Friday, December 31, 2010

Slums and Urban Sprawl

% of urban population living in slums (data fr...
Image via Wikipedia

State of the World's Cities 2010/2011 - Bridging the Urban Divide (224 page pdf, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, 2010)

Also discussed here: Cities at Their Best and Worst (The Pump Handle- a water cooler for the public health crowd, Dec. 6, 2010)

Key Quotes:

“Over the past 10 years, the proportion of the urban population living in slums in the developing world has declined from 39 per cent in the year 2000 to an estimated 32 per cent in 2010. And yet the urban divide endures, because in absolute terms the numbers of slum dwellers have actually grown considerably, and will continue to rise in the near future”

“The poor are typically driven to the least developed areas of a city, often places that are poorly integrated to the urban fabric, where dilapidated environments lead to worse health outcomes and greater risks of premature deaths than in improved and well-maintained urban areas”

“one in three urban dwellers lived in slum conditions. Many slums are located on the outskirts of cities.. The population of slum dwellers around the world continues to grow at around 10 percent every year, intensifying the problem worldwide”

Suburbanization and urban sprawl are happening in different places throughout the world, spreading low-density urban patterns and negative environmental, economic and social externalities.. features typically associated with sprawl include overdependence on motorized transport coupled with a lack of alternatives, a relative uniformity of housing options, and pedestrian-unfriendly spaces”

“Suburbanization in developing countries comes mainly as an escape from poor governance, lack of planning and poor access to amenities. Rich and poor escape to find refuge outside the city, which generates further partitioning of the physical and social space”

“child mortality rates remain highly associated with diarrhoeal diseases, malaria and acute respiratory infections related to overcrowding and air pollution; these in turn result from various environmental health hazards such as lack of sanitation and hygiene, lack of access to safe water, poor housing conditions, poor management of solid wastes, and many other hazardous conditions“

Urban corridors, in contrast, present a type of spatial organization with specific economic and transportation objectives. In urban corridors, a number of city centres of various sizes are connected along transportation routes in linear development axes that are often linked to a number of megacities, encompassing their hinterlands”

Indoor air pollution is a “quiet” and overlooked killer, and lack of global awareness is one of the primary obstacles to the widespread implementation of existing, proven responses.. indoor air pollution is responsible for some three million deaths every year. Women who cook in enclosed quarters using biomass fuels and coal are at risk of chronic bronchitis and acute respiratory infections, as are their children, who are often exposed to significant indoor air pollution alongside their mothers on a daily basis.”

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  1. Thank you for mentioning indoor air pollution in your post. You may like to know that the UK government has recently published a paper on this issue. One suggestion, which I think worth considering, is that building regulations could perhaps be adapted to place a little more emphasis upon ventilation. At present, the focus is so much upon energy efficiency that people are living in air-tight boxes where there is ample opportunity for indoor pollution to build up!

  2. Thanks for your comment and your point about the need for ventilation and fresh air to keep indoor air quality from being degraded. This is especially true in cold climate countries, such as Canada, where we need to reduce heating losses by insulation and blocking any air leaks- which as you note can lead to negative impacts on indoor air quality. Is the UK paper available for downloading on the internet? If so could you supply the link please?

  3. Yes, urban sprawl does indeed create places that are unfriendly to non-motorized transportation, hostile to diversity in housing and many other types of lifestyle choices, and the idea of green communities in general. Whether it is the relatively affluent or the extreme poor who are sprawling at the outskirts of cities world-wide, it would be much more efficient in terms of education, energy use, spread of economically useful ideas, and public health if we would voluntarily contain the sprawl.

    Each nation will need to find its own incentives and disincentives to sprawl, but it just needs to stop.