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USAID urged to tackle urbanization

May 19, 2010 1 comment

NEW YORK, 19 May 2010 (IRIN) – The dangers of rapid and chaotic urbanization were made obvious in the aftermath of the 12 January earthquake in Haiti as the population of the densely populated capital city was left vulnerable to the disaster’s consequences.

But the superpower to the north has long overlooked the importance of urbanization in its deployment of foreign assistance, according to legislation now being considered by the Senate. The Sustainable Urban Development Act of 2010 – introduced by Sens. Benjamin Cardin (D-Maryland), Dick Durban (D-Illinois), and John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) on 20 April – directs USAID to better tackle the problems of enlarging slums, increasing levels of pollution, overburdened transport systems, and lack of affordable housing.

“We all recognize that the 21st century is the century of the city. There is an explosion of urban growth around the globe – already the majority of the world’s population lives in urban areas, with approximately one billion people residing in slums. The phenomenon of urbanization will be ignored at our own peril. Responsible citizens of the world must consciously harness their creativity and ingenuity to increase the livability, economic viability, and environmental sustainability of our cities,” said Kerry, introducing the bill.

“We all recognize that the 21st century is the century of the city. There is an explosion of urban growth around the globe – already the majority of the world’s population lives in urban areas, with approximately one billion people residing in slums. The phenomenon of urbanization will be ignored at our own peril. Responsible citizens of the world must consciously harness their creativity and ingenuity to increase the livability, economic viability, and environmental sustainability of our cities,” said Kerry, introducing the bill.

His point was reinforced at the recent World Economic Forum Africa meeting in Dar es Salaam, when Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT and UN Under-Secretary-General, emphasized that urbanization was one of the key challenges facing the continent. “Africa is urbanizing faster that any other continent, so much so that by 2030, Africa will cease to be a rural continent. Despite this, few African leaders are taking the issue seriously,” she said.

“It is time that policy makers include plans for balanced territorial urban development. This is one of the keys to economic growth especially as investment in infrastructure and housing in African cities provides a great opportunity for the private sector,” she said.

Reversing the trend

William Cobbett, programme manager of the Cities Alliance, told IRIN the bill was significant because it showed the US was prepared to formally recognize the importance of urbanization. He said that in the wake of a “very steady” decline of US aid in this area, he was heartened by the possibility that trend would be reversed.

“I just applaud its existence,” he said of the bill, which he has been sending to colleagues throughout the world as an example of forward-thinking public policy.

The legislation directs the administrator of USAID to update the Making Cities Work Urban Strategy, which has been in existence for almost a decade. It also suggests establishing a senior adviser for urban sustainable development at the agency and launching a “pilot urban strategies initiative” implemented in select cities in the developing world.

A spokeswoman for USAID said the agency would not comment on pending legislation and recommended reviewing the urban programmes in operation.

Scepticism

However, Alanna Shaikh, a global health professional who blogs at UNDispatch.com and other sites, wrote: “The ideas in the legislation are nothing new, and adding another mandatory annual report to an already overburdened agency is just annoying. Not to mention that the legislation doesn’t include any new financial resources; it calls for USAID to support all of this out of its existing budget.

“If Congress really wants USAID to scale up efforts to make urbanization beneficial, then they ought to allocate more money to make that happen. If you want a new focus and new programmes to support it, you need to find new money.”

A congressional aide speaking to IRIN on condition of anonymity countered that the bill was a “first step”. The objective was to “bring about some awareness that this is something that is a priority”. Nothing would assist that process more, he suggested, than a piece of legislation that has passed both houses of Congress and been signed into law by President Barack Obama. Congress would then “put the money where the policy is”, he said.

The legislation, the aide said, can be seen as part of the broader effort to rethink the US approach to development, exemplified by the ongoing Presidential Study Directive on Global Development – conducted by the White House’s National Security Council – and State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review.

The bill must first be voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – of which all three Senators are members – before being considered by the full Senate.

Source – IRIN News, May 19, 2010

Urbanization and noncommunicable disease risk factors in Tamil Nadu

January 22, 2010 Leave a comment

WHO Bulletin, forthcoming article

Level of urbanisation and noncommunicable disease risk factors in Tamil Nadu, India.

Full-text: http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/88/4/09-065847.pdf

Steven Allender,a Ben Lacey,a Premila Webster, et al. 

 Objective – To investigate the poorly understood relationship between the process of urbanisation and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) through the application of a quantitive measure of urbanicity.

Methods – We constructed a measure of the urban environment for seven areas using a seven-item scale based on data from the Indian Census 2001 to develop an ‘urbanicity’ scale. The scale was used in conjunction with data collected from 3705 participants in the 2003 WHO STEPwise risk factor surveillance survey in Tamil Nadu, India, to analyse the relationship between the urban environment and major NCD risk factors. Linear and logistic regression models were constructed examining the relationship between urbanicity and chronic disease risk.

Findings – Among men, urbanicity was positively associated with smoking (odds ratio, OR: 3.54; 95% confidence interval, CI: 2.4–5.1), body mass index (OR: 7.32; 95% CI: 4.0–13.6) and blood pressure (OR: 1.92; 95% CI: 1.4–2.7), and negatively associated with physical activity (OR: 3.26; 95% CI: 2.5-4.3). Among women, urbanicity was positively associated with BMI (OR: 4.13; 95% CI: 3.0–5.7) and negatively associated with physical activity (OR: 6.48; 95% CI: 4.6– 9.2). In both sexes urbanicity was positively associated with the mean number of servings of fruit and vegetables consumed per day (P < 0.05).

Conclusion – Urbanicity is associated with the prevalence of several NCD risk factors in Tamil Nadu, India.

Categories: India Tags:

Urbanization: Out of Balance and Growing

January 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Urbanization: Out of Balance and Growing, by By César Chelala

NEW YORK—When observing the chaotic, burgeoning growth of the modern city, the more erudite of urban planners will reminisce wistfully on how different it is from its ancient Greek counterpart, the polis, which Italian architectural historian Leonardo Benevolo once described as “dynamic but stable, in balance with nature, and growing manageably even after reaching large dimensions.”

The rapid and uncontrolled sprawl of today’s cities breeds anxiety not only among urban planners and architects. Experts in the field of public health are alarmed as well, for the apparent randomness of the urban dynamic is robbing the population of its basic health and well-being through unregulated environmental pollution, shrinking green areas, inadequate housing, overburdened public services, a mushrooming of makeshift settlements on the outskirts lacking in both infrastructure and services, mounting anomie, and the sheer numbers of neighbors who do not know neighbors.

Beijing, a city of over 17 million inhabitants, exemplifies this social alienation. Until the early 1980s, the Chinese capital was constructed as a multitude of “siheyuans,” or one-story complexes built around a common courtyard that were inhabited by three or four families who shared a single kitchen and water spigot. These courtyards were connected by narrow streets called “hutongs” that formed a grid from north to south and east to west.

This open structure greatly facilitated contact between neighbors, encouraged the sharing of resources, fostered relations between contiguous families, and enabled the elderly to care for children and share with them their passion for songbirds. Because of these characteristics, these almost idyllic structures were described as “collections of small rural villages.”

Until the mid-1980s, only a few skyscrapers disrupted the harmony of the landscape. Today Beijing’s panorama has the look and feel of the ultimate modern city, where, with few exceptions, these “small rural villages” have been supplanted by sterile, towering skyscrapers. This striking change is not limited to external structure; it has also dramatically altered the fabric of human relations.

Physical isolation has led to an increase in crime, destroyed the local sense of solidarity, and contributed to the fragmentation of what were once cohesive family groups. As the distance between home and the workplace has also increased considerably, workers now find themselves devoting what was once valuable family time to exhausting commutes in overcrowded buses or subways.

According to Chen Xitong, a former mayor of Beijing, “the capital is growing increasingly ugly and it is steadily losing its Chinese character. Most of the modern high-rise buildings, with their boring concrete facades, look like dominoes set down in the landscape without plan and without imagination.”

Migration

Rapid urbanization is related in part to population growth and rural migration to large cities. In 2008, the world reached an important milestone: For the first time in history more than half of its human population -3.3 billion people- were living in urban areas. By 2030, their number is expected to swell to almost five billion. Many of the new urbanites will be poor and their future will depend, to a large extent, on decisions made now.

The unchecked growth of the cities is also due to migration—both domestic and external—that many countries are experiencing. The common denominators here are rural poverty, the search for better social and employment opportunities, or flight from political persecution and violence.

An example of the last situation is the urbanization process in Colombia. Unlike the urbanization of most other Latin American countries the process in Colombia was stimulated, and to some extent defined, by episodes of violence, which occurred principally in rural areas. Since the 1930s, violence has been an inescapable fact of Colombian civilian life.

As families were uprooted and displaced by successive waves of violence, they fled en masse to the country’s main cities, where the majority among them now resides in poverty-stricken marginal areas. As a result of the violence either witnessed or experienced first-hand, many of Colombia’s young generation have internalized the culture of aggression into which they were born.

Colombia’s case is certainly not unique. More recently, the rural poor in many other countries throughout the world have been uprooted by violence and forced to flee en masse toward the large urban centers.

Climate Refugees

Large migrations will intensify as changing climate conditions will lead to abandonment of flooded or arid and inhospitable environments. This will lead to serious health problems both from the various stresses of the migration process and from the civil strife that could be caused by the chaotic movement of people. Every year, climate change causes the death of approximately 300,000 people, and seriously affects 325 million, according to the Global Humanitarian Forum.

A climate refugee is a person who is forced to relocate, either to a new country or to a new location within their country, due to the consequences of global warming. Sometimes, climate refugees are classified as environmental refugees. The number of environmental refugees will reach 150 million over the next 50 years, according to Professor Norman Myers of Oxford University.

In Africa, desertification and its consequences in agricultural production is displacing increasingly large amounts of people. Approximately 10 million people in Africa have been forced to migrate over the last two decades as a consequence of desertification and environmental degradation.

In addition, most people in Africa move into mostly marginal urban areas because of poverty, environmental degradation, political persecution, and religious strife. In addition, food insecurity and lack of basic services in the rural areas encourage people’s migration into the cities, where they all too often end up living in marginal areas.

These marginal areas, known as “bidonvilles” in French-speaking West Africa, “ishish” in some Arab countries, “kampungs” in Indonesia, “villas miseria” in Argentina, “favelas” in Brazil, “pueblos jóvenes” in Peru, and “ranchitos” in Venezuela, may contain from 30 percent to 60 percent of the population of many Third World cities, according to Worldwatch Institute.

Among Nations

Many governments attempt to discourage migration from rural areas to the cities, but these measures are by and large unsuccessful. Since large cities enjoy preferential treatment in terms of infrastructure and industrial development, they serve as magnets for the “have-nots.”

Regardless of the big city’s allure, many observers now feel that conditions for the ever-growing numbers of urban poor are most likely worse than for their rural counterparts. The true dimensions of this phenomenon remain elusive, according to World Health Organization expert Dr. I. Tabibzadeh, because the poor are either omitted from official statistics or are not considered separately.

Migrations between countries also continue unabated, usually stimulated by similar factors responsible for internal migration. The Latin American country that has produced the greatest number of migrants is Mexico.

Among Mexicans living abroad, 99 percent can be found in the United States, where income opportunities are greater. In the Southern Cone, Argentina is the main destination for migrants from Paraguay, Uruguay, and Bolivia. In Central America and the Caribbean, the United States is the most frequent destination, although there are also significant migratory flows from the Dominican Republic to Venezuela and Puerto Rico and from Haiti to the Dominican Republic.

Several European countries have attracted a large number of Africans and many Africans form sub-Saharan countries have migrated to north-African countries. In addition, the traditional pattern of migration within and from Africa is changing. A male-dominated process is becoming increasingly feminized.

Migration within and from Asian countries is not a new phenomenon. The current trends and characteristics of migration in the region have been shaped by the political and economic changes in recent decades. It is estimated that more than six million migrants are working in East and Southeast Asia, one third of whom are in irregular situation. Until the recent economic crisis, oil-rich Arab countries had attracted large numbers of Asian workers.

The chaotic growth of today’s cities can no longer be ignored. The great challenge is how to improve the quality of urban life by ensuring harmonious growth. Cities can—and should—learn from the experiences of other cities with similar characteristics. This effort requires not only the participation of urban planners but public health and environmental experts, politicians, and fundamentally, the communities themselves. Only when these actions are carried out will it be possible, perhaps, to reach that almost ideal situation heralded by Hippocrates some 2,600 years ago: a balance between the human organism and its environment.

Dr. César Chelala is a public health consultant for several international organizations.

Source – Epoch Times

Categories: Global Tags:

Urbanization of Africa analyzed

January 12, 2010 Leave a comment

 In 1950, only 14.5% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa lived in the city. In 1980, this percentage increased to 28% and in 1990 to 34%.  It is expected that by 2020, 50% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa will be urbanized and in 2025, this figure will be at 60%. In 1960, Johannesburg was the only city in sub-Saharan Africa with a population of over one million inhabitants.

In 1970, there were 4 cities with over one million inhabitants: Cape Town, Johannesburg (both in South Africa), Kinshasa (in the then Zaire, now Democratic Republic of the Congo), and Lagos (Nigeria). In the late 80s, Abidjan (Ivory Coast, Accra (Ghana), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Dakar (Senegal), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Durban (South Africa), East Rand (South Africa, is now part of the vast metropolitan area of Johannesburg), Harare (Zimbabwe), Ibadan (Nigeria), Khartoum (Sudan), Luanda (Angola) and Nairobi (Kenya) joined the list.

In 2010 it is estimated that at least 33 African cities have a population of over 1 million inhabitants. In 2015, it is estimated that Lagos will have 23 million people, becoming the third megaloplis of the world after Tokyo and Bombay. The capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kinshasa, which in 1940 had a population of 50,000 inhabitants, has now become the 23rd most populous city in the world, with 10 million inhabitants.

Even smaller cities are rapidly expanding. In Kenya, for example, in 1962 there were 34 cities. In 1999, there were 177. In Malawi, the percentage of urban population has grown from 5% in 1960 to 13% in 1995. 75% of the urban population resides in the major cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, and Zomba. The growth rate of urban population is 5.6% per year.

Source – http://www.energypublisher.com/article.asp?id=25023

Categories: Africa Tags:

India – ‘Urban poor not an overspill of rural poverty’

February 10, 2009 Leave a comment

NEW DELHI, Feb. 9: Urban poverty in India is not an overflow of the poverty in villages but result of “poorly planned” urbanisation, according to the country’s first-of-its-kind report on urban poverty.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) sponsored study said an estimated 23.7 per cent urban populace was living in slums amid squalor, crime, disease and tension, but not all slum dwellers exist below the poverty line. Poor city planning and poorer urban land management and laws are to be blamed for the rise in numbers of urban poor, revealed the India:Urban Poverty Report, 2009, released at a function here by the Union minister of housing and urban poverty alleviation, Ms Kumari Selja.

Urban poverty, the report said, was not about only nutritional deficiency but deficiencies in the basic needs of housing, water, sanitation, medical care, education, and opportunity for income generation. “It is not a report on the poor in urban areas but a report on the process of urbanisation in India keeping poverty at the centre of analysis,” said social scientist Prof. Amitabh Kundu, who has played a key role in bringing out the report.

The report revealed that urban workers were being increasingly pushed into the informal sector and the urban poor were a street vendor, a rickshaw puller, a rag picker, a cleaner, a washerman, a load carrier or a domestic servant.

The report that deals in detail with the problem of small and medium cities, said while these workers contributed to the growth of cities, there was a growing trend to push them to the urban periphery. A near absence of rights to land and livelihood, and the higher cost that the poor have to incur on transportation and travel to workplace are some of the highlights of the study.

Quoting latest data from National Sample Survey (NSS), it said it would be dangerous to let the process of urbanisation and migration be centred on a few mega cities, ignoring smaller towns.

The NSS data suggests that poverty in large cities, particularly in metros, was rather low, at or below 10 per cent. Towns with less than 50,000 people, on the other hand, have much higher level of poverty and greater deprivation and the quality of their lives was almost similar to that in rural areas.

Source – The Statesman

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China’s next 30 years: Building the world’s biggest cities

December 10, 2008 Leave a comment

beijingSHANGHAI (AFP) — China’s past 30 years of reforms planted seeds that will in the coming decades produce future coastal megacities, an urban population of one billion and possibly the world’s biggest economy.

What the next 30 years of reforms have in store may be unclear but experts agree with widespread pollution problems and a tidal wave of migration set to hit China’s cities, urbanisation will be the future’s biggest challenge.

“The next 30 years are going to be a critical timetable for addressing all the needs of a large population and how China manages cities,” said James Canton, author of “The Extreme Future”.

By 2025 China’s urban population is expected to rise to 926 million from 572 million in 2005 — an increase equal to the entire current population of the United States, according to management consultants McKinsey & Company. By 2030 that number will increase to a billion.

Over the next two decades China will build 20,000 to 50,000 new skyscrapers — the equivalent of ten New York cities, according to McKinsey.

Read More

Categories: China Tags: ,
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