When U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Yokohama in 1854, it was a backwater village in Japan with a largely rural, relatively undeveloped economy. But it soon grew to an urban agglomeration with around 3.7 million people. Since then, Yokohama has managed to continuously reinvent itself – from a port city, to a large industrial area, and now to a modern, global service and lifestyle hub.
Within a century, Japan would become the world’s second largest economy. Its growth has been fueled by cities such as Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, and Kobe. Japanese cities can offer a myriad of lessons to their counterparts in developing countries.
Japanese cities are also at the forefront of dealing with some of the world’s most pressing challenges. For example, cities like Osaka and Toyama have developed a number of tools to address the social issues caused by rapid aging. Most developed and developing cities in the world will face similar challenges in the years to come. Providing a platform where these cities can learn from the experience of Japanese cities may lead to significant development impact.
The post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an ambitious set of targets that aim to support a comprehensive vision of sustainable development that embraces economic, social, and environmental dimensions. Solid waste plays an important role in several of these goals, including providing sanitation for all, making cities and human settlements sustainable, encouraging sustainable consumption, and reducing climate change.
In the planning undertaken by Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to help achieve these goals, one glaring fact stood out: the financial resources needed are not only expected to be substantial, in the “trillions” of dollars annually, but they far outweigh the current “billions” of dollars annually in financial flows from development institutions. Considering this information, it was agreed at the Hamburg G20 Summit that a new approach would be needed to unlock, leverage, and catalyze other sources of financing, including private sector resources.
The approach would more systematically prioritize private financing solutions when they are feasible. That is, private solutions that are already working would be considered as a first option; followed by encouraging private investment by reducing policy and regulatory gaps and risks that currently discourage participation; and, finally, as a last option, when private solutions cannot fulfill all the demands of the sector, public resources could be strategically used.
Considering the successes and challenges of private sector involvement in solid waste, it is an opportune moment to begin to ask: what are the key issues that need to be addressed to better leverage the private sector to provide sustainable solid waste management solutions?
Have solid waste laws done enough? Regulations and policies have progressed significantly, with many countries establishing new solid waste laws that replace decades-old sanitation or public nuisance legislation. Have these reforms gone far enough to specifically encourage the private sector? Are there functional mechanisms for cost recovery, and is there sufficient flexibility for the private sector to pursue a variety of contractual and financing arrangements? Are the laws truly motivating investment into modern facilities by providing enforceable requirements and standards for the establishment of landfills, closing dumpsites, and establishing recycling facilities? Are the financing schemes predominantly focused on public financing, or do they cater to what the private sector financing needs? It is worth a second look at how these laws respond to these and other issues, and learning from thosecountries that have taken them on.
It will take Karachi as much as $10 billion of capital investment over the next decade to close the infrastructure gaps in the city.
On the ground, it is not too difficult to see why this is so. More than 40% of residents rely on public transport, but with 45 residents competing for one bus seat, travel within the city is difficult. Water supply is highly irregular, and rationing is widespread. The availability of water ranges from four hours per day to two hours every other day. Many households rely on private vendors who sell water from tankers at high prices. The sewage network has not been well maintained since the 1960s, and all three existing treatment plants are dysfunctional. Industrial waste, which contains hazardous materials and heavy oils, is dumped directly into the sea untreated. Of the 12,000 tons of municipal solid waste generated each day, 60% never reaches a dumpsite; 80% of medical waste is not disposed of properly.