|In the East Africa city of Dar es Salaam an innovative transport project promises to cut congestion, reduce air pollution and reclaim
the streets for pedestrians, cyclists and the public. The Dar es Salaam Bus
Rapid Transit system, or DART, is a partnership between the City Council and a
wide variety of companies and organizations, including UNEP, with funding from the Global Environment Facility.
The blueprint for the scheme which will combine modern, multi-door buses and fast boarding for passengers with novel ticketing systems, priority bus lanes and car restrictions is Bogotá. In the 1990s the Colombian city was unloved by its citizens. As an article in this World Environment Day edition of Our Planet outlines, the car was king and the streets and public places were choking in traffic noise and fumes.
I believe it is vital to flag up these kinds of success stories. They underline the importance of partnerships and are proof that even seemingly monumental problems of urban squalor, decline, and pollution can be overturned by communities and city leaders with vision, creativity and enthusiasm.
Half the world now lives in cities and two thirds of its population are set to be urban dwellers by 2030. We tend to focus on the huge problems of coping with the accompanying global explosion of unplanned, informal, settlements. Slums and sewers rather than soaring spires and tantalizing social and professional possibilities are all too often our sole preoccupation.
Of course we must tackle the misery, unhealthy living conditions and sub-standard services which blight too many city dwellers in both developing and developed countries.
But urbanization, on its own, is far from being a bad thing.
From fine buildings and leafy boulevards to city parks and centres for the
performing arts, cities can inspire and invigorate, and be sources of wonder,
excitement and contemplation. They are also the engines of commerce and trade,
and seats of government and power . It was in San Francisco this years host for World Environment
Day that the Charter of the United Nations was signed 60 years ago.
Sadly, however, through incompe-tence, poor governance or a lack of resources, too many cities are badly run and administered. In many developing countries, the sheer rate of urbaniza
As UNEPs Global Environment Outlook 3 puts it: The relatively dis-proportionate urban environmental footprint is acceptable to a certain extent because, for some issues, the per capita environmental impact of cities is smaller than would be made by a similar number of people in a rural setting. Cities concentrate people in a way that reduces land pressure and provides economies of scale and proximity of infrastructure and services.
Clearly, the battles to eradicate poverty and deliver the Millennium Development Goals will be won or lost by whether we can manage the urban environment effectively and creatively. If we can as the examples of Dar es Salaam and Bogotá suggest we will be a long way down the road to truly sustainable development
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Contents | Editorial K. Toepfer | Challenges and Opportunity | Bridging the Water Gap | Golden Gateway to Green Cities | The Spirit of Mottai Nai | Cities without Slums | People | Rapid Progress | At a glance: Greening Cities | Charging into the Future | Star profile: Tokiko Kato | The Female Factor | Unlocking People Energy | Think Local | High Achievements | Life at the Top | Books and products | Focus On Your World | Black Sea, Green City?