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Urban Development

Changing Climate – Changing Cities

Since 2007 more people live in cities than in rural regions worldwide (see Spektrum.de). Particularly in developing countries the urban population has been increasing rapidly over the last decades (see bpb). In contrast to developed countries more people from poor and developing countries migrated to urban regions since 1950 (see fifoost). Their aim was to find new sources of income in urban areas. Cities in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Argentinia, Brazil and the Philippines are suddenly amongst the top 20 of the most populous cities worldwide (see weltbevoelkerung.de, more detailed information and country profiles on the website of the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs).

By emigrating from rural areas, where droughts, floods and/or desertification threatened their livelihood, rural people wanted to escape from hunger and water scarcity. However, most of them do not have the financial resources and the time to plan their migration in order to actually improve their situation. Often they settle down in slums or the urban fringe where land cannot be used, water supply is (almost) not existing and sanitation facilities are lacking. The increasing urbanisation is therefore actually enhancing the climate change effects.

According to a new study by Farhan Anwar about Karachi (Pakistan), adaptation and mitigation strategies need to be developed and implemented urgently for the city with more than 13 million inhabitants. Karachi is located at the Arabic See and is affected by

  • Sea level rise
  • Floods
  • Droughts
  • Urban heat island effect (it is much warmer within cities than in the surrounding area, for more information see epa.gov).

If adaptation strategies are not efficiently developed within the next years the living standards of Karachi’s inhabitants will be worsening significantly. Along with many other cities, Karachi has to draft strategies to tackle climate change!

The Camotes Islands in Cebu examplify how villages and towns have already reacted to the changing environment (see The Inquirer). The region is affected by droughts, sea level rise, floods and storms. They implemented a strategy which consisted of a mixture of recycling, compost, voluntary donations to the emergency fund for prevention and preparedness, and the planting of trees in previously cleared areas. Thereby, the region became sustainable, despite climate change!

Cities of the world can learn from this example of Good Governance. However, they must avoid just copying the applied methods of the Camotes Islands. The Camotes Islands adapted and applied a method previously used by its indigenous people. Therefore, the involved people most likely knew about the methods and, as a result, it was propably easier to accept the change within a short period of time and to actually implement the new strategy.

If climate change proceeds as quick as it has happened until now, with increasingly more storms, droughts, floodings and glaciar melting, which threaten the livelihood of people, more and more people will migrate to urban areas. Adaptation strategies have to be developed for urban areas but also for rural regions! People from rural areas have skills and experience which are rarely needed in the city’s employment market. These people are experts in their field and, therefore, their skills and knowledge should be used to develop adaptation strategies in rural regions. They know best about problems and possibilities in rural areas. But also, cities should give rural residents, who want to live in urban areas, the chance to find work (in addition with training).

If you think of developing adaptation strategies for the city you should never forget to keep in mind the surrounding area and agriculture as well! Only strategies which picture urban and rural life as a closed cycle in the light of specific regional characteristics (geography, geology, climate, tradition, religion, culture, etc.) might have a chance to be successfully implemented.




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