Young boys sifting through waste on a dump
outside a city in Viet Nam
Source: UNEP, Thiyen Nguyen, Viet Nam, Still
Many urban environmental problems are the result
of poor management, poor planning and absence of coherent urban policies
rather than of urbanization itself. Through experience, it has been learned
that no amount of finance, technology or expertise can secure environmentally
sustainable development - or protect the environment - if the fundamentals
of governance are not participatory, democratic and pluralistic. For example,
many developing countries have extensive regulations on pollution, most
of which are seldom if ever applied effectively because of the lack of
proper institutions, legal systems, political will and competent governance
(Hardoy, Mitlin and Satterthwaite 2001). Unfortunately, particularly where
economic and social change is rapid, established political and administrative
institutions have proved highly resistant to change.
The past 30 years have seen significant political change with profound
implications for urban areas and for the urban and global environment.
- the collapse of central planning;
- the extension of democracy;
- decentralization and demands for empowerment and self-determination;
- increasing pluralism in politics and society; and
- pressures for participation, accountability and transparency in government.
These trends appear to be strengthening, reinforced by globalization
and especially by the impact of freer and faster flows of information
Efforts to improve urban governance involve activities such as promoting
participatory processes; developing effective partnerships with and among
all actors of civil society, particularly the private and community sectors;
securing greater effective empowerment of local government, including
greater autonomy in finance and legislation; and reform of unresponsive
organizations and bureaucratic structures.
|The Dandora garbage dump in Nairobi provides a livelihood for many
scavengers. In 1992 Father Alex Zanoteteli started the Mukuru Recycling
Centre, helping the scavengers work together to collect different
types of garbage more efficiently and sell to middlemen for better
prices. The project now has 140 members and with the help of Habitat's
Settlements, Infrastructure and Environment Programme has organized
itself into a cooperative, with several different projects. One buys
waste from individual scavengers, sorts it and sells it to recycling
industries - in addition to running a dairy project. Another gathers
waste from commercial buildings in the city; it earns small fees for
cleaning up the commercial buildings and income from selling the waste
to paper and other recycling industries. A third manufactures fuel
briquettes from paper and other waste such as sawdust and coffee husks.
A fourth manufactures compost from organic waste. The centre is about
to establish a facility for recycling plastic.
|Source: Panos 2001
They also involve city-to-city cooperation and exchange of experiences
and lessons learned. The International Council for Local Environmental
Initiatives works with 286 local governments in 43 countries to improve
local energy management and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Skinner 2000).
Initiatives such as the Stockholm Partnership for Sustainable Cities have
been developed to introduce sustainability into city planning through
partnership between cities and business. Habitat's Local Agenda 21 initiatives
have been proved effective in implementing sustainable development policies
that involve community members and government (Tuts and Cody 2000).
Because of the importance of specific local circumstances and political
realities, there is no viable approach to solving urban environmental
problems that can be applied in every city. A first step is to develop
a local environmental agenda to assess the local situation regarding environmental
issues so that this information can be used in city planning. Whereas
the emphasis in 1970 was largely focused on public policy and regulation,
the focus of the early 1990s was on markets and technical solutions. At
the turn of the century, urban environmental management appears to be
focusing more on changing cultures - corporate, economic and political
|The rise of urban farming
Growing food in and around cities has become a major industry,
vital to the wellbeing of millions of poor and some not-so-poor
urban residents. It is estimated that 15 per cent of all the food
consumed in urban areas is grown by urban farmers and that this
percentage will double within 20 years. Some 800 million people
are estimated to be involved in urban farming worldwide (see 'Land').
The following examples from different regions illustrate the potential
of urban agriculture.
The cultivation of food crops is economically significant in many
African urban areas, where city dwellers pay 10 to 30 per cent more
for their food than do rural inhabitants. In Kenya and Tanzania,
two out of three urban families engage in farming, and nearly every
open space, utility service reserve, road, valley or garden in the
towns has been taken up for crop planting. In Cairo, one-quarter
of all households raise small livestock which provide 60 per cent
of household incomes.
Women play a vital role in urban agriculture, many of whom engage
in cultivation as a survival strategy. This process of the 'ruralization'
of African cities is not a consequence of mass rural-urban migration
but is a response to fluctuations in the economies of developing
countries' cities. Urban cultivation is not practised exclusively
or even primarily by recent migrants. Most farmers originate from
poor households that are fully entrenched in the urban economy.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Every available space - including roofs and balconies - has been
given over to urban food production in Cuba's capital, Havana. Intensive
urban farming methods including hydroponics help secure fresh food
for urban dwellers. The city council facilitates the integrated
management of wastewater for food production.
Regional standards for wastewater treatment are developed by the
Pan American Centre for Sanitary Engineering and Environment Sciences
in Lima, Peru. Systems of wastewater management and re-use at different
levels of purity, from woodlots to aquaculture, are promoted and
utilized in several countries in the region.
Some 72 per cent of all urban households in the Russian Federation
raise food, and Berlin has more than 80 000 urban farmers. The St
Petersburg Urban Gardening Club has become famous for its promotion
of roof top gardening. Its research shows that in just one district
(St Petersburg has 12) it is possible to grow 2 000 tonnes of vegetables
per season from 500 roof tops. Many crops are grown including radishes,
lettuce, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, peas, beets, beans
and flowers. The growth of chicory for salads is encouraged as a
source of vitamins in the winter. Rooftop gardening is popular because
the gardens are secure and cannot be attacked by vandals. The St
Petersburg Urban Gardening Club publishes books and has its own
|Source: UNCHS 2001a and 2001b