Weekly Urban News Update
January 17, 2020
In This Update: 
Jakarta Residents Sue Government After Flooding
Krakow Tackles Air Pollution
Hungary's Housing Crisis
Indian Government Demolishes Luxury Buildings for Environmental Violations
Cities in the U.S. Consider Free Bus Fare
The Guardian Cities Says Farewell
In the News and Around the Web
Jakarta Residents Sue Government for Negligence After Flooding 
Two hundred residents of Jakarta, Indonesia sued Jakarta's governor for negligence after historic flooding on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day killed 60 and displaced nearly 175,000. The lawsuit avers that despite previous experience of flooding disasters and evidence of excessive rainfall, the government failed to warn residents of danger and responded slowly to the crisis. Jakarta, which floods frequently, is especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, given its large coastline, rising sea levels, and inadequate infrastructure.  Alvon Kurnia Palma of the Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation explains: "This is not the first time we are filing a lawsuit against the government for floods, but this time we have clear evidence linking the government's negligence to the damage caused. People are angry that nothing has been done." The lawsuit seeks 3.1 million USD in compensation.

Read more here.
Krakow Tackles Air Pollution
The government of Krakow, Poland is aggressively tackling climate change. Krakow is one of Europe's most polluted cities because it derives nearly 80% of its electricity from coal which is the main method of household heating. Krakow is now subsidizing 50% of the cost of new gas-burning furnaces and helping to pay energy bills, made possible by funding from the European Union, taxes, and government programs. But Krakow faces a challenge: although the government is pursuing clean air policies, it is also national government policy to protect miner jobs. Nonetheless, the government is effectively replacing old household furnaces that are responsible for almost ¾ of Krakow's particulate-matter pollution. Sociologist Anna Kapusta enthuses: "The process is unstoppable and will gain speed...I can't wait to have my village as it should be: a healthy breath."

Read more here
Hungary's Housing Crisis
Hungary is experiencing a housing crisis nationwide. Since 2014, housing prices have risen 104% nationally and 184% in Hungary's capital Budapest.  In a recent editorial, Governor of Hungary's National Bank, Gyorgy Matlocsy points to a number of fundamental issues with the government's current national housing policy: notably a lack of regional policy coordination, transport developments, and investments in the construction and building materials investments. Habitat for Humanity Hungary agrees that it is a "lack of a uniform and sustainable housing policy" across the country that "worsens social disparities and does not support housing for the poorest," and lessens Hungary's economic competitiveness. Governor  Matlocsy urges the government to prioritize housing and create a holistic vision, strategy, and sustainable home market. 

Read more here
Indian Government Demolishes Luxury Buildings for Environmental Violations
Government authorities in Kerala, India demolished four luxury apartment complexes this past weekend for violating environmental regulations. The demolition followed a Supreme Court ruling that developers failed to gain approval from the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority (KCZMA) for construction. KCZMA is an entity that aims to  prevent coastal and marine degradation, especially in the Maradu municipality where the complexes were located. The Supreme Court averred that  the illegal construction greatly damaged the local environment and further asserted that devastating floods in Kerala in 2018 were the result of "the entire environment being degraded and coastal zones being illegally occupied." The Court also ordered the state government to pay interim compensation to the approximately 2,000 effected residents. 

Read more here.
Cities in the US Consider Free Bus Fare
In the United States, large and small cities are considering free bus fares to fight inequality and lower carbon emissions. This year, Kansas City, Missouri and Olympia, Washington are piloting free bus fare programs, while other large cities like Boston, Massachusetts are debating its merits. The President of Boston's City Council argues that free bus fare will have a positive effect on Boston's poor and often marginalized populations; "Think about who is using our buses. It's black people, folks who live in communities where there are deep, deep concentrations of poverty." But opposition, largely centered on concerns of financing the project, remains strong . Although proponents argue a small increase in gas tax could cover the gap in bus revenue, others assert this amount will not be nearly enough to pay drivers, mechanics, and sustain bus services.

Read more  here .
Guardian Cities Says Farewell
After six years of important journalism and analysis focused on urban issues, Guardian Cities is shutting down. The Guardian has brought analysis on prominent urban issues to the forefront, especially over the past year. It has highlighted the  rise of megacities , brought a human face to the homelessness crisis particularly in London, and received accolades for investigation of the destructive impact of concrete worldwide. In its final series of articles, the journal presents the case for radical solutions to urban problems. As people continue to migrate to cities in large numbers, the Guardian closure is a loss to actors in the urban space. The outlet explains: "We have tried to shape how the world understands urbanization: namely, as one of the truly transformative global phenomena of the 21st century."  This statement is core to IHC Global's mission as well. We greatly regret the loss of this invaluable resource.  In this time of diminishing resources for journalism, IHC Global will continue its work  to provide urban news to our network of subscribers from around the world each week.  

Read the Guardian Cities farewell here.
In the News and Around the Web
  • The Economist Focuses on Housing: A special edition of The Economist examines global housing policies and their failures.
  • Historical Housing Discrimination Tied to Deadly Effects of Urban Heatwaves: A new study links mid twentieth century redlining housing policies and the disproportionate effect of deadly heatwaves on the urban poor in the United States.
  • Volcano in the Philippines Prompts Evacuations:  Earlier this week, the Taal Volcano in the Philippines dramatically spewed ash and lava forcing evacuations and the closure of the Manila airport.
Residents of Jakarta, Indonesia are suing the government after deadly flash floods.
( Photo Credit  Mast Irham/EPA, via Shutterstock)
 


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