To Sustainability and Resilience – UN World Cities Day 2018

2018 is going to be the fourth year to be celebrating 31st of October as the chosen day by United Nations as the World Cities Day. With cities being that ‘promised land’, offering a wide variety of opportunities; to earn, to socialise, to study, to get lost in the crowd, to get discovered etc with the list going on and on. People all over the world in huge numbers are every day moving to a city for all kinds of reasons with the major ones being to get access to economic and social mores. The UN has predicted that by 2050, around 68% of the world’s populations would have migrated to the cities that are the urban areas.

On the one hand, a city is just the right environment where dreams come true, due to the opportunities it has to offer. And on the other hand, people struggle every day to survive and make ends meet. With an influx of people with every passing day, it forms an excessive load on the city ’s infrastructure. In addition, the higher cost of living expenses of the city life forces a huge chunk of the workforce to live on the periphery of these cities with poor living conditions. These poor living conditions and stresses of the everyday struggles add up to cause frustration and higher crime rates in these areas as well. Further, as a result of environmental degradation and global warming, natural disasters are increasing all over the world with people in the cities, especially those living in temporary settlements and/or on the periphery becoming the most vulnerable to them. Conditions like these not only poses a higher threat to their life but for those who live to get trapped in the ‘poverty cycle’ due to the poor infrastructure.

The ‘Urban Poor’ community, that keeps enlarging as the cities are enlarging is the most neglected. They not only have to deal with problems like bad housing, sanitation, electricity etc but also do not have access to the most basic necessities such as nutritious food. Due to their low incomes, they are only able to afford high-calorie food items or the plastic vegetables that are available in the city supermarkets whereas the urban elite enjoys food grown without chemicals at expensive ‘Farmer’s Markets’. This also owing to the fact that the elites have bigger houses with the possibility of kitchen gardens and the poor neither have the time, space or the resources to source healthy vegetables. Thus, causing malnutrition which has now become a major point of concern amongst cities worldwide.

These are a few problems that cities everywhere face, the UN World Cities Day came about with the intention of collaboration, cooperation and to approach the challenges of urbanisation globally. In this light, this years theme is ‘Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities’. A sustainable city is the one that not just consumers but is structured to keep its carbon footprint to the minimum and is sensitive towards the environment. And a resilient city is one which is able to absorb shocks like natural disasters, manmade calamities, implement strategies to eliminate the vulnerabilities of its inhabitants and acclimatising to change easily.

Encouraging or instituting ‘community kitchens’ in the periphery areas for its residents to grow their own food organically to promote eco-friendly ways of living and co-operation amongst its community members would be a good example of a policy that promotes sustainability and resilience.

 

Tripat Sekhon is a Research Intern at The Kootneeti

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