Friday, January 23, 2009

Urban poverty, climate change and built environment

Huraera Jabeen in the Daily Star (Bangladesh): Bangladesh is considered highly vulnerable climate change and climate variability. Various predictions of sea level rise puts 55% of its population on the threat of inundation. It will affect infrastructures including water systems, housing and settlements, transport networks, utilities, and industry.

….Urban poverty in Bangladesh is evident in all the towns and cities. It is estimated that 43% of urban households live below the poverty line among which 23% are considered extreme poor. Around 35% of the population of six major cities live in slums which cover only 4% of their land area with limited or no access to services. Fighting poverty in urban area requires a multi faceted approach of economic, social, cultural, political as well as physical agenda.

…Designers of built environment can contribute in three areas for improving living environment for the urban poor: in building design; in settlement planning and design as well as in urban planning. Within these three areas they are to work with housing standards, environmental sustainability, economic affordability, structure as well as aesthetics for individual structures.

...Adaptation in built environment will have to emphasize exploring innovative measures affordable for the urban poor. Deriving a 'standard' can be an outcome of an interactive and spontaneous participatory and self mobilizing planning process. Bangladesh has experience on community based disaster management. There are enormous possibilities to explore how the built environment of the urban areas can be designed and improved to include the urban poor in city level development process. These can include how to invest in resilient infrastructure -- improving drainage, adequate disaster-safe housing, increasing access to services such as health, water and sanitation, increased security of tenure for the informal settlements etc….

Rush hour in Dhaka, shot by Soman, Wikimedia Commons, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License

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