Adversity and urban planning: designing safer, more resilient cities

Beyond such relatively static elements as street grids, height limits, and land use designations, effective urban planners must find ways to weigh competing interests, include diverse participants, and prepare for an array of dangers and disasters, both natural and human-made. From urban crime to disaster preparedness, cities around the world face the challenge of anticipating stakeholder conflicts, managing risks, and dealing equitably with social clashes and catastrophes. What strategies and approaches are proving helpful to city planners as they navigate these rough waters? What new modes of participation are available to ensure that the needs of all urban communities are understood and met, and that resources are fairly allocated and sustainably employed? This conversation will explore the specific risks and conflicts urban planners confront, how they are meeting those demands in ways that are both effective and inclusive, and what else they need to close gaps and scale solutions to benefit the full range of city residents.

 
Conversation hosted in partnership with UN-HABITAT and the Ford Foundation in conjunction with WUF 7.

Click on the pictures to see each panelist's perspective below.

Saima Sultana Jaba Kathryn Ewing Jorge Bela Priyanka Jain white white

 

Saima Sultana Jaba

 
Saima Sultana Jaba — Dhaka Community Manager

 

The cost of Dhaka's traffic congestion is US$3 billion a year, and over 8 million hours daily. And traffic is only one of Dhaka's many issues: according to the 2013 Economist Intelligence Unit's Global Livability Survey, Dhaka is ranked the world's second least livable city in terms of crime levels, threat of conflict, quality of medical care, levels of censorship, temperature, schools, and transportation.

Although Dhaka has recently experienced noticeable economic growth, the city remains poor, and 4.1 million of the city's 14 million residents live in slums. Approximately 300,000 to 400,000 migrants arrive in the overpopulated city each year, and many make slums their first home. The conditions in these slums are dire — there is overflowing garbage, blocked drains, and the communal latrines are dirty and dangerous for women and children. To make matters worse, Dhaka is vulnerable to natural disasters, and the densely built slums are at risk of flooding and fires.

Another aspect of Dhaka's urban policy challenge is that over 50 percent of the city's population is invisible to formal policy and planning institutions. Official classification of the city's inhabitants is such that the census and other public surveys can only account for those who live in or own a formal household. Legally, informal settlements are not entitled to public services, but through a network of informal channels complicit with the lower reaches of public agencies, electricity and water are extracted and distributed at prices that far outstrip official rates.

Despite individual residents' resiliency, Dhaka suffers structurally from poor city management and a corrupt political system, both of which neglect those most in need of assistance.

Dhaka Community Manager Saima Sultana Jaba is from Faridpur, a rural area in Bangladesh, but now lives in Chittagong, where she is a student at the Asian University for Women majoring in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and minoring in Development Studies. Saima works as a research assistant at the Research Center on Development and Humanitarian Action in her university, and is a communication chair at the Coordinating Committee of Urban Poverty in Dhaka project. As a proud Bangladeshi woman, she is interested in pursuing her Masters in Development and aims to be a development practitioner in Bangladesh.

 

Comments

Jorge Bela's picture

En los artículos de esta semana podemos encontrar un tema común: la capacidad de salir adelante por parte de las comunidades aún cuando las autoridades no presten el apoyo necesario. En algunos casos, el sector público no solo ignora los problemas de los sectores mas pobres, sino que adoptan medidas que son perjudiciales para estos colectivos. Dhaka es un ejemplo de esto: las autoridades ignoran aproximadamente a un 50% de la población utilizando métodos censales inadecuados que no consideran las poblaciones en asentamientos informales. Quizá esto sea el fruto de malas políticas públicas, o quizá simplemente sea cuestión de conveniencia política. Saima apunta como redes informales puede suministrar algunos servicios esenciales que la Alcaldía local ni siquiera intentar proveer.

Kathryn nos recuerda un tema recurrente en nuestros diálogos: en los barrios mas pobres los espacios públicos son insuficientes y se encuentran en mal estado. Cuando la población mas desfavorecida intenta hacer suyo el espacio público disponible encuentra fuertes resistencias por parte de la autoridad. La única solución a este problema pasa por que los planes urbanos consideren las necesidades de espacio público de estas poblaciones, haciendo así irrelevante el problema de la ocupación irregular. Una vez mas, el programa Bhagidari en Delhi nos recuerda como las comunidades locales deben organizarse y formar coaliciones para resolver los problemas mas inmediatos. Y de nuevo Priyanca nos recuerda como las autoridades locales, que no fueron capaces de prestar los servicios en primer lugar, luego crean dificultades burocráticas para iniciativas como las del proyecto Bhagidari.

Finalmente, el caso de Bogotá es atípico, en el sentido de que el control de las inundaciones está fuera del control de las comunidades. También es atípico que las inundaciones de 2010 y 2011 afectaron tanto a los barrios mas pobres como a los mas ricos, algo muy inusual en una ciudad fuertemente segregada. En este caso, problemas políticos y burocráticos, y ciertos intereses privados son la causa de que el problema aún no se haya resuelto.

ENGLISH

On this week's articles we can see a common theme: resilience even if the local authorities fail to provide the necessary support. In some cases, the public sector not only ignores the poor, but adopt measures that are detrimental for them. Such is the case of Dhaka, were the city manages to ignore not less than 50% of the population by using inadequate census methods. Perhaps is just bad policy, perhaps it is politically convenient. Saima points out how informal networks provide for some of the basic services that the City does not care to provide.

Kathryn points out to a recurring theme: urban spaces are neglected in the less affluent neighborhoods. When the poor attempt to appropriate public space on their own, they meet stiff resistance from authority. But the only solution to this problem is planning that takes into account the public space needs of the poor, thus mooting the informal occupation of public spaces. Once again, the Bhagidari Program in Delhi points out at the need of the local communities to organize and form coalitions to solve immediate problems. An once again, Priyanka mentions how local authorities, who failed to provide a solution on the first place, create bureaucratic obstacles to the actions of the Bhagidari Program.

Finally, the Bogotá case is a bit unusual in two counts: flood control is mostly out of the reach of local communities, and the massive floods of 2010 and 2011 affected both the very rich and the very poor. A common predicament is unusual in a city otherwise strongly segregated. Here political constraints, bureaucratic hurdles and not so obscure private interests are the root cause of the problem.

tuliomateo's picture

In countries where the social cohesion is weak, it might be harder to arrange the connection between local government and community. After the earthquake in Haiti, this was part of the case. At present many NGOs work towards resilience in urban areas while engaging communities, but still local governments do not reach these areas as they should. Updated norms and regulations are far from the dense urban reality.

There is a gap that might not be solved soon. Government want a controlled, low-risk density but people would just go on building on top of each other, even supported by NGOs (working upwards yet slowly?). As someone said in a previous day, there are some tough decisions to be made. Some of these decisions are to really improve these areas despite the potential market profit.

Slums are now 'fundamental' to city growth and development. While they are not private nor public, they draw a lot of resources. They generate income; they have hardworking women and men; children to educate; and, for politicians, they have voters. There lies the importance of organisation, coalition, or any other community approach: it would maximize the results for the people!

It is good to highlight that awareness-raising campaigns to build "resistant housing" in Haiti has enhanced construction workers' conceptual knowledge. It is now their choice to do properly -design and materials. This has been an initiative by NGOs and local government.

Jorge Bela's picture

I would add that risk prevention should also be present in all public policy decisions. Too often slums grow into high risk areas.

Saima Sultana Jaba's picture

Though the current policy of Bangladesh is trying to promote human rights, often it fails to establish social justice and to give value and attitudes regarding societal changes, especially of urban slum dwellers. Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS)-UNICEF survey released a report that urban slums have the worst performance regarding women’s and children’s well-being and access to basic services compared to rural and non-slum urban areas (UNICEF, 2010). Moreover, most slum areas were not recognized as legitimate settlements and therefore were not included in urban planning processes. It seems that the current national policies and actions impede the 50 percent Dhaka’s population to get the public services for example access of water, sanitation, cooking fuel, housing, and education.

Slum improvement is comparatively a new initiative in the development area of Bangladesh. It started in 1980s with UNICEF supported Slum Improvement Project in Dhaka City and some other Municipalities. Besides many NGOs are working on focusing Water Supply Sanitation, Primary Health care and gender education inside the Dhaka city. Habitat for Humanity is pioneering a new approach to addressing the issues that are unique to the urban environment. It is a long-term approach, with a focus on building the capacity of slum residents to identify possible risk areas and prepare for disaster.

Indeed, the national policies in Bangladesh must emphasize on the right of accessibility as well as affordability because it is collective good and effective for everyone.

Carlin Carr's picture

Saima, I was in Dhaka a few years back for the country's First Urban Forum, where the first policy on urban development was presented. I was surprised, coming from a few years of working on urban issues in India, that Bangladesh was just starting off down this road in 2011, when the country had clearly been urbanizing for a couple of decades. I could quickly see many of the issues you discuss above in terms of livability, particularly the traffic situation. The absence of infrastructure development was clear. It seemed to me that in the absence of political planning for urban development, civil society and multilaterals were filling the gap, albeit ad hoc. This encounter reinforced the importance of national policies in connecting the dots for all the good work NGOs and others are doing on the ground, especial in complex megacities such as Dhaka. While I agree with many of the ideas this week about the acknowledgement and perhaps official incorporation of citizen-led work, these fundamental policies are the launching pads for roadmapping the direction of development. I'm curious to know where Bangladesh stands now with its national urban policy and if it has been incorporated, has it had any tangible impact yet?

Gemma Todd's picture

A great topic again – thank you! I think the discussion points raised by the panellists are crucial, of which Jorge has nicely summarised. I agree with Kathryn in the sense that urban public space needs to be appropriated, it has become exclusive in several contexts, designed as a luxury, or a space increasingly neglected due to fear and crime. For example recent proposals to build a public space in Mwanza, Tanzania, by NSSF were quickly turned into a private space. Ignoring proposals and suggestions to build open sports facilities or public transport systems designs have unveiled a plan for another new hotel. We need a revitalisation in how we use public space, create shared spaces, and envision the use of such spaces. The notion of promoting public space development to ensure safer, and open, urban environments refers back to Jane Jacobs, whom argued urban development and planning needs to be community-based and communities have the ability to manage their own security. Such approaches are vital to empower sense of ownership and legitimacy to occupy urban space.

It comes back to how locals are perceived within the participatory complex. Are locals seen as merely the consumer public – therefore the solution is imposed on them to be brought, or knowledge experts – whereby they are recognised as knowledge holders with an obligation to assist and design the city. Within promoting participation local city dwellers continue to be viewed as the former; with responsibility transferred to the state and other institutions. Locals need to be integrated as vital components of urban space production and planning. Urban planners need to change how locals are viewed and their degree of ‘expertise’.

I believe the community requires greater involvement; however, I would like to raise two additional points. First, it remains important not to ‘romanticise’ the poor, and/or the ‘community’. Second, a shift is required whereby the community action is recognised across multiple scales. Community mapping techniques – such as ‘Harassmap’ in Egypt – offer a way for hegemony to be critiqued and new discourses of city life, fear, and crime, to be noticed. The public need new platforms to plan and design city space, both physical and virtual.

Katy Fentress's picture

The discourse on public space is extremely important and is one that needs to be constantly stressed not only in large informal settlements but in cities across the world and in different neighbourhoods whatever the income bracket.

Not everyone has the luck Italians have with their many piazzas when it comes to pubic space. So many planning departments inadequately incorporate public spaces into their formal residential urban planning and in the case of many European cities, youth have traditionally had to take it upon themselves to reclaim such spaces by squatting big buildings and turning them into social centres.

In Nairobi what little public space there was in the centre of town has slowly evaporated and between the ban on loitering in front of banks and the paucity of public seating it is difficult (with a couple of exceptions) to find a place to sit down and have a sandwich much less an actual public space where people can congregate.

Nairobi's upper classes fare little better as for them it is the option between their walled houses, walled members' clubs or walled commercial centres, none of which exactly celebrate the idea of an open public space. However as we move down the social scale we find that the lower we get, the more important a role public space takes in people's lives (so much of which is already lived out on the street) and how they become increasingly keen to reclaim and/or defend it.

In Nairobi's Mathare slum, despite the tight conditions that people live in, we find that the now famous Austin's field - a reclaimed space home to one of the biggest football clubs in the area, is fiercely guarded and is a space in which residents have actively resisted the encroachment of developers and those who would like to see the field reverted to its former use as a communal dumpsite.

Nairobi artists and musicians from Kibera slum have also long campaigned for the valorisation of their public space and their installations and campaigns may so far have stemmed the decrease of the little public space that is left there. Nairobi even has Upendo Hero, its very own Public Space Superhero so the topic is definitely hot.

Cynically, it is tempting to argue that it is not in a government's interest to provide public spaces to the lower strata of society because by doing so they could be opening up space for dissent and unrest to brew. Authorities tend not to like seeing idle youth congregate in big groups as it is easier to keep them under control when they are more divided up. So if communities are to change the view planners have of them, it is largely down to them to kick off this shift and actively campaign for the change they want, instead of waiting for it to be bestowed upon them by some benevolent urban planner.

Gemma Todd's picture

Thank you Katy for sharing some of Nairobi's experiences, it is a clear articulation of how urban space continues to be divided and the concern with public space definitely needs stressing! I completely agree the community needs to actively engage in campaigning for change rather then awaiting the urban planner to enforce another revisioned top-down approach, which is why I find your examples from Nairobi so inspiring. But I also feel the urban planners themselves need significant changes too. As you said authorities perceive youths as 'idle' and 'troublemakers' when their is a space for them to congregate, forcing them to take action and disperse public users, in seeking to create a sense of 'order' and 'clean' city. Urban planners and design in several African contexts remain fixed on a certain idea of what public space should be, who can occupy it, and what it should be used for, which requires changing by both community members and urban planners among others.

I wonder what impact the Upendo Hero, or work carried out by Musicians and Artists in Nairobi having? Are changes being noticed?

Priyanka Jain's picture

I agree with you, Gemma. Your remark about perception of youth as 'idle' and 'troublemakers' has strong resonance in India where 50% of the population is below the age of 35. It is essential to welcome them into the ambit of decision-making rather than control their occupation of public spaces.

Carlin Carr's picture

What has always troubled me about the parks in Mumbai is that they are closed for the majority of the day. Most of the them are open for a few hours in the morning and then reopen again in the evening. For the majority of the day, when city is sizzling and people need an escape from the heat, they are all locked up. These closing times are particularly troublesome for the informal workforce, such as maids, cooks and domestic workers who skip around from house to house throughout the day and would be able to meet up with friends or take a short break in these parks. Also, children who don't live in the big housing societies with their own green space and playgrounds have no place to go during the day to play. Since the municipal schools split kids up into morning and afternoon sessions, many government school children are out of school in the middle of the day. Unfortunately, all the parks where they could play are closed. The policy seems to discriminate against the poor the most, and I wonder — as you all have been pointing out — if this is to prevent unwanted loitering. Priyanka, do you know any more about this? Is it the same in Delhi?

tuliomateo's picture

The lockdown on parks is not a policy, I believe. Yet, it is a practice that you find in Asia — as mentioned — but also in America. Local governments do it to limit damage in public property, while affecting the potential users. Nevertheless, the balance has to be found, because these public spaces are — in the medium or long term — the places to claim publicly for safer cities too.

In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, we find some cases like those. But it is interesting to see the government remodeling some, opening them up, and how population from vulnerable areas use it, especially over the weekend!

Priyanka Jain's picture

I see two cases in Delhi, Carlin. First case is that of the neighbourhood parks. The Bhagidari scheme was successful in involving the RWAs in upliftment and maintenance of parks. The process promoted local ownership and long term sustainable management of a community asset. However the local residents have the tendency to exclude 'unfamiliar' or 'unwanted' people from the usage of parks. This attitude results in locking down the parks at the time you mentioned — time when informal workforce need a space to rest while the middle class is at home or work or school. Its a classic case of a public space that is perceived as privately owned albeit by a community. The second case is that of city parks. Fortunately most of the city parks in Delhi are open and used for majority of the day without much discrimination. The restrictions, if any, are more to do with the safety of women than access control.

Kathryn Ewing's picture

Fascinating discussion on Nairobi and public space and activation of such space. In Cape Town on the VPUU Programme, the public space creates a platform for multiple activities — early childhood development, youth, women to meet and gather, a drumming group and more. However, the interesting aspect about public space in informal settlements is the need to 'claim the space' for the public. Land is in demand and available space is 'hot property'. We have been trying to define small public platforms that are spaces for the now whilst holding the space for the long term. Often contested space. The neighbours and the broader leadership have been fundamental agents of change in managing such space and improving the are for development. It has been an interesting journey so far...

Priyanka Jain's picture

The Humayun’s Tomb — Sunder Nursery — Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti Urban Renewal Project, in the heart of Delhi, India, combines a cultural heritage project with socioeconomic initiatives. The overall objective of the project is to improve the quality of life for people in the area while creating an important new green space for the people of Delhi and beyond. Among other conservation works, the project refurbished the MCD Primary School, built public toilets, planned streetscape improvements and landscaped the park on the western edge of the basti. The park has earmarked areas for women, children, cricket, community functions and weddings. Its important to note that this a predominantly muslim owned basti where women are not allowed to use public spaces freely. By earmarking a space for women, it helped them coming together for other initiatives. The project team's sensitivity to the needs of the community led to active use and local ownership. All assets are now managed by the community.

Olatawura Ladipo-Ajayi's picture

I agree with the integrate role open spaces play in any society for any class but especially for those lower down the chain as pointed out by Katy. It allows for a sense of inclusion and interaction of city inhabitants regardless of class. But more important about the creation of open spaces is its location, planning and whether or not it is truly open.

Most public spaces tend to be reclaimed spaces,at least that is what obtains in Lagos, the draw back is the location of these spaces, we find parks in areas where there is little human congregation or interaction like under highway bridges, and very off market road. While this is a welcomed development bringing a greater sense of security to the areas as they were previously breeding grounds for unsavory activities, it really defeats the major purpose of open spaces. No one really wants to interact under or near a highway bridge, it has its now security concerns. I also believe these spaces have some sort of lock down policy being enforced, I have personally only seen the one around my area occupied once and it was during a mass protest!

The point is, open public spaces need to be properly planned and truly open to serve the purpose they were created for and really foster inclusivity. Also open spaces need to be created in areas with heavy human traffic like business district areas and housing communities; like Katy, it is hard to find anywhere to seat and enjoy a snack in downtown Lagos or take a rest after a busy shopping day in the market area. These are spaces where everyone of different classes interact daily, these are areas city planners need to create public space within. Given the congested nature of Lagos, open spaces will create a less constricting atmosphere even if its between buildings.

However, it is important to consider security not just of open space occupants but of people going about their daily activities. Given security issues of some cities, one has to wonder how truly open such spaces can be.

María Fernanda Carvallo's picture

La Ciudad de México comparte algunas de las problemáticas respecto a la participación y cohesión social en relación con las autoridades y los tomadores de decisiones de la planeación urbana. Definitivamente es esencial reforzar la vinculación entre la población y sus representantes, quiénes en este sentido deben de velar por los intereses de los gobernados; no obstante, en América Latina, estos modelos de representación han presentado obstáculos para incorporar las necesidades sociales en la planeación de políticas. En este sentido, en el 2010 en el Distrito Federal se aprobó La Ley de Participación Ciudadana del DF, como un espacio público y un mecanismo democrático y participativo en el proceso de gestión pública, en el cual los ciudadanos exponen las necesidades de sus localidades que deben de ser resueltas de manera prioritaria a través de la asignación del presupuesto. Para implementar el presupuesto participativo existe la figura del Comité Ciudadano, que es un consejo integrado por vecinos de cada colonia, quienes representan a los habitantes de esa localidad. En este sentido,a través de los Comités, la población vulnerable que no contaba con capital social o político para expresar sus demandas, ahora puede canalizarlas a través de un medio participativo formal.

tuliomateo's picture

Hola Maria Fernanda, qué tal ha sido esa participaciòn? Se ve màs en alguna regiòn del paìs?

Cuanto es el presupuesto participativo respecto al general?

En Repùblica Dominicana existe pero el presupuesto participativo pero el % es muy pequeño y todavìa falta mucho para tener una implicaciòn fuerte de la poblaciòn.

Tulio
Development professional and architect
@tuliomateo

Jorge Bela's picture

Hola María Fernanda, ¿hay ya una idea de como está funcionando en la práctica la ley de Participación ciudadana? Este tipo de iniciativas merecen una discusión entera!!!!!

María Fernanda Carvallo's picture

Tulio y Jorge, gracias por sus preguntas. Es verdad que la participación ciudadana es todo un tema de gran discusión para acercar las necesidades locales de la gente a la práctica del desarrollo y de las decisiones de las autoridades.

El presupuesto en México también es muy pequeño, puesto que es del 2% del presupuesto delegacional o municipal; no obstante la participación es bastante amplia por medio de la representación de los vecinos en Comités Vecinales. Por el momento se está implementando en el Distrito Federal, los vecinos se organizan y votan por sus representantes, quienes priorizarán los proyectos de los vecinos para canalizarlos hacia las autoridades y que estos sean contemplados en el presupuesto. No obstante me parece que uno de los retos es el seguimiento de los proyectos por parte de los comités vecinales, puesto que se dan casos que con el paso del tiempo se desintegra le comité.

Les dejo un link para mayor información sobre la ley de participación ciudadana.

http://www.iedf.org.mx/sites/SistemaElectoralDF/es03.php?cadena=content/...

Priyanka Jain's picture

It’s clear that in each city there is a panoply of institutions that focus on social cohesion and resiliency. Yet, the programs get poor response and often citizens come up with their own coping mechanisms. I believe that the schemes like Bhagidari are good improvisations but not radical enough and require more innovation to work more efficiently and productively.

I see two issues:

1. Inability of the policy makers to factor in the capacity and normative behavior of front line bureaucrats.
2. Inability of the government to institutionalize schemes that get good response from citizens.

Kathryn Ewing's picture

I agree with Priyanka. If only the urban policy matched the reality on the ground! Time to review what this means...

Kathryn Ewing's picture

What can we learn from the informal and how people occupy space? Yes, it is very true, as Gemma points out that as 'urbanists' we romanticise the notion of the informal. However, the reality of the ground in somewhat different. The extreme daily risks (crime — both inside and outside the home, lack of food on the table, under-education and the list goes on) are overwhelming for the urban poor to even begin to contemplate the positive nature of the urban public realm. However, my work in Cape Town takes me to a point where such public spaces are the venues and platforms for debate, gathering, playing. This seems to imagine the concept of multiple energy layers - the intricacy of which many government organisations do not wish to understand or engage in, is exactly the point of departure for positive development. One informal settlement in which I facilitate development, the community themselves came up with the notion of 'emthonjeni' — a traditional form of public space, where there is washing around a water point. It is in these spaces that I observe and work. I have been humbled by such everyday use. So again, I ask, what can we learn from the informal?

Priyanka Jain's picture

Dear Kathryn,

Informal settlements are like living labs where urbanists can get an insight into how resiliency works beyond physical infrastructure. Urban poor has to overcome adversity every single day and take the first blow during a real catastrophe. Unrecognised by the state, they usually have their own form of governance and institutions to deal with such adversities. I think observing public spaces gives an insight into these institutions and often we find them linked around social infrastructure than physical infrastructure. Any investment into public realm has a huge multiplier effect and provides a platform to collaborate with state and deal with complex issues such as disaster planning.

tuliomateo's picture

Even a reduced public space can serve the urban poor organizing towards upgrading, resilience initiatives.

In terms of planning, the layers should be analyzed in the different scales, and dealt coherently through policies and action. Although governments might be slow to engage with it, one must never forget the 'intricacy' when building on the first. The latter, action, is to come bottom-up.

Tulio
Development professional and architect
@tuliomateo

Saima Sultana Jaba's picture

Thank you, Carlin Carr for your question. I am glad to hear that you joined the First Bangladesh Urban Forum in Dhaka. In 2011, through this forum the national urban policies were presented and still these policies are new for urban development in Bangladesh.

And yes, you are right. Bangladesh has its own national urban policy and policy envisions strengthening the beneficial aspects of urbanization and at the same time effectively dealing with its negation consequences so as to achieve sustainable urbanization process. The policy also envisions a decentralized and participatory process of urban development in which the central government, the local government, the private sector the civil society and the people all have their roles to play.

However, in reality the political planning for urban development is almost absent and there is significant lacking in terms of civil society participation in Bangladesh. Though we have strong national urban polices and it have been incorporated, the tangible benefits has not made yet because of the absence of reinforcement and implementation of these polices.

If you want to know more about the national urban polices in Bangladesh, you can visit this link:

http://www.lgd.gov.bd/images/pdf/notice/Urban_Sector_Policy_5%20may_pgps...

Saima Sultana Jaba
Asian University for Women

widya anggraini's picture

It's really interesting to discuss about public space and how public or may be in this case the poor or minority attempt to claim their space as there are limited channels to deliver what they need to government. I understand that every countries and cities have different culture of planning and involving people in the planning process, however there is the same understanding among planner that participation and voice from citizen are well collected. However, in the case of Indonesia, I would add that there is bad coordination between ministries and although the national planning board has planning but later on ministries will issue regulation against the plan or ministries have programs that overlapping with other ministries. The consequence is that none of problems in the city that actually could be solved.

I also agree with Gemma and else that there should be greater community involvement in city design. I believe that communities are able to produce knowledge and wisdom that are rare to be incorporated within planning process and in doing so community I guess could include universities or other educational institutions to support and complement skills that community don’t have. But I have concern regarding the role of universities now that are supporting more for economic benefit than empowering communities. Collusion between private sectors and universities often hinder role of universities to produce knowledge that benefit public instead of just small group of groups. I think this is just my observation towards Indonesian universities lately.

In answering Kathryin on what can we learn from the informal, I guess many things we can learn, but I think first is learning to listen to them, not only the people, but their interaction, their history, social bond, family structure and many other aspects that we need to learn from them in order for us, from Ngo or government or intellectuals, are able to get good responses as Priyanka said earlier.

I see key fundamentals being skipped in the discussion. First lets rule out North America (Canada & US) and Europe as they have progressed to a point that these issues are not as severe. Next I think this discussion applies to most other countries in the world as they do have to deal with large or larger poor populations. Third, city developers and designers cannot address all issues especially the poor since by the very nature of a city (is the grouping of people that have more than a subsistence level of life). In this context city developers and planners can produce/design large and varied plans for development. The key factor from this point is; are we speaking of countries/societies that are "free" and have the least governmental restrictions so that society can progress forward? Yes we need city zoning and planning to control when and where factories are built so that governments can plan for roads, bridges, water delivery systems; but overly restrictive laws, policies, zoning can prohibit a natural flow of life that cultures and groupings of people have. Also I see no support or mentioning of religious cultures and patterns that can have very large influences on how and why people live the way they do. It is neither the right nor the goal of city developers or NGO bodies to force people to change or give up their faith/culture. City development must work with and be subject to the needs of the populace not the other way around. As a graduate of Arizona State University with a Bachelors in Geography with urban emphasis I have studied this topic for the past 30 years. A lot has not changed in this discussion other than the continual removal of truly discussed freedom and property rights. If this organization and coming meeting in April truly wishes to assist the poor moving them into cities without education and training is increasing the problems of cities. The poor need a hectare of land to farm to support themselves as a critical starting point. Then local governments need to teach those on how to farm it most efficiently.

Be it small or large or in north or south the impacts of climate change is visible in cities. Some way other there is a momentum amongst cities across developed or developing countries to ensure actions that will not further damage the climate. But some time these actions gives benefit to richer people than the poor living in cities. It is true at the movement that rich people can afford themselves to better prepare to face the worst than the poor. A rich person can afford to live in safer places but a poor will still struggle to live on a river bed for example.

However, as an urban planning tool a city should have grown inclusively but that's not happening leading to inequality. As result many of our cities today are in in danger to extreme climates such as frequent cyclones, flooding, heat wave etc. Perhaps this trend will continue unless until we build smart climate resilient cities. Building climate smart cities is not that difficult as it is to convince city leaders including urban planners. As today in 21st century city plans were being prepared to accommodate cars in the street not the rest and disaster is just a reference where risk reduction remains absent.

In that scenario building or retrofitting cities with inclusive and climate resilient tools are getting delayed. Second urban planners dealing with cities are not much aware of the consequence of climate change or they are ignoring due to lack of knowledge or so. In such situation i feels climate change study outcome may ignite for more resilient city in time to come. Subject to how quick we can make city authorities aware of world urbanisation and help them in tools to practice innovation in city management will be the crux of our building disaster resilient cities to avoid inequality.

Tariq Toffa's picture

Thanks to Saima, Jorge, & Priyanka for their great pieces. From the comments, Kathryn's piece on public space seems to have really struck a chord across the globe. This is an indication of the value & relevance of the slow, bottom-up VPUU approach.

As this discussion draws to a close, I would like to draw out & highlight 3 possible meanings of “resilience” that have been raised in the discussion.

The first kind of resilience, raised by many in the discussion, must respond to the unequal nature of public space where it appears very much related to its income bracket; namely the often non-existence of genuine public space in affluent areas, & the importance but neglected public spaces in the poorest areas; for both perpetuate unsustainable cities.

The second type of resilience is in generating economies. It is extraordinary how much this is lacking in mono-functional housing developments in South Africa; low-income earners are particularly affected by the creation of environments that lack economic opportunities.

A third kind of resilience, raised by Priyanka, is that physical infrastructure can act as a platform to facilitate social infrastructure.

Lastly, Alex Broderick, your observations are excellent & I hope we can read more of you on this platform in the future.

Tariq Toffa
URB.im_Cape Town, Jhb Community Manager
SHiFT (shift.org.za)
University of Johannesburg, Architecture

Kathryn Ewing's picture

Thank you Tariq for your comments and reflections.

I have finally arrived in Medellin late last night and I can't wait to explore the city and WUF event.

To the urbanists out there...

Cristina Peña Miranda's picture

La planeación se nutre del urbanismo. En la Actualidad, es necesario una producción social del espacio, en donde la comunidad y los diferentes entes que planean la ciudad ,definan y construyan las directrices de ordenamiento. De por sí todas las ciudades del mundo tienen problemas de tipo político, administrativo, transporte y sociales que separan a unos y otros en grupos, pero dentro de esa diversidad cultural se puede definir reglas especificas para crear comunidades sustentables que se comprometan a generar soluciones de desarrollo urbano.

No solo hay que llenarse de técnica al construir y planear sino encontrar el color justo que es dado por la comunidad la cual fundamenta los proyectos y va a disfrutar del espacio.

Cristina Peña Miranda's picture

Planning urban spaces thrives. In actuality, a social production of space, where the community and the various city planning agencies, define and build the necessary planning guidelines. Itself all cities have problems political, administrative, transportation and social type that separate each other in groups, but within that cultural diversity can define specific rules for creating sustainable communities that commit to creating urban development solutions.

Not only must fill technical and plan to build but finding the right color is given by which community based projects and will enjoy the space.

Cristina Peña Miranda.
Civil Engineer

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