UN World Cities Day Participation can enable sustainable, resilient cities

Better City, Better Life is the common theme of the UN World Cities Day which is observed by the United Nations on October 31 every year. The sub-theme for the year 2018 is Building Sustainable and Resilient Cities. The observance of this day since the year 2014 is intended to promote international interest in urbanisation and mobilize engagement and cooperation among stakeholders in harnessing the opportunities that urbanisation offers while addressing the challenges it poses. The theme for 2018 will help focus on the challenges pertaining to urban services and infrastructure with emphasis on inclusivity and climate change implications, while addressing the need to beef up cities’ ability to cope with acute shocks and chronic stresses; in other words building sustainability and resilience into the urbanisation narrative.
The theme for this year is surely apt and timely given the extreme stresses cities everywhere are faced with – those related to poor air quality, congestion, service delivery deficits, safety, and exposure to natural disasters.Rapid and relentless urbanisation has placed disproportionately greater burden on the less privileged; these populations face hardships with regard to housing, water supply, sanitation, etc. While attempting to meet the needs of the ever growing population, cities are faced with seemingly unsurmountable hurdles with respect to sustainability and environment degradation. Water supply, waste management, mobility, etc. pose particularly daunting obstacles.
Building sustainable cities will require large doses of citizen awareness and participation. Take water, for example. There is need to rationalize water use, conserve ground water and adopt measures like rainwater harvesting and recycling. None of this is possible without the active and wholehearted cooperation of the citizen. Similar is the issue with respect to waste management. Both water and waste have far reaching implications for cities in their march towards inclusiveness and sustainability.
Building resilience into cities is the other pillar of the theme for this year’s World Cities Day. Cities are subject to acute, sharp shocks such as floods, landslides, earthquakes and terror attacks as well as chronic, prolonged stresses like congestion, poor air quality, weakening economy, and deficits in housing, food, water and healthcare. All these call for building resilience or the ability to adapt, survive and grow nonetheless. Among the qualities that resilient cities demonstrate is inclusivity – they prioritize broad consultation to create a sense of shared ownership in decision making (www.100resilientcities.org). There is thus realization of the need for community participation and institutional support across a wide spectrum of stakeholders in making
cities resilient.
This World Cities Day, it is hoped, will involve widespread participation of the urban community in reshaping the city landscape to ensure realization of the theme for the year; and thereby in realizing the Sustainable Development Goal 11 – Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient
and sustainable.
Among other developments, three Indian cities – Ahmedabad, Kochi and Nagpur were selected for implementation of ‘Mobilise Your City’ (MYC), an international initiative backed and funded by the European Union and governments of France and Germany. The 3.5 million Euro funding is expected to implement innovations in sustainable, low-carbon urban mobility in these cities. Green urban mobility has been receiving wide attention from a spectrum of governments and corporates in order to address the soaring challenges of congestion, accidents and emissions. We believe the MYC project in these three cities can act as a pilot for other cities and help address a chronic pain of Indian cities.
This issue of Urban Update looks at various aspects of urban mobility and seeks to generate debate and deliberation on the subject.

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