Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hard Rain Journal 1-13-07: UN Millennium Goals and Sustainability Update -- Does Burkina-Faso Offer a Glimpse into Our Urban Future?

Image: Growth of Slums Worldwide, World Future Fund

Hard Rain Journal 1-13-07: UN Millennium Goals and Sustainability Update -- Does Burkina-Faso Offer a Glimpse into Our Urban Future?

By Richard Power

In the developed world, many economically elite urban dwellers take a lot for granted.

Where do you think the sewage goes?

Where do you think the water you drink comes from?

And did you know that, although the world’s cities only cover 0.4 of the planet’s surface, they generate most of the world’s greenhouse gas emission?

One billion humans live in slums today. Within the next few decades, another one billon or so more humans will live in slums. At the beginning of the 20th Century, ten percent of the world's population lived in cities. In the next twenty or thirty years, seventy percent of the world's population will live in cities.

Two recent stories, one on a Worldwatch Institute study on “Our Urban Future,” the other on the lack of sanitation and potable water in Burkina-Faso, highlight the urgent need to grasp the achievement of the UN Millennium Goals and the greening of our cities, our economies, etc. as two of the three most vital imperatives of our time (the third, of course, is non-proliferation of nuclear weapons).

Remember, urban poverty and environmental collapse are not just problems that tug at your conscience or offend your sensibilities; today's slums may well offer a glimpse into your future, or the future of your children.

Here are brief excerpts from these two stories, with links to the full texts:

Over half the 1.1 billion people projected to join the world's population over the next quarter century could live in under-served urban slums, warns a report..."The scale of urbanization is unprecedented," the Worldwatch Institute's Molly Sheehan told OneWorld as the group prepared to launch its flagship annual report "State of the World 2007: Our Urban Future."
"We've gone from approximately 10 percent of the world's people living in cities in 1900 to half today--and if we continue on this course we're expected to top 70 percent in the next 20 or 30 years."
The highest rates of urban growth are expected in Asia and Africa, the report notes. Unlike previous periods of urban growth, however, this one is not necessarily tied to improved conditions for the poor....
According to the report, 1 billion urbanites--or approximately one sixth of the world's total population--currently live in "slums," defined as areas where people cannot secure key necessities such as clean water, a nearby toilet, or durable housing. An estimated 1.6 million urbanites die each year due to the lack of clean water and sanitation, the report said.
Rapid urban growth also has implications for global warming, Worldwatch said. While cities cover only 0.4 percent of the Earth's surface, they generate the bulk of the world's carbon emissions.
Still, Worldwatch noted that many cities around the world are developing innovative solutions that, if replicated, could both fight poverty and save the environment.
Aaron Glantz, Slum Hordes? World at Urban Crossroads, Warns Report, One World, 1-11-07

"The construction of toilets in disadvantaged suburbs does not respect standards," says Tidiane Zougouri, director of the National Environment Laboratory (Laboratoire national de l'environnement).
"What happens is that people convert old -- and very deep -- wells…and make toilets of them," he notes, adding that this takes place even as neighbours are permitted to dig new wells. According to preventive medicine officials in the health ministry, wells are often built with inappropriate walls that enable them to be penetrated by water contaminated with parasites and waste….
This causes people in most towns to become ill often from waterborne diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery….
Dams are also polluted by waste, as is the water table.
ONEA subsidises the construction of toilets, for which the minimum cost is about 200 dollars, according to the income of clients: households must pay 70 to 80 percent of the amount.
But, this is still beyond the reach of many. According to the Human Development Report, just over 27 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, on less than a dollar a day.
In light of this, ONEA hopes to bring the contribution by households down to 50 percent.
Authorities also want to ensure that sanitation is available to 70 percent of people living in Ouagadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso, and 50 to 55 percent of residents in other towns, by 2015 -- and is holding talks with the African Development Bank for a project to help them attain this goal.
The eight United Nations Millennium Development Goals -- agreed on by world leaders in 2000 -- include halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation by 2015.

Brahima Ouedraogo, HEALTH-BURKINA FASO: Wells and Toilets Make Bad Neighbours, Inter Press Service, 1-7-07

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Hard Rain Journal 12-12-06: UN Millennium Goals Update -- Nobel Prize Winner Yunus Urges World to Fight Poverty to Win Security and Peace

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to

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