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Urban Development

Colombo: Beyond concrete and asphalt

Darshani De Silva's picture
To ensure their city remains sustainable, Colombo’s citizens need to co-exist and build harmonious relationships with natural ecosystems and the biodiversity that thrives in them
To ensure their city remains sustainable, Colombo’s citizens need to co-exist and build harmonious relationships with natural ecosystems and the biodiversity that thrives in them

Protecting nature in Sri Lanka’s capital for resilience and sustainability

The world is urbanizing at a very fast pace – but it seems like Sri Lanka is an exception.

In 2014, the island was listed as one of the least urbanized countries in the World Urbanization Prospects (WUP),  with less than 20 percent of the population in urban areas. By 2050, WUP projected that number would rise to only 30 percent.
Does this mean we still have to worry about the country’s urbanization? The short answer is yes.

This is, after all, an island nation with one of the highest population densities, complex and evolving social systems and intricate ecosystems.

Meanwhile, urbanization, even at relatively slower pace, is still changing migration patterns, altering the way urban populations consume resources, and impacting the affordability of land and other assets.

These, in turn, are increasing the demand for resources. Growing inequality can be seen as a result of the displacement of less affluent communities, while the loss of important ecosystems has negatively affected resilience and sustainability.

UN-Habitat Executive Director: Let’s work together to implement the New Urban Agenda

Sameh Wahba's picture
During the Ninth Session of the World Urban Forum (WUF9) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the World Bank delegation met with Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat).

Ms. Sharif became the Executive UN-Habitat in December 2017, succeeding Joan Clos of Spain. She was previously Mayor of the City Council of Penang Island, Malaysia, where she led the Municipal Council of Seberang Perai to achieve its vision of a “cleaner, greener, safer and healthier place to work, live, invest and play.”

In 2011, Ms. Sharif was the first woman to be appointed president of the Municipal Council of Seberang Perai, where she collaborated with the World Bank on urban development projects.

Under Ms. Sharif’s leadership, UN-Habitat has focused WUF9’s theme on “Cities 2030, Cities for all: Implementing the New Urban Agenda” as a tool and accelerator for achieving Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Watch a video blog of UN-Habitat Executive Director Maimunah Mohd Sharif (@MaimunahSharif) and World Bank Director Sameh Wahba (@SamehNWahba) where they discuss the importance of collaboration and partnership for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.


Formula E drives electric mobility innovation

Max Thabiso Edkins's picture

To be honest, I have never really been a fan of motorsport racing, but Formula E is something different. Regular sports car racing has always felt too loud, too polluting and a bit pointless, but electric car racing is changing my perception rapidly. The most recent Formula E race and associated FIA Smart Cities event in Santiago, Chile last week highlighted the importance of sustainable mobility and the advantages of advancing electric technology as quickly as possible. Extremely fast electric cars, whooshing by cheering audiences with a distinctly electric whizzing sound, made me realize that the future is definitely now.

How do city leaders get things done? Learning from mayors in Japan

Sameh Wahba's picture
Also available in: Español | 日本語 
Picture of the Competitive Cities Technical Deep Dive participants enjoying a walk through the Minato Mirai 21 area (with the Cosmo Clock in the background), which aims to concentrate high-value added activities and a high quality of life in an integrated urban core in downtown Yokohama. Photo Credit: TDLC
The task of mayors and city leaders is no longer limited to providing efficient urban services to their citizens. Job creation is at the forefront of the economic development challenge globally.

Cities need jobs and opportunities for their citizens and the means to generate tax revenues to fund projects that meet their populations’ growing demand for basic services. The WBG flagship report on Competitive Cities outlines how creating jobs in urban areas – urgently but also at scale– is essential.
In November, 2017, we spent a week with approximately 30 city and national government officials and policymakers from several countries, including Argentina, Chile, Croatia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Philippines, Romania, South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda. These leaders represented diverse cities across the world, all with a common objective – how to make their cities and regions more competitive?

Many were dealing with a fragmented institutional landscape, often with overlapping jurisdictions – necessitating clarity of institutional circuits and processes. Some struggled to coordinate economic development strategies with private sector. Lack of adequate sub-national socio-economic data to drive evidence-based policy making compounded issues. City leaders are not looking for a lesson in theory – but evidence of what works and what doesn’t, and practical, implementable examples of how to get things done.
We spent the week as part of a Technical Deep Dive, studying and living the experience of two exceptional Japanese cities - Yokohama and Kobe. These cities have dealt with:
  • population influx,
  • industrialized at a rapid pace,
  • responded to environmental challenges,
  • reached the technological frontier,
  • undergone a housing bubble,
  • and even went through a major disaster (the Kobe earthquake) and recovered from it.

National and local leaders in Latin America: Sustainable cities are resilient cities

Sameh Wahba's picture
Cities are critical engines of global growth. But as cities grow, they’re increasingly vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters.
The year of 2017 was one of many recent reminders of that “new normal”—from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria that pounded coastal United States and the Caribbean to the severe drought that struck Somali, which led to the displacement and even life losses of individuals and families.
Even when lives are not threatened, livelihoods are at stake: Without major action taken to invest in urban resilience, climate change may force up to 77 million urban residents back into poverty by 2030.
[Report: Investing in Urban Resilience]

This helps explain why many city leaders attending the World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this week resonate with the same message: Sustainable cities are resilient cities.
At the forum, we spoke with national, municipal, and civil society leaders on the issue of urban resilience—including ministers and mayors from three Latin American countries, a region full of emerging cities and aspiring populations that are no stranger to hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. 
Watch the videos below and leave a comment to let us know what your city may be doing differently to enhance urban resilience.

Michael Berkowitz
President, 100 Resilient Cities

Antananarivo: A city for whom?

Salim Rouhana's picture
Photo: Michel Matera/World Bank

Planning is a theme in cities as ancient as Rome, Cairo, and Athens to as modern as New York and Singapore. It is used as an instrument to manage collective living. Planning remains key in shaping the urban contract of how and to what end people are willing to inhabit the same space.
Madagascar is witnessing rapid urbanization. From an overall population of 24.8 million (2016), the country has close to 7 million urbanites, compared to 2.8 million in 1993. Cities generate about 3/4 of the national GDP, with the capital city, Antananarivo, contributing more than 50%.

In Africa, sustainable urbanization starts with effective financial management

Sameh Wahba's picture
In most developing countries, cities are struggling with the demands of growing urbanization. A major challenge is the lack of sufficient, effectively managed financial resources. For instance, the global investment needed for urban infrastructure is $4.5-5.4 trillion per year, a figure that dwarfs official development assistance.
To bridge the municipal financing gap, cities must take coordinated action with partners, such as private investors and multilateral development agencies to build financial management institutions that are sustainable, accountable, and stable.
[Report: Africa’s Cities: Opening Doors to the World]

In East Africa, the World Bank has an operational portfolio of almost $1 billion in urban projects focused on improving financial and institutional performance across multiple local governments in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, as well as operations that focus in-depth on big city governments. 
For example, in Uganda, World Bank projects in Kampala increased its inflation-adjusted revenues by approximately 10% in one year, and the secondary city clean audit report performance has improved from 36% to 100% over a period of two years.

Watch a conversation between World Bank Director Sameh Wahba (@SamehNWahba) and Jennifer Musisi (@KCCAED), Executive Director, Kampala Capital City Authority to learn more about Kampala’s transformation in recent years in municipal financing, and what other countries and cities can learn from this experience.

Energy challenges in the Kyrgyz Republic: It’s time to act!

Zamir Chargynov's picture
Last week, a technical failure occurred at Bishkek’s Heat and Power Plant, leaving parts of the capital city temporarily without power and heat supply. People residing in buildings connected to the district heating system experienced very cold and uncomfortable conditions, made worse by the exceptionally harsh winter this year. While the specific causes of the incident are still being investigated, it seems clear that old equipment at the Plant which is being operated well beyond its shelf-life was behind the failure.

Bishkek Heat and Power Plant

Maximizing finance for sustainable urban mobility

Daniel Pulido's picture
Photo: ITDP Africa/Flickr

The World Bank Group (WBG) is currently implementing a new approach to development finance that will help better support our poverty reduction and shared prosperity goals. This crucial effort, dubbed Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD), seeks to leverage the private sector and optimize the use of scarce public resources to finance development projects in a way that is fiscally, environmentally, and socially sustainable.
There are several reasons why cities and transport planners should pay close attention to the MFD approach. First, while the need for sustainable urban mobility is greater than ever before, the available financing is nowhere near sufficient—and the financing gap only grows wider when you consider the need for climate change adaptation and mitigation. At the same time, worldwide investment commitments in transport projects with private participation have fallen in the last three years and currently stand near a 10-year low. When private investment does go to transport, it tends to be largely concentrated in higher income countries and specific subsectors like ports, airports, and roads. Finally, there is a lot of private money earning low yields and waiting to be invested in good projects. The aspiration is to try to get some of that money invested in sustainable urban mobility.

Resilient Haitian cities – live today but think about tomorrow!

Sameh Wahba's picture

Landing in Port-au-Prince awakens your senses. Exiting the airplane, you are re-energized by the explosion of colors, the welcoming smiles, and the warm weather – particularly when coming from a cold January in Washington, D.C.  Loud honking, a high density of houses and buildings, and streets bustling with pedestrians and small informal businesses are all evidence of the rapid urbanization process in Haiti.
As soon as you land, the challenges of the city are evident; Port-au-Prince expands to the ocean on flat plains exposed to flooding and quickly rises on steep hills with challenging access and risks of landslides and flash floods.  The reconstruction efforts after the earthquake in 2010 are still ongoing, and many of the houses seem to be hanging from the sky, perched on steep slopes. If you look at the houses from afar they appear as a single skyscraper, as distance makes the houses seem as if they are built on top of the one another. These false skyscrapers are highly exposed to landslides, flooding and earthquakes.