Weekly Urban News Update
August 9, 2019
In This Update: 
Myanmar Smart City Stokes Suspicion from City Residents
Nairobi Slumdwellers Accuse Kenyan Police of Corruption
UN-Habitat Workshop in Myanmar Centers on Yangon Slums
In Casablanca, a Still-Growing Landfill Holds 40 Million Tons of Trash
Despite Environmental Risks, African City Residents Rely on Charcoal Cooking
World Resources Institute Identifies Water Crises in Cities Worldwide
Drug Overdoses in American Cities Surpass Rural Areas for First Time in Over a Decade
In the News and Around the Web
This Week in Photos
In Memoriam: Barbara McMurray
Myanmar Smart City Evokes Suspicion from City Residents
In Mandalay, Myanmar, city authorities are revamping municipal bureaucracy through smart technology. In April 2018, Singapore proposed a network of 26 smart cities to harness technology to address regional problems of urbanization. Mandalay is one of three Myanmar cities that compose the network. Since then, Myanmar  has embraced AI software, drones, and social media to address urban issues like drinkable water, congestion, low-quality roads, and trash. But, a number of residents suspect city authorities intends to use smart technology to monitor its citizens' political activity instead.  Activist Nyi Kvaw explains: "There is no trust between civil society organizations and the government. If this happens with the excuse of security, activists and political activists will be watched, rather than criminals." These tensions underline the importance of IHC Global's Smart City Just City approach to promote the intentional use of an equity lens using data and technology-driven solutions in cities.

Read more here.
Nairobi Slumdwellers Accuse Kenyan Police of Corruption 
Residents of Kiberia in Nairobi allege Kenyan police are embroiled in corruption. They say that the police engage in extrajudicial killing of suspected criminals, accept bribes from arrested individuals, hire out their guns to gangs, and fail to protect witnesses and police informants. Independent monitoring supports these assertions and estimate that Kenyan police carried out over 700 extrajudicial killings between 2013 and 2017. Furthermore, Kenyan police conduct operations that frequently rely on a "black book" of offenders' names, rather than respond to specific criminal incidents, which are rarely reported to the police. One person, speaking on the condition of anonymity, explained: "Once your name is in the book, it is likely that you will be killed by the police unless you can pay to have it removed."

Read more here.
UN-Habitat Workshop in Myanmar Centers on Yangon Slums
UN-Habitat and the Myanmar Department of Urban and Housing Development hosted a two day workshop on slums and informal settlements in the Yangon region. Over half a million people live in informal settlements in the area. According to UN-Habitat, over half a million people - or eight percent of the city's total population- lives in informal settlements that stretch out over 1800 acres. At the workshop, Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein stated that the regional government would arrange low-cost housing zones and basic infrastructure, but that long-term, they planned to identify relocation for slum dwellers.

Read more here.
In Casablanca, a Still-Growing Landfill Holds Over 40 Million Tons of Trash
A landfill in Mediouna on the outskirts of Casablanca now holds over 40 million tons of trash. The problem began in 1986, when trucks began to ferry trash from Casablanca and dump it into Mediouna pits. Previously the Moroccon group Ecomed, along with two American engineering firms, managed the landfill under contract from the city of Casablanca. But, Ecomed alleges that the city reneged on its promise to provide 80 hectares of land for fresh landfill, instead reallocating the land for private housing directly across from the landfill. The public health problems brought by the landfill are expansive: the landfill has made water pipelines inaccessible for homes, while a toxic liquid emitted by the waste is polluting water as far as 200 kilometers. 

Read more here.
Despite Environmental Risks, Residents of African Cities Rely on Charcoal to Cook
In African cities, large numbers of people continue to cook with charcoal, instead of gas. Cooking with charcoal can be environmentally detrimental to areas up to 300 kilometers away.  But for poorer urban dwellers, the cost of gas stoves are prohibitive. Development organizations like KopaGas and BBOXX are helping African cities to shift from charcoal to gas by promoting a Pay As You Go (PAYG) business model in cities like Dar es Salaam and Kigali. The PAYG model allows individuals and families to  purchase gas stoves through mobile payment installments as they are able. KopaGas co-founder and scientist Sebastian Rodriguez-Sanchez explains: "It's 2019. People have smartphones they can do everything [with], but they are still cooking with charcoal."

Read more  here .
World Resources Institute Identifies Water Crises in Major Cities Worldwide
A new report by World Resources Institute (WRI) indicates there is a "looming water crisis" worldwide. Thirty-three cities with populations over 3 million face extremely high water stress with stark repercussions for public health and social unrest. WRI anticipates this number will soon rise to 45 cities, effecting a total of 470 million people worldwide. Causes for water stress include arid environments, wasteful water management, and overreliance on groundwater. WRI and other experts encourage city officials and local leaderships to pursue solutions like plugging leaks in water distribution system, recycling waste water, harvesting rain, and cleaning lakes and wetlands and restoring wells.

Read more here.
The Number of Drug Overdoses in American Cities Surpasses Those in Rural Areas
Drug overdoses in the United States are a growing urban health problem. According to the Center for Disease Control, more people in the United States overdosed on drugs in cities, rather than rural areas for the first time in over a dozen years. The CDC reports that drug overdoses are climbing throughout the U.S., but that the number has spiked dramatically in major cities like New York, Chicago, and Baltimore. Experts say this corresponds to a shift away from opioid pill addition to increasing addiction to heroin and fentanyl. Opioid pills are available in both urban and rural areas, but access to drugs like heroin and fentanyl depends on the type of drug distribution systems that are more developed in urban areas.

Read more here.
In the News and Around the Web
  • How Many CCTV Cameras Does Your City Have?Per 1,000 inhabitants, there are 470,000 cameras installed in Beijing, 420,000 in London, and 30,000, in Washington, D.C. 
  • Cities Are Heating Up WorldwideJuly 2019 was one of warmest months ever recorded.
  • U.S. Considers Foreign Aid RecissionThe White House Office of Management and Budget has directed the State Department and USAID to freeze more than a dozen foreign aid accounts for the remainder of 2019.
  • Scorched: Extreme Heat and Real Estate: Urban Land Institute explores how the real estate sector is responding to extreme heat in cities.
This Week in Photos
  • Unsafe Lead Levels Detected in Paris PreschoolsOn Thursday, workers in Paris began to decontaminate schools with unsafe levels of lead, following the Notre Dame Cathedral fire. 
  • The Neighborhood On Top of the Shopping MallCosmo Park in Jakarta is a neighborhood of houses, a pool, and a tennis court built on top of a shopping mall.
  • Beating the Odds in KiberaFamilies in the Nairobi slum Kibera face health and safety challenges presented by life in informal settlements.
In Memoriam: Barbara A. McMurray
IHC Global mourns the passing of Barbara A. McMurray, who served as President and CEO of the International Housing Coalition (IHC) from 2014-2015. Ms. McMurray enjoyed an extensive and esteemed career in international businesses. Domestically, she served as Director of the Kennan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina and as Senior-Vice President for the  National Association of Home Builders.

Read the obituary and find information on the service here.
A worker sprays the Saint Benoit primary school in Paris, France. Following the Notre Dame Cathedral fire, Saint Benoit has experienced unsafe levels of lead. ( AP)

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