Weekly Urban News Update
December 18, 2020
In This Update
COVID-19 Pandemic Helps Gentrify Hong Kong Neighborhood
Despite Influx of Foreign Aid, Victims of Beirut Port Explosion Remain Uncompensated
Mexico City Turns to Sustainable Development Goals to Reduce Crime
Who Gets to Breathe Clean Air in Delhi?
Akon City: A Futuristic City in Senegal
Why Africa Matters to U.S. Cities
In the News And Around the Web
COVID-19 Helps Gentrify Hong Kong Neighborhood
The COVID-19 pandemic has helped to gentrify one of Hong Kong’s poorest districts, writes Shawna Kwan at CityLab. Cities around the world have struggled to survive the economic shock of COVID-19 and global lockdowns, but the Sham Shui Po district in Hong Kong has thrived, as wealthy residents that would normally travel abroad in search of recreation are exploring their own city instead. Now, new restaurants and shops in the district, coupled with rising rents, threaten to displace residents and stifle local culture. Entrepreneur Yan Wong explains: “When they open a café that looks the same as those in [the Central district], you are eroding the distinctive characteristic here.”

Read more here.
Despite Influx of Foreign Aid, Victims of Beirut Port Explosion Remain Uncompensated
Four months after a port explosion in Beirut killed 200 people and damaged 60,000 homes, the city is struggling to repair homes and compensate victims, despite receiving $340 million in foreign aid, The Lebanese Army, tasked with distributing aid, says the amount can only compensate 10,000 homeowners. Critics believe that while long-standing government corruption has obstructed the flow of funds, the decision of organizations to bypass the government entirely in their humanitarian efforts has only exacerbated confusion over who has received what forms of aid.

Read more here.
Mexico City Turns to the Sustainable Development Goals to Reduce Crime
In a Brookings Institution City Playbook for Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) brief, Diana Alarcon Gonzalez, Chief Advisor for Mexico City, outlines how the Mexican capital is reducing urban violence by aligning its strategy with the SDGs to reduce urban inequalities. In Mexico City, quality of life and access to opportunities vary neighborhood to neighborhood, meaning that some areas bear the brunt of city violence. The city government is now expanding its thinking beyond increasing law enforcement to reduce crime. Instead, they are investing in neighborhoods through local programs, improved access to services and infrastructure, and community-trust building efforts.

Read more here.
Who Gets to Breathe Clean Air in Delhi?
A New York Times interactive explores the relationship between inequality and air pollution in Delhi by tracking the exposure levels of two Indian children to particulate matter (PM2.5) over a one-day period. The investigation found that 13-year old Monu, from a Delhi slum, was exposed to four times as much pollution as 11-year old Aamya, from an upper-middle class neighborhood. Poor families in India disproportionately suffer the effects of pollution as they spend time outdoors, use wood-burning stoves, and cannot afford air purifiers. Nonetheless, all Delhi residents are exposed to unhealthy levels of PM2.5, as researchers note: "There is no amount of personal wealth that can fix the problem."

Read more here.
Akon City: A Futuristic City in Senegal
The Senegalese-American singer Akon is planning to build a futuristic city in rural Senegal. The $6 billion project, led by the firm KE International, has promised to erect a training center and create new jobs, improve schools and health services, and extend water and sanitation and electricity networks. To attract global investments and tourism, the city will also have two resorts, four hotels, a hospital, and a tech park. But, the local community has said it was not consulted in the planning process and have voiced concerns about possible cultural disconnect, the environmental impact of construction, displacement of local businesses, and exclusion of locals from the new economic opportunities.

Read more here.
Why Africa Matters for U.S. Cities
African cities have important economic, political, social, and cultural ties with U.S. cities, writes Judd Devermont at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Over the past year, CSIS researched links between African countries and 15 U.S. cities. The researchers found that a U.S. city’s ties to the African continent carried mutual economic, political, academic, cultural, and philanthropic benefits. These ties have important political and security implications, according to Devermont, as a “hometown argument” about the significance of Africa for American cities can elevate the continent’s importance to American citizens, leading to more constructive professional and security relations.

Read more here.
In the News and Around the Web

  • World Resources Institute Announces 2020-2021 Ross Center Prize Finalists: Nairobi, London, Rosario, Monterrey, and Ahmedabad are contending for the top prize.

  • Historic Verdict on Air Pollution in London: A landmark case in London determined that exposure to city air pollution contributed to the death of a 9-year-old girl.

  • Cycling Squares Off Against Congestion in Manila: The global popularity of cycling soared during the pandemic, but traffic in Manila makes it a dangerous form of commute. 

  • Only Warm White Holiday Lights for Amsterdam: The Dutch capital is regulating Christmas displays outside of buildings and homes. 
The infamous traffic in Manila can endanger cyclists. (Photo Credit: Kimberly dela Cruz/New York Times)
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