Aug 30, 2017

How to achieve sustainable cities and communities

Urbanization is one of the mega trends shaping the world in this century. According to World Bank, 12 million Kenyans live in urban areas, but by 2050 about half of the country’s 48.46 million people will be living in cities. Cities are economic powerhouses generating more than 80 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product. However, they are considered to be centers of environmental degradation that also experience huge social problems like poverty, lack of proper housing, inadequate basic services and infrastructure among others.

Kenya’s new constitution guarantees access to basic services such as water, sanitation and energy but urbanization has put a strain on these services. For instance, in Nairobi and Mombasa water demand exceeds supply by more than 150,000 and 100,000 per cubic meters per day, respectively. The other challenge facing Kenya’s cities is waste management.  According to World Bank, cities are centers of garbage production, and the amount of garbage they create is increasing faster than population growth rates.

Rapid urbanization in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Nakuru has resulted in expansion of informal settlements leading to inadequate sanitation facilities and waste management issues.  Therefore, for middle and low income countries true development will only be achieved by addressing the crucial needs of both urban and rural communities.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) 11, target six states that “By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management”, hence  everyone has role to play for its achievement. Cities are centers of business activity, providing companies with concentrated populations of customers and employees. Therefore, the choices that they make about the city based on their activities can make a difference. Companies can carry out social and environmental impact assessment and engage the public when making decisions about location of their building and activities. Companies can also provide staff with affordable houses and physically improve community buildings such as schools, health facilities among others.

Many of the cities in the world are vulnerable to disasters and other impacts of climate change for example floods and heat waves.  Companies can help in building resilience of those cities through employee education and training, resilient building design, or risk assessment across their supply chains to identify and address vulnerable points.

The SDGs present not only challenges but also enormous opportunities that grant the current generation economic and social renewal.

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