Kush-Himalayan region is widely called the third pole and in this ice-snow regime of the third pole are the origins of three mighty rivers – Ganges, Brahmaputra and the Indus that indirectly support over 700 million people across South Asia.
 
The ice and snow regime is among the most fragile earth systems that will be impacted massively by a changing climate and the melting and disappearing of the three poles (the Antarctic, Arctic and high-altitude mountain glaciers) will in turn exacerbate sea level rise and extreme weather patterns.
 

Why climate change is an existential threat to the Bangladesh Delta

Lia Sieghart's picture

Bangladesh Delta Series: 3

In the second in this series of blogs, we highlighted the need to introduce adaptive delta management to the Bangladesh delta. The reason—to manage the long-term risks facing the Delta by investing in adaptive and flexible, short-term activities. The most striking need for this approach is climate change, which unchecked will undermine Bangladesh’s many development gains.

How we made #OpenIndia

Ankur Nagar's picture

open india

It has been a season ripe with new ideas and shifts in the open data conversation. At the Cartagena Data Festival in April, the call for a country-led data revolution was loud and clear. Later in June at the 3rd International Open Data Conference in Ottawa there was an emphasis on the use of open data-beyond mere publishing.

Mulling on these takeaways, a logical question to ask may be: what would a country-focused data project that aims to put data to use look like?

Have you tried Open India?

A few months earlier, inspired by the “Digital India” vision, a small but agile team led by the India Team at the World Bank was working on Open India.  It’s a live, open platform for engaging with and tracking the why, what, and how of the World Bank Group’s work in India, within the context of the development challenges that India faces. At the heart of this process was data from this vast country and equally important “design thinking” to solve a clear problem.

Here is a glimpse at the journey of this in-house startup. We hope it will add to the evolving data conversation, and help make the case for design to be a part of it.  These are our lessons-learned from our journey as World Bank intrapreneurs.
 

Open India: Take on India’s Development Challenges
Open India: Take on India’s Development Challenges with the Wo...

//openindia.worldbankgroup.org - The Open India app connects the dots between every public and private sector activity of the World Bank Group in India, against the context of the vast development challenges that the country faces. Use this app to track the World Bank Group’s work in your state and the development issues of your interest, and provide your ideas and feedback.

Posted by World Bank India on Friday, October 16, 2015


Pitch like a startup

India has become one of the fastest growing economies in the last decade, but remains home to a third of the world's poor. Its development challenges are massive: there is a huge infrastructure gap, it is urbanizing at an astonishing pace, and the population is set to cross 1.5 billion. The World Bank Group's Country Partnership Strategy offers an analysis and a plan to tackle these challenges. It covers a portfolio of over $25 billion, and provides a clear results chain to track the strategy’s progress.

South Asian Urbanization: Messy and hidden

Mark Roberts's picture

South Asia is not fully realizing the potential of its cities for prosperity and livability, and, according to a new report by The World Bank, a big reason is that its urbanization has been both messy and hidden. Messy and hidden urbanization is a symptom of the failure to adequately address congestion constraints that arise from the pressure that larger urban populations put on infrastructure, basic services, land, housing, and the environment.

South Asia Urbanization Infrastructure infographic

Lighting up the future in Bangladesh

Yann Doignon's picture

Children using a computer powered by solar energy

Night falls in Dhaka. Commercial streets glow with lights and the neon-lit stores and restaurants are abuzz with shoppers enjoying a break from Ramadan. This is a great visual spectacle punctuated by the incessant honking of colorful rickshaws.

But the reality is different right outside the capital. Sunset brings life to a halt in rural areas as about 60 percent of rural households do not have access to grid electricity. Kerosene lamps and battery-powered torches are widespread yet limited alternatives, their dim light offering limited options for cooking, reading or doing homework.  

It is a sweltering hot day when our team sets out to visit a household of 14 in the village of Pachua, a two-hour drive from Dhaka. Around 80% of the villagers have benefited from the solar panel systems to access electricity. The Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project (RERED), supports installation of solar home systems and aims to increase access to clean energy in rural Bangladesh.
 
We’re accompanied by Nazmul Haque Faisal from IDCOL, a government-owned financing institution, which implements the program. “This is the fastest-growing solar home system in the world,” Faisal says enthusiastically, “and with 40,000-50,000 new installations per month, the project is in high demand.”

We’ve now reached our destination and Monjil Mian welcomes us to his house, which he shares with 13 other members of his family, including his brothers, two of them currently away for extended work stints in Saudi Arabia.

Back to school in Nepal. What has changed?

Dipeshwor Shrestha's picture
Biswash, a 12 year old staying at the temporary camp in Uttar Dhoka showing the Dharahara collage he made.
Biswash, a 12 year old staying at the temporary camp in Uttar Dhoka showing the Dharahara collage he made. 
​Photo - Suresh Ghimire
On April 25, the day of the earthquake, my colleagues and I were organizing the final student exhibit to mark the end of our 12-week school session. There were 12 kids and their parents when the earthquake struck. Our first instinct was to keep the kids safe; we managed to stay calm, gathered everyone into an open space and stayed strong. After the aftershocks subsided, we got news of how devastating the earthquake actually was. We immediately called our loved ones. It was a relief that everyone we knew was safe.
 
I am a teacher at Karkhana, an education company that designs and delivers hands-on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths)-based content to middle school students in Nepal.
The first two days after the quake, we quickly realized that people without any specialized skills such as first aid, sanitation, nursing, construction, and rescue were not of much help in the immediate relief efforts.

The only way to contribute was to do what we are already good at - teach.

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