Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Accelerated migration and climate change a recipe for social disaster, says UN

Leslie Goering in Reuters AlertNet: Climate change is speeding up chaotic urbanisation which will be a "recipe for social disaster" if cities do not learn to manage and prepare for it better, the head of the United Nations' agency for human settlements said this week. Half of the world's people now live in cities and by 2050, that share is expected to go up to 70 percent, said Anna Tibaijuka, executive director of UN-HABITAT, which promotes sustainable towns and cities.

Ninety percent of that growth will come in developing-world cities, she said, including megacities vulnerable to climate change like Lagos in Nigeria and Mumbai in India. Half of the population of such cities already lives in vulnerable conditions - in flood-prone slums, without formal jobs, with limited access to health or emergency services, and with little political clout.

Add worsened climate-related flooding, drought and storms as well as millions of new migrants arriving from the countryside, and a situation that is already "chaotic and unsustainable" threatens to become disastrous, Tibaijuka said at a London conference on the future of cities. Cities will be "severely tested by these challenges," the Tanzanian economist predicted.

… Taking action to plan for expected growth and climate problems is crucial, particularly in cities including Shanghai in China, Dhaka in Bangladesh, Alexandria in Egypt and Mumbai which are forecast to experience some of the worst climate-related flooding, said David Satterthwaite, an expert on human settlements at the International Institute of Environment and Development in London.

Key actions include include building climate adaptation efforts into overall development plans, improving and decentralising governance, expanding basic water, drainage, health and emergency services for the poor and recognising that the worst extreme weather events of the last 30 or 40 years might be a good guide as to what may become regular in the future, said Satterthwaite, who works with slum-dweller associations around the world. …

A street market in Mumbai

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