Thursday, June 23, 2011

Urbanising Asia unprepared for climate change

Thin Lei Win in AlertNet: Asian cities, for all their economic growth and productivity, have paid insufficient attention to the environmental and climate change issues stoking the region’s problems with poverty, development and ecology, a United Nations report released Wednesday said. “Making cities more sustainable in the future is one of the greatest challenges facing governments, civil society and the business sector in Asia,” said State of Asian Cities 2010/2011,” the first-ever such report.

The report, by the U.N.’s housing agency UN-HABITAT and the regional U.N. commission UNESCAP, was launched as part of the ongoing Asia Pacific Urban Forum. It said Asia is confronting a complex set of challenges – reducing poverty, changes in consumption and environmental pollution – in a much shorter time span than industrialised countries did earlier.

The average ecological footprint – a measure of the amount of land required to sustain one individual – is five hectares per head in most Asian cities today. This is lower than those in developed countries, but is on an upward trend and is “unsustainable,” the report added. Experts say unchecked urbanisation combined with sudden influxes of people, lack of planning, poor infrastructure as well as inadequate waste management and drainage systems both damage the environment and increase the number of people exposed to climate-related weather events in Asia.

Climate change is expected to raise sea levels, affect monsoon and rainfall patterns and increase the frequency of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, cyclones and heat waves in the region that is already the most disaster-prone in the world. The impacts on Asian and Pacific cities will “affect not only the human but also the physical, economic and social environments,” the report noted. Asia is urbanising rapidly. In the most populous region in the world, over the last two decades the increased Asian urban population equalled the combined populations of the United States and the European Union….

A map of Manila in 1851

No comments: