|Human Face of the Urban Environment (World Bank, 1995)|
Over the past twenty-live years Earth has become encircled by an agglomeration of cities and towns. Today more than half the world's population live in cities; by the year 2025 more than two-thirds of the world's people will do so (see figure 1). The stress of such population growth is overwhelming. Despite growing investments in environmental infrastructure, approximately 380 million urban residents in the developing world still do not have adequate sanitation; at least 170 million lack access to a nearby source of safe drinking water.
All twenty of Earth's largest cities have air that falls below World Health Organization (WHO) standards. In Bangkok thirty percent of productivity is wasted in time lost in traffic congestion, and children's IQs are said to drop as much as 4 percentage points due to the lead content of urban air.
Such concerns transcend developed and developing country borders. Cities in both the North and the South are living with ongoing environmental degradation. Urban population growth is universal on this planet and leads to common problems: congestion, lack of money to provide basic services, a shortage of housing, declining infrastructure, and overworked and underfunded local governments.
Despite these undeniable facts, urban environmental problems - the Brown Agenda- often take a back seat in global debates. Yet' the human face of the urban environment, as reflected in the day-to-day problems of the individuals who live in highly polluted areas, is inextricably linked to the highly publicized Green Agenda of preserving the world's natural resources.
The critical nature of urban environmental problems raises the question of whether cities can continue to be desirable habitats. Can cities remain productive when living conditions become so deteriorated? Must financial well-being be sacrificed to make cities better places to live? Most importantly, why are the poor in both Northern and Southern cities most at risk from environmental decay? Homelessness, unemployment, violence, drugs, lack of health care and education, and a crumbling infrastructure haunt all the world's cities.
The World Bank Focused on these issues as the centerpiece of its Second Annual Conference on Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD), "The Human Face of the Urban Environment." Held September 19-21, 1994, in Washington, D.C., the conference drew together central government ministers, mayors, professionals, practitioners, academics, and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community groups to define the discourse, share lessons of experience, and determine the course of future actions to both improve the environmental quality of life for urban residents and protect environmental resources. International figures such as Maurice Strong, Wally N'Dow, Mahbub Ul Haq, Lester Brown, Peter Hall, Charles Correa; ministers of environment, urban development, and infrastructure from Brazil, Canada, Germany, Senegal, and the United States; the mayors of Barcelona, Rome, Marseille, and Santiago and the city manager of Hyderabad; and experts in a wide variety of fields contributed to the conference.
The Second ESD Conference addressed important questions. How can our cities be managed so they can remain sustainable? What role does governance play? What are the latest success stories in air pollution control, solid waste collection, water quality control, and urban planning? How can they be replicated? How can national and international resources be mobilized to draw public attention to the urban environment?
Several Associated Events considered the role of the private sector, the community, and architects in achieving urban environmental sustainability. "The Business of Sustainable Cities" forum featured successful examples of innovative public-private partnerships for managing the urban environment. The "Enabling Sustainable Community Development" forum showcased community-level initiatives that have improved the urban environmental quality of life. The American Association of Architects hosted "Quality Design and Sustainable Built Environment," during which architects considered how they can create national and international contexts for sustainable development.
This Report highlights the messages and lessons of experience that
emerged from the conference and two Associated Events.
Part I delineates the human face of the urban environment from a variety of institutional perspectives.
Part II presents a conceptual framework for thinking about the urban environment. Lessons of experience in treating urban environmental problems are summarized in
Part III. Part IV poses the unanswered questions and proposes the direction of future action.
Part V summarizes two of the Associated Events.
The main Proceedings and short individual reports on the "Business of Sustainable Cities" and "Enabling Sustainable Community Development" Associated Events will appear as ESD Proceedings Series numbers 6, 7, and S.
Urban. and rural population change, by region, 1960-2025