Development & Aid, Global, Global Geopolitics, Headlines

HABITAT: In Quest of Urban Success Stories in Improving Environment

Kunda Dixit

DUBAI, Nov 25 1995 (IPS) - The central Chinese city of Benxi used to be so polluted it became invisible in satellite pictures for at least four months in a year. But a decade-long effort by city authorities to curb industrial and vehicle emissions means the air there is breatheable again.

There are about 50,000 families in Colombia who earn a living scavenging urban waste and recycling plastics, metal scraps and paper. Since 1986, a local voluntary group has helped ‘recicladores’ improve working conditions and meet their medical, schooling and housing needs.

Twenty years ago, a quarter of Bangkok’s population lived in slums. Today, thanks to a unique bank that mobilises public savings to give the poor housing loans, only nine percent of Bangkok’s seven million people live in shanty-towns.

United Nations statistics about the growth of the world’s cities are frightening, and indicate a bleak future of over- crowding, crime and deteriorating living conditions. But the above three stories show there is still hope.

Ahead of a big international conference in Istanbul next year, the United Nations is trying to publicise the good news so that others around the world can learn and replicate them.

The Chinese success in Benxi, for instance, is now being emulated by other heavily polluted cities like Teheran and Kathmandu.

Colombia and the Philippines are learning from each other about raising living standards of scavengers, and housing authorities in India and Indonesia want to copy the Thai success story.

The Istanbul conference, called HABITAT II or The City Summit, is being organised by the Nairobi-based United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNHCS) which wants to make a list of 500 such success stories.

Called the The Best Practices Initiative, the search for good news will catalogue the best urban practices so that other parts of the world with similar problems can benefit.

“Best Practices will help those who need it most. Utilising the knowledge it makes available can make a house liveable, reduce poverty and pollution, or create safe, green space allowing children to be children,” says Waly N’Dow, who heads preparations for the Istanbul conference.

By June next year, a panel of judges will have short-listed 500 of the most worthy efforts to improve urban living conditions. Some 100 will be called Best Practices and publicised internationally.

 
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Development & Aid, Global, Global Geopolitics, Headlines

HABITAT: In Quest of Urban Success Stories in Improving Environment

Kunda Dixit

DUBAI, Nov 25 1995 (IPS) - The central Chinese city of Benxi used to be so polluted it became invisible in satellite pictures for at least four months in a year. But a decade-long effort by city authorities to curb industrial and vehicle emissions means the air there is breatheable again.
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