SDG #11 Transforming How We Build and Manage Cities
By Shani Asokan Ceylon Today Features
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals that were agreed upon by all United Nations (UN) Member States at the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Summit as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Sustainable Development Goal 11 is to build sustainable cities and communities. The global population is constantly increasing and to accommodate everyone, we need to build cities that are sustainable. Globalisation and increased migration has led to a boom in megacities and in more and more urban areas, slums are becoming a significant feature. Modern and intelligent urban planning is essential for us to survive and prosper, and creating affordable and resilient cities that are a mix of greenery and urban spaces are key to achieving this.
To make cities sustainable, we must create new business and career opportunities, safe and affordable housing and building resilient societies and economies. This means increased investment in public transport, building ‘green’ public spaces like parks and making urban planning and management inclusive and accessible to the general public.
Where we are
Today, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. In 2018 the number of people living in cities was 4.2 billion. By 2050, it is predicted that two thirds of the population, that is 6.5 billion people, will be living in urban areas. Cities play a significant role in the global economy as they generate about 80 per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP).
Cities only occupy 3 per cent of the world’s land but they account for up to 80 per cent of energy consumption and at least 70 per cent of carbon emissions. As mentioned above, slums have become a fixture in urban living. An estimated 828 million people live in slums, and this number is rising constantly. In 2018, 24 per cent of the world’s urban population lived in slums.
In 1990, there were only 10 megacities (cities with over 10 million people). In 2014, this number had increased to 28. In 2018, the number of megacities in the world reached 33. Projections show that in the future, nine out of every 10 megacities will be in the developing world.
Future projections also show that 90 per cent of urban expansion will be in the developing world.
Goal 11 targets
This goal aims, by 2030, to ensure access for all, to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services. This includes upgrading slums and unsustainable living conditions. It also aims to provide safe, inclusive and universal access to green public spaces.
Goal 11 also aims to provide access to safe, affordable and reliable public transport for all. This includes ensuring that transport systems are sustainable, improving road safety and paying attention to those in vulnerable situations like women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons.
By 2030, this goal aims to enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanisation. This means an increase in capacity for participatory, integrated, sustainable human settlement planning and management across the globe.
The overall aim of this goal is to make cities sustainable so that mean tackling pollution of all kinds, especially air pollution as cities are one of the largest contributors to bad air quality. By 2030, goal 11 aims to reduce the environmental impact of cities, including paying special attention to waste management and sanitation.
Reducing the environmental impact of cities also means supporting positive economic, social and environmental links between urban and rural areas through national and regional development planning.
The impact of the pandemic
The pandemic hit the one billion slum dwellers the hardest, the inadequate and overburdened infrastructure of these communities less able to handle the consequences of COVID-19. Many slums are overcrowded, with cramped public transport, limited access to healthcare, and have little to no waste management.
Many of these people work in the informal sectors and thus lost their jobs or livelihoods as a result of the pandemic. Lockdowns meant that they were confined to their small houses which increased their risk of contracting the virus.
Lack of proper public transport in some countries has also created problems during the pandemic, as people are left without safe and reliable ways to get to and from jobs, especially those in essential services.
Poor air quality and pollution have led to compromised immune systems, leaving people less resilient to the virus. The lack of open spaces and greenery in cities make lockdowns harsher on city-dwelling populations, impacting their mental health.
With sustainable, resilient and better planned cities, many of these problems could have been avoided. Thus, it is time now to re-evaluate 2030 goals and targets and the paths towards achieving them. This can only be done through increased global cooperation and international, regional and national policy development.
Join us next week for a discussion of Goal 12!