Weekly Urban News Update
March 15, 2019
In This Update: 
Athens Activists Oppose High-Rise Construction
Pollution in Dakar Hinders Outdoor Activities
Crime-Fighting App Citizen Launches in Baltimore
Delhi Will Potentially Legalize Unauthorized Tenements
Madrid's Car-Restricted Zone May Have Increased Retail Spending
Dubai Aims to Become Paperless and Cashless by 2021
In the News and Around the Web
Athens Activists Oppose High-Rise Construction
Activists in Athens are protesting the construction of high-rise buildings in the capital that obstruct the view of the Acropolis and its fortified walls. Lydia Carras says: "There are certain views, not many in the world, that are views of identity, and the Parthenon is one of them that at all costs has to be preserved." Officials from the Ministry of Culture are blaming their environmental counterparts for the construction of the high-rise buildings that have long been anathema to Athens. In the past ten years, new regulations has allowed the construction of bigger and taller buildings if they meet "green" standards. Cultural officials admit: "This was legislation passed by the environment ministry."

Read more here.
Pollution in Dakar Hinders Outdoor Sports
In Dakar, outdoor exercise is so popular in Dakar that "practically the whole city transforms into a California-like muscle beach," the New York Times reports. But the thousands of runners, wrestlers, soccer players, and exercisers that perform outdoor exercise each evening face dangerous levels of particulate matter, according to the World Health Organization. Nafissatou Oumar Toure Badiane, chief of pulmonology at Fann University Hospital, estimates that some type of lung ailment afflicts a third of Dakar residents. Government data gathered between 2013 and 2017 has shown a decline in the percentage of "very bad" air quality days, but a simultaneous increase in the percentage "bad" days. "Sometimes it feels like I'm about to get choked," says national champion swimmer Elhadji Adama Niane. Wrestling coach Joseph Faye notes: "Sports and pollution, they don't go together."

Read more here.
Crime-Fighting App Citizen Launches in Baltimore
Citizen, a crime-tracking app deployed in New York city and San Francisco, was launched in Baltimore last month. Citizen uses police reports, 911 calls, and ambulance dispatches to place red dots of various sizes on a city map. Investors see the app as a way to increase citizen empowerment and extend city transparency. But, where some see this as a way to enable residents to safely navigate their cities, critics wonder how the app might reinforce and entrench neighborhood stereotypes. Munmun de Choudhury, a professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech says: "There are upsides to it, but you also have to weigh that in terms of what it will eventually lead to: it could lead to certain neighborhoods being completely abandoned."

Read more here.
Delhi Will Potentially Legalize Unauthorized Tenements 
New Dehli announced that for the first time it will consider legalizing unauthorized tenements. A committee will study 1700 Delhi settlements and make recommendations within 90 days on conferring ownership or transfer and mortgage rights to residents. Approximately 700,000 households in the capital city are located in unauthorized settlements which lack basic facilities and leave residents under constant threat of eviction. Shanta Devi with Delhi Housing Rights Task Force notes many housing and health challenges stem from the illegal status of these settlements, but she insists the government must provide additional support beyond legalization, including the provision of basic amenities and home upgrading. "Ownership rights are meaningless without that," she says.

Read more here.
Madrid's Car-Restricted Zone May Have Increased Retail Spending
In December, Madrid became one of the first major European cities to create a car-restricted zone in its city center. The decision to experiment with a "low-emission zone" is part of a nationally-supported effort to decrease urban air pollution has been largely popular and environmentally successful: so far, a 71% fall in air pollution has been reported. But, Spain's second largest bank, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA), discovered an economic benefit as well. From December 1, 2018-January 7, 2019, there was a 9.5% increase in retail spending on Madrid's main shopping street, Gran Via. The study suggests that shop and restaurant transactions were significantly boosted by the car restrictions.

Read more here.
Dubai Aims to Become Paperless and Cashless by 2021
Smart Cities Dive reports that Dubai is over halfway towards becoming paperless and cashless by December 2021. Director General of the Smart Dubai government initiative, Aisha bin Bishr, Dubai has reduced its paper usage from 1 billion pieces of paper by 57%, largely due to emerging technologies like blockchain. Bin Bishr explains that Dubai's smart city innovations, such as a paperless economy, bolstered by blockchain, hoped to make Dubai the "happiest city on earth." She explains: "The end goal is not the technology per se, it's how these technologies will enhance people's lives and will improve their happiness."

Read more here.
In the News and Around the Web
  • Maps and Subway Lines: Urban designer Martin Bangratz superimposed underground subway lines onto aerial views of cities.
  • Mercer's Most Livable Cities: Vienna tops Mercer's annual Quality of Living City rankings for the tenth year. The highest-ranking American city, San Francisco, ranked 34th. 
  • The Worsening Housing Crisis Plaguing Canada's First Nations Population: Tracey Lindeman reports on the affordability and accessibility of land and housing for Canada's indigenous populations.

The Tokyo underground subway line superimposed onto an aerial view of the city
(Photo credit: Martin Bangratz, Quid Corner)

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