Weekly Urban News Update
September 20, 2019
In This Update: 
An Environmental Seal of Approval for the River Thames
Water Threatens Political Stability in Basra 
Why Kota is Reinventing Itself as India's Happiness City 
Gates Foundation Releases 2019 Goalkeepers Report
Creating Opportunities in Nairobi Slums
Considering Small and Medium-Sized Cities to Combat Climate Change
Transit Strike Drives Parisians to Cycling Lanes
How New York City Insulated itself from the Effects of China's Recycling Import Ban
In the News and Around the Web
IHC Global Spotlight Event: World Bank Urbanization and Poverty Reduction Research
An Environmental Seal of Approval for the River Thames
In the 1950s, a broken sewer system and industry waste had so polluted the Thames River in London that it was declared "biologically dead." Decades of tighter environmental regulations, upgraded waste systems, and habitat enhancement projects has now restored the river's livability for hundreds of animal species, including for the 3500 seals that now live in its estuary. Biologist Thea Cox enthuses: "The seals would not be able to pup here at all without a reliable food source, so this demonstrates that the Thames ecosystem is thriving and shows just how far we have come since the river was declared biologically dead in the 1950s." According to the World Bank, in addition to protecting large numbers of animal species, investments in urban water improvements could improve the health of 1 billion people and reduce the impacts of climate change.

Read more here
Water Threatens Political Stability in Basra
A lack of access to safe and clean drinking water could exacerbate political instability in Basra, Iraq. Since 2018, 118,000 people have been treated for water-borne diseases and approximately 250,000 school children lack clean running water at school. Basra's current water predicament stems from a multitude of causes including lack of basic infrastructure services after the defeat of ISIS, the effect of Iran's dam and farming projects, poor household waste management, and government corruption. The government promises to invest in better water and services, but observers remain wary. Human Rights Watch Senior Researcher Belkis Wille says that without a strong government commitment to addressing water pollution policy, Basra will continue to be susceptible to political crisis.

Read more here.
Why Kota is Reinventing itself as India's "Happiness City"
Each year, 150,000 students from across India come to the city of Kota to prepare for competitive university entrance exams at coaching institutes.In India, Kota is also well-known for its high-rate of student suicide, which many attribute to grueling study schedules, extreme pressure to succeed, and the stigma attached to poor performance. To address the crisis, Kota business entrepreneurs and residents have formed a "Happiness City" initiative that organizes entertainment for students, motivational talks, and provides a "Happiness Card," that offers discounts at local shops. Shreyans Mehta, a participant in the initiative explains: "It's for the love of the city. We couldn't watch the name of the city being spoiled like this."

Read more here.
Gates Foundation Releases 2019 Goalkeepers Report
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released its third annual Goalkeepers Report this week. The Goalkeepers Report examines progress made towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. This year, the report emphasized that countries must prioritize erasing inequality in order to progress toward their development goals. Various forms of inequality, whether gender, race, geography or religion, disadvantages an individual's opportunity to lead a healthy, productive life. "For a girl born in the Sahel, one of the poorest regions in the world," states the report, "getting to a healthy, productive life requires overcoming hurdle after hurdle after hurdle."

Read more here.
Creating Opportunities in Nairobi Slums
The Kibera slum in Nairobi demonstrates both the challenges and opportunities presented by cities, writes Rockefeller Foundation Senior Vice President Christine Heenan. Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, houses an estimated one million residents who lack basic city services and infrastructure. But, Neenan points to new community-based approaches that point to the socioeconomic potential of rapidly urbanizing Africa. The nonprofit Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), for instance, was formed to provide education to girls, but since then has worked to strengthen Kibera's governing systems, civic dialogue, infrastructure and economic prospects. Neenan reasons that the work of organizations like SHOFCO in Kibera may serve as good development examples for neighboring African cities.

Read more here.
Considering Small and Medium-Sized Cities in Combating Climate Change
At Forbes , economist Oliver Harman asserts that small and medium size cities can play a significant role in combating and mitigating the effects of global climate change. Cities consume 70% of the world's energy and emit 75% of its carbon emissions. Yet, when managed and planned efficiently, urban density is an asset in minimizing carbon footprints. According to Harman, over half of the 2030 carbon emission reduction potential lays in small and medium sized urban units, yet megacities comprise the majority of policy research around urban sustainability . He urges discussions during the upcoming Sustainable Development Impact summit to recognize how the international community can enable smaller cities to deliver actionable change.
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Read more here.
Transit Strike Drives Parisians to Cycling Lanes
An investment to cut air pollution in Paris had a dual effect during last week's mass transit strike. In 2015, Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced the construction of the Bicycle Express Network, a five-year $150 million project to connect bike lanes across the city. The transit strike, the largest in Paris since 2007, closed all of the city's trams, trains, and the underground metro and 2/3 of the bus network, causing twice as much congestion during rush hour. For many Parisians previously unhappy with the roadwork caused by the Network's construction, commuting by bike has now proven to be a viable option. As the editor of the French news website, The Local, noted, he had "never seen so many people using bikes to get to work in Paris before."

Read more  here .
How New York City Insulated Itself from the Effects of China's Recycling Ban
A 2006 New York City solid waste management plan is helping it to mitigate the effects of China's recycling import ban. When China banned the importation of most foreign recyclables last year, major American cities like Philadelphia went from earning a profit selling recyclables to paying $40 per ton for companies to take it away. But, when New York City shut down the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island thirteen years ago, it also created a plan to reduce the amount of refuse sent to landfills by recycling more and investing in long-term contracts. New York City environmental director at the Natural Resources Defense Council Eric Goldstein explains that such a contract has meant it is "easier for New York to weather the storm, but it's not like there's a shortage of work that still needs to be done by the city and the residents."

Read more  here .
In the News and Around the Web
  • Children in the City: Cities are terrific places to raise kids, argues Matthew Yglesias at Vox.
  • Where's Havana's Housing Policy?Carlos Garcia Pleyana writes that Havana needs a housing policy for its specific needs, history, and characteristics.

  • Urban Workers in India Would Work for Less for Security and Flexibility: A new study suggests that workers  in India would be willing to reduce their wages for greater job security and flexibility.
  • The 45 Best Cities in Europe for Generation ZThe Nestpick Generation Z City Index ranked 110 cities for livability. European Data Journalism network highlights the 45 European cities made the list.
IHC Global Spotlight Event: 
SDG #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities


Friday, September 20, 2019
1:30pm-2:30pm
Center for Strategic & International Studies
1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036

The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host a discussion on Sustainable Development Goal which aims to increase the inclusiveness, sustainability, and accessibility of urban and rural areas. This event will seek to address how U.S. cities should be thinking about the SDGs, what investments are necessary to create successful U.S. cities and communities, and other efforts to support domestic urban populations.

Find event information here.
3500 seals now call the Thames River home following intensive urban water investments in London.
(Photo credit:  REUTERS/Rob Dawson)


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