Sustainability of Urbanization


Ananda D.Moonasingha

BSc(Hons), MEng, MSc(Eng), BA(Hons)

            Urbanization principally refers to dynamics of the proportion of total population living in urban areas. Other features of urbanization are the concentration of nation’s multisectoral functional centres and infrastructures. The key areas of concern and importance in urbanization are the urban poor and slum settlements, sustainable transport, economic development, reconciling industrial development and its environmental impacts, and changes and trends in governance. This paper addresses the above agenda of sustainable urbanization highlighting the improvement of quality of life of low-income urban population with the participation of community, public sector and the civil society.




Urbanization reflects the increasing proportion of population living in cities of the total population.1,2,3 In the developed countries such as in Europe and North  America the urbanization has reached its peak above 75 percent and its growth rate is very slow, hence that part of the world is deemed to be urbanized. In contrast the developing countries particularly as in Africa and Asia are urbanizing. In the beginning of the 21st century the proportion of urban population in Africa and Asia is 40-45 percent.1,2,4 In 2005, globally 30 percent of urban dwellers lived in slums, and Asia with 581 million slum dwellers, accounted for nearly 60 percent of the world’s slum population.5  Besides the proportion of total population living in cities, generally urbanization represents the dynamic growth of multisectoral stake holders and infrastructures in cities and conurbations. From the point of proportion of urban population with around 75 percent, the Latin America is urbanized.4 But the quality of life dependent on infrastructure, housing and other basic needs is poor. Hence, Latin America is not urbanized as the developed nations.6,7 Cities are multifunctional, concentrated centres of administration, finance, residents, commerce, transport, industry, tourism, healthcare, education, sports and culture. Urban areas account for large proportion of nation’s economic activities, industrial enterprise and domestic production. The priorities like industry, transport, environment, quality of life, heritage, tourism: depend, compete, and conflict with each other and need to be reconciled. Cities have to cater for permanent residents as well as visitors and daily commuters. There are three key modes of increasing the proportion of urban population. These are, the natural increase by births within, migration, and the expansion of city limits into the rural peripheries. Migration due to displacement by civil war and famine is also a relevant factor.


The term developing countries include China, India, Mexico and high income countries like Singapore. The term Third World originally was the rest of the world other than capitalist west known as First World and the Soviet bloc known as the Second World. Later it took more political form of non aligned to either west or the Soviet bloc. Then it was given economic characteristics like nations with low capita incomes.8,9 The World Bank categorises nations on the economic basis of low-income, lower-middle income, upper-middle income, and high income economies.10  The developing countries are also known as South and the rest of the world as North, as referred to in the Brandt Report (1980).9 

Infrastructure comprises the gamut of services that support modern way of life, such as water supply, sewerage, electricity, roads and transportation, and communication systems. Institutions like hospitals, schools and universities are known as social or civic infrastructure. Social infrastructure also includes the range of activities in communities providing social welfare and health services and addressing social problems by public and voluntary associations.11,12,13 Housing and land are important assets inseparable from infrastructure for sustainable urbanization.     

            Sustainability is a term with a broad range of connotations. The definition of sustainable development adopted by the United Nations (UN) is, ‘meeting the needs of present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs’.14 This definition may subsume many conditions of sustainability including the following, promulgated by Herman Daly.15

(a) The consumption rate of renewable resources is not higher than its recovery rate.

(b) The consumption rate of non-renewable resources is not higher than the rate of increase in

     renewable resource supply.

(c) The emission of pollutants is within the consumption capacity of the environment.


            Another noteworthy condition of sustainability is, the use of resources which does not involve the perpetuation of substantial health hazards or social injustice.16 Besides, sustainability is applicable in various contexts such as economic, socio-cultural, and technological sustainability. In these domains which are intrinsic components of urbanization, sustainability means benign capacity of the above mentioned sectors, including infrastructure and environment to accommodate the increasing populations in conformity with the aforesaid criteria of sustainable development. Sustainability means that which can be maintained or perpetuated. Social sustainability encompasses, notions of equity, empowerment, accessibility, participation, sharing and institutional stability. Institutional stability refers to the rules by which society is organised and human interaction guided. Administrative sustainability means ensuring that an organization, the tasks for which it is responsible or the service or provides continues to function over the long-term with financial sustainability and operational efficiency.17 Since sustainable urbanization implies the dynamic growth of population as well as the standards of living, economy, infrastructure and amenities, it is expedient to focus on the problems of urbanization in order to reflect on the sustainability of urbanization.


2. Problems of Urbanization

            The major problems of urbanization in the order of priorities are:

(a) the rising populations of urban poor and the consequent squatter settlements.

(b) inadequate access to basic needs such as shelter, clean water, sanitation, health care, education

      and other services.

(c) overcrowded public transport and traffic congestion on roads.

(d) environmental pollution by industries, motor traffic, and inadequate sanitation infrastructure.

(e) rising demands of resources such as land and water.

(f) natural hazards such as floods, landslides and tidal inundation, especially in areas occupied by

     the urban poor.

(g) decadent social conditions of urban poor.

            The above issues are collectively termed as brown agenda.9


3. The Urban Poor

            Though the global population of urban poor living in slums does not seem to have risen significantly above 30 percent, the total number of urban poor population is obviously growing.5  The rise in population of urban poor is primarily due to natural increase within the low-income communities. Migrants are generally not concentrated among the poor. According to UNHABITAT, a slum household is a group of individuals living under the same roof in an urban area who lack one or more of the following; durable housing, sufficient living area, access to improved water, access to sanitation, and secure tenure.1 The types of slum housing range from concrete buildings and brick-built terraces to makeshift shacks made of salvaged materials such as timber, bamboo, tarpaulin, asbestos, and scrap metal, on encroached land (Figs.1,3 & 6a).18 The last category is the most notorious urban habitats which often lack access to clean water, sanitation, waste disposal and security, and pose a threat to the slum dwellers themselves and the local environment, hence a key feature of perceived urban blight. Some slum dwellers live on streets. The terms slum, shanty housing, informal settlement, squatter shacks, favelas and low-income housing are often used interchangeably.


Photo with the courtesy of Jonathon Mohr  

(a) Slums in Mumbai   


 Photo by Ananda Moonasingha

(b) Slums beside near Railway in Colombo.                                    

                                                      Fig. 1. Slum Settlements        


            Poverty is basically not having enough money to obtain basic needs of life, such as food, clothes, decent shelter, water, sanitation, healthcare, education and security. Poverty is often a cause of poor health, poor education and various other interlinked socio-economic deprivations such as lack of skills and employment opportunities, and also a basis of nefarious behaviour of alcoholism, street prostitution, drugs and crime; and vice-versa.19,20 There are many exceptions, and not all slum dwellers are poor. Most estimates of poor are based on poverty line measured from the estimates of income level sufficient to meet the household’s consumption needs, mainly an adequate diet with a percentage added for other costs.4


            Inadequate access to water and sanitation, and smoke filled slums sheltering too many people in a small room are conditions abetting water-borne, water-washed, and helminthic diseases like tuberculosis, diarrhoea, Ascaris and Hookworm.21,22,23,24,25 Disease arising from poor sanitation kill up to 1.6 million slum dwellers annually.5 WHO estimates that some 12,000,000 people die each year from water-and excreta  related diseases, and 80 percent of all morbidity in developing countries is due to water-and excreta-related diseases21,26


4. Water Supply, Sanitation and Drainage  for Improvement of Slums


            At best, slums may have pipe borne water supply and sanitation. Most upgraded slums have a standpipe water supply and communal latrines. The number of communal latrines serving a slum community is inadequate, and maintaining them is a problem. Often the availability of water in the standpipes is unreliable, and there are queues at standpipes and at communal latrines causing tension and anxiety.4,23 At the lowest category of squatter habitats there is no access to water supply and sanitation that does exemplify the melancholic quality of these communities. In developing countries 20-30 percent of urban population relies on vendors for water supply. In Jakarta around 40 percent urban households depend on water vendors.27 The price of water from private vendors could in general be as much as 10 to 25 times the cost of public utility.4


            Slums are high population density habitats often in low-lying areas such as flood plains subject to flooding. Hence drainage is often a problem in slum settlements. Access to sanitation in general in slum settlements is alarmingly inadequate. Sanitation is a necessasity par with water supply (Fig.2).28 There is a variety of low-cost sanitation systems suitable for improved slum dwellings. These are: pit latrines, ventilated improved pit latrines, pour-flush latrines with soakways or septic tanks, low-cost and small-bore sewerage, and conventional sewerage.21,22,23,26,29,30 Appropriate technologies have their own costs, benefits, advantages, disadvantages, and also the suitability of any type depends on affordability, local environmental conditions and user preferences. In some instances traditional systems used in the region are the most appropriate for sustainability. For instance in Sri Lanka, in general pit latrines and pour-flush soakway cess-pit latrines sustain for almost a lifespan of a family without the requirement of emptying. However, in low-lying areas with high watertable, these may pose a problem.31 In a latrine project in Sri Lanka, vault type pits built with fully lined walls and bottom have been abandoned.32 High density on-site sanitation methods of pit-latrines and soak-pits are not compatible with shallow wells, as they could be polluted. Reliance on latrine pit emptying vehicles in many Third World cities is a considerable risk. Therefore the traditional concept of soak-pit with small-bore or low-cost sewer system is an appropriate option for large-scale community latrines in upgraded slum projects.21,26,31,32   


        (a) Standpipe Water Supply in Colombo 

               Colombo Slum Settlement.


  Photos by Ananda Moonasingha

 (b) Communal Latrines and Waste Bin in a Colombo Slum Settlement



 Photo with the courtesy of UNICEF

(c) Communal Latrines

Fig. 2. Low-Cost Community Water Supply and Sanitation Systems



 Photo with the courtesy of D P Morgan                                                           

                                 Fig. 3. Latrine Discharging into a Canal.                            

            Especially in the low-lying slum settlements the overflowing cess-pits discharge into the nearby drainage canals and streams (Fig.3).18  The constructed wetlands are biological filter systems able to treat small-scale urban wastewater discharges. These are constructed using ingredients of the natural environment such as rock, gravel and sand, and planted vegetation like Bulrush, reeds and Water Hyacinth. The constructed wetlands can be subsurface flow media or free water surface systems of shallow depth.33,34,35 Their potential for innovation for diverse environmental conditions of drainage and control of urban wastewater pollution is significant (Fig.4).36 They have the added benefit of urban environmental embellishment with planted vegetation and wildlife. Innovative projects are learning by doing.25 The stabilization ponds are an established low-cost technology for sewage treatment particularly in the tropics.21,29 The ponds are also used in temperate climates in Europe and America, and can be used in combination with constructed wetlands.30 There are good and poor examples of stabilization ponds in the developing countries attributed to individual set of circumstances.37

Photos by Ocean Arks International, and with the courtesy of David Tenenbaum


Fig. 4. Polluted Drainage Canal in China Restored with Constructed Wetlands.


5. Shelter for Low-Income Communities


            Low-income housing is one of the  most controversial topics in urbanization. This is partly because market forces provide the housing for high-and middle-income groups. Low-income groups cannot afford decent housing at market prices, and the government and aid agencies provide little financial help for housing of low-income groups.4,17 In the 60s and 70s the government in an attempt to make cities more equitable provided public finance for the development of land or dwellings for the rent or sale targeting the middle-and low-income groups. Later it changed to financial support for individual and community organisations to produce housing, eventually turning to current state of enablement for self-help house construction by partnership between governments, communities and individual households.17,38,39,40


            The traditional town planning policies are based on the concept of land use zoning on the premise that different uses such as residential, industrial, commercial, administration and leisure are incompatible in mixed development. Squatters choose to settle mainly in industrial and environmentally hazardous sites closer to their places of employment in the informal sector, and they reckon as less offensive to the authorities and neighbours, hence there is less risk of eviction.4,8,17 Most squatters remain in upgraded slums in core areas and some others move on to low- income housing projects on the outskirts of cities where there is more shared space (Fig. 5). To realistically ease the problem of housing the squatter communities, the town planning policies and regulations have to be flexible to accommodate at least a large part of the squatter groups in their existing sites, because they resist moving far away from their established areas of employment close to where they live. In many cities master plans based on land use zones are over-ridden by subsequent structure plans. Squatter settlements infringe all plans. The benefits of mixed land use include, minimizing the travel distances from home to work, schools and shops, and developing social networks and social capital.4,17,27 Different approaches of mixed commercial, residential and industrial developments accommodating the low-income communities are advocated. Many versions of private, civic society, public partnerships, and negotiation between private land owners and low-income households are promoted to solve the problem of housing low-income communities.17,25,405 Provision of service infrastructure of water, sanitation, electricity and social    services is an important part of improving the quality of life of low-income groups. Most of the projects are implemented through government and donor agency funded self-help schemes.17,23,25,38,39,40,41,42 Integrated slum upgrading includes health education, income generation, and focusing on the needs of women and children.25 Planning policies, regulations and development control, influence, manipulate and distort land prices. Empowerment and enablement are the key instruments of equitable, democratic, good governance. However, education and understanding of the realities of environment are fundamentals of sustainable urbanization demonstrated in Singapore and Colombia.2,17,43 Local Agenda 21s are seen as the means by which each locality develops its own sustainable development plan, drawing on the knowledge, discourse and motivation skills of the local professionals and participation of all the stakeholders.4,44,45

Photo by Ananda Moonasingha           

Fig. 5. Improved Slum Settlement in Colombo


6. Poverty Alleviation


            The global institutions such as the World Bank and International Labour Organization (ILO) advocate urban productivity as a major strategy for alleviating poverty.27 By the late 1980s structural adjustment policies imposed controls on public spending, budget deficits and price distortions, and encouraged liberalised trade, market oriented services, and led to deterioration of domestic manufacturing from imports and caused unemployment. As a result the urban poverty increased in many Third World countries that depend on financial support from international institutions; the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) who impose structural adjustment policies as a condition of negotiating loans.17,27 Countries that had successfully reduced slum problems shared many attributes. Their governments had shown long-term political commitment to slum upgrading and prevention, Many had undertaken progressive pro-poor land and housing reforms to improve the tenure status of slum dwellers and their access to basic services. Countries doing well in managing slum growth had highly centralized systems and structure of governance.19


              About half of the labour force in the developing countries work in the informal sector.27  Among the urban poor, occupations in the informal sector include, home-based industries, taxi drivers, street vendors, food sellers and casual labourers (Fig. 6). Planning regulations often discourage home-based industries which is not realistic and is an impediment to the goal of poverty alleviation and sustainability.17 Municipal planning regulations should be reformed to incorporate sufficient flexibility to encourage acceptable type of home-based industries in tolerable places. Regulation should be able to encourage disciplined enterprise. Communities who are able to foster sustainable industries are the winners. Garment manufacturing is a thriving industry in Asia. Urban landscape avails opportunities for growing vegetables and fruits and raising poultry which provide an income like other home-based industries.46 Urban agriculture is feasible in floodplains, wetlands, hill slopes, and other indoor and outdoor spaces without compromising the environmental health and safety.4 Municipal waste management has to be reorganised to facilitate recycling and reuse, and providing employment for the unskilled poor by private-public partnerships. Appropriate health and safety regulations must be enforced to protect workers and children. Access to education for all children in low-income settlements at least to the level of primary education must be ensured. Third World cities in general have social and health workers, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), and other professionals to monitor the social welfare of slum communities. Often these resources are overstretched.25,47,48


Photo by Ananda Moonasingha

  Fig. 6. Home Based Industry in Colombo


            Skills training, credit for enterprise development, community participation, and action against inadequate infrastructure are key avenues of poverty alleviation.4,23,30,41,49 Developing countries produce enough technical, clerical, and administrative staff. Under-and unemployment among the urban poor who have very little or no education or skills must be trained to fill the shortage of skilled and semi-skilled manual workers who are needed to build the community infrastructure, houses and for the maintenance of deteriorating public works, and for the improvement of the quality of life of the urban poor. Empowerment is endowment of skills and capacity to build and maintain the communities’ own environments and lives. Skilled manual workers in south Asia have the opportunity to work in some other countries of the Third World, which makes the skills training an asset for the poor, the local communities and the Third World nations. Community based organisations (CBOs), NGOs, and other leaders of the civil society should mobilize self-help initiatives to utilize the idle labour for their own benefit. The connotations of poverty and measures of poverty alleviation include, the ability to cope at times of crisis, human capital comprised of skills and education, social capital made up of relationships and trust, and ability to cope with change.27


7. Waste Management


            In most cities municipal authority or its contractors collect domestic waste from high-and middle-income households, commercial and industrial establishments. Handcarts and waste trucks of different form and size are used to collect municipal wastes. Legally established low-income households usually have a communal waste bin. Most squatter settlements do not have a waste disposal service, hence wastes are dumped in canals and open spaces causing a hazard. The most important issue with regard to municipal waste management policy is, minimize, reuse and recycle.48,50 Waste recycling industry provides employment for tens of thousands of families in many cities. However, income from waste recycling for poor families is meagre and some working conditions are below acceptable standards.4


8. Urban Transport


            Sustainable transport is a vital component of urbanization. Traffic congestion is a common problem in almost all large cities. Congestion arises from several factors including growth of population with car ownership, inefficient public transport systems, bottlenecks in arterial networks, long-distance commuting by car and through traffic.2 In most cities traffic congestion is also adding to the air pollution. The costs, disbenefits and solutions to traffic congestion in all high-middle and low-income countries are fundamentally the same. Some of the disbenefits are delay in journeys, driver stress and higher air pollution. The solution to traffic congestion usually comprises a combination of several measures. These are, improvement  and expansion of road infrastructure, improvement of public transport, including bus prioritisation and mass transit systems, and as a last resort fiscal and planning measures to control car use in the city during congestion times (Fig.7).51,52  Some examples of these car control measures are car and fuel taxes, congestion charging and road pricing, bus lanes or bus ways, pedestrianisation of city centre areas, diverting through traffic, and park ride facilities.

Photo with the courtesy of Robert Steiner                                                  

 (a) Bus Lane in Singapore                                       


Photo © 1995-2005 www.nycsubway.org with the courtesy of Mark Feinman

(b)Singapore Mass Rapid Transit                                                             


Fig. 7. Public Transport Infrastructure


            In the developing countries, traffic management systems, driver and road user behaviour are worse than in most high-income nations. The rate of accidents for the number of vehicles registered is greater.53 Buses are overcrowded far beyond tolerable limits.54 Legislation to control such overloading is desirable. However that will increase the fares that in turn will affect the low-income travellers. Without controls on overloading buses and alternative mass transit systems, it will be difficult to encourage car users to travel by public transport. Sustainable transport is a key component of sustainable urbanization.55 Sustainable transport encourages walking and cycling on relatively short journeys. Walking and cycling give added benefit of physical fitness.55,56  Legislation exists for the requirement of better maintenance of vehicles and control of emissions. Mexico City is a classic example of the adverse synergic impacts of air pollution from traffic and industries combined with climatic and geographic features.4


9. Impacts of Environmental Pollution


            Environmental pollution is the biggest challenge of sustainable urbanization, since the latter depends on economic growth through industrialization. Industries are the biggest polluters of water, air and land in the cities that render valuable water and land resources unsuitable for human use, and pollute the urban atmosphere beyond safe limits. All nations have the legislation of environmental impact assessment in view of sustainable development. All significantly large development projects require an environmental impact assessment report for the project to be implemented. The environmental assessment report identifies the adverse impacts on the environment and recommends the options to mitigate the adverse impacts to a sustainable level. Since industries produce liquid, solid and gaseous wastes, they need to incorporate technology to treat these wastes on the industrial sites before discharged to the environment. These waste treatment measures add to the costs of the projects, may require more land area and adversely affect the cost-benefit appraisals. Mostly the small industries fail to comply with waste discharge standards.2,4,17 Alternatively all industrial effluents should be discharged into a public sewer and then treated at a wastewater treatment facility. The effluent discharge consent charges should encourage on site treatment of wastes. The waste treatment technologies often turn wastes into by-products or make them fit for other uses such as energy or irrigation. Such innovative integrated projects improve the cost-benefit ratio and make the urbanization sustainable. The literature suggests that in some countries environmental impact assessment and planning procedures are not integrated, and the enforcement of environment protection law is ineffective. Pressure from international customers and fair trade campaigns is prompting the Third World industries to adopt environmentally sustainable technology and respect human rights issues like child labour. In Shanghai which is one of the fastest growing cities in the world, the enforcement of environmental impact legislation is flexible, and is delegated to the lowest hierarchy of the local authorities, which incidentally accedes with the good governance inspirations of the global institutions.17 Ad hoc resolutions are passed when hopeless impasses become blatant or politically inconvenient.8  Globally, poor populations contribute far less to the impacts of climate change and environmental pollution than the rest of the population who consume more energy, space, food, and resources in general.4 However, squatter settlements are a cause of urban blight in the local environment.


10. Water Resources


            The common sources of water supply for cities are surface water reservoirs outside the city, abstraction from rivers, and groundwater aquifers. Many cities depending on groundwater have experienced depletion of groundwater aquifer. Mining of groundwater has led to the intrusion of saline water into the aquifer, forcing to abstract groundwater further away from the cities.4,57 The capacity of surface water reservoirs is inadequate to meet the increasing urban demand. Many cities have rivers nearby which could provide a reliable source of water. Unfortunately most of these rivers are not suitable for extraction for water supply. The quality of the rivers has to be improved by implementing plants to treat the wastewater discharges into the rivers, before they can be relied upon as a source of water supply for the city. The other inefficiency in water supply in Third World cities in common with developed countries is, the wastage through leaks in distribution system which has to bring under control by regular maintenance. Usual technique of demand management of utilities such as water and electricity is to set up increasing levels of tariff for increasing levels of consumption.


11. Hazards of Slum Settlements


            Many slum settlements are located in low-lying areas of canal and river banks, floodplains, steep hill slopes, vulnerable to floods, river bank erosion, tidal inundation, landslides, and dangerous locations like railway margins, landfill sites, and industrial sites polluted with industrial wastes (Figs.1,3 & 8).4,18 Reclamation of lowland areas in Bombay in the past without serious consideration of planning and design for drainage, is a major problem of flooding, sewerage management, and traffic disruption during monsoon rains. Reclamation of coastal areas for buildings also seems to have aggravated the erosion in some other parts of the seafront which has needed coastal protection measures.2 Vulnerable coastal environments should be protected from harmful developments and resource exploitation.58 Building on reclaimed floodplains of growing cities exacerbates flooding elsewhere and needs extensive flood defence systems which is unrealistic. However, practical measures are taken within economically feasible limits to protect the existing slum settlements on the floodplains.59 Flood retention ponds are a vital component of sustainable urban drainage (Fig. 8)18. Embankments, clearing debris and silt in drainage canals and streams are usual methods of flood protection. A general hazard in slum settlements is environmental health. Wastes and excreta on the unpaved footpaths are breeding grounds for disease carrying helminths and pathogenic organisms. The slum settlement should be served with paved footpaths and drainage channels to ensure proper drainage and minimize insanitary conditions in the environment.



Photos with the courtesy of D P Morgan                                      

Fig. 8. Dwellings on the margin of Stormwater Retention Ponds in Colombo

            Some hill sites are vulnerable to landslides, and mainly low-income communities live in such locations in cities, because the value of such land is very low. It is extremely expensive to engineer hillside stability, and there are limits to the effectiveness of any attempt to thwart a natural process.60 Both hard and soft approaches are implemented in an attempt mitigate landslide hazards. Soft solutions include, avoiding landslide areas by zoning and regulation, engineering measures like drainage improvement, wire nets, gabions, low- height retaining walls, and bioengineering of planted vegetation.61,62 Conventional engineering solutions to landslides hazards include the retaining walls and improvement of drainage and slope stability.63


12. Empowerment for Community Development


            The current strategy for human centred development for low-income communities follow the approach of public participation. Community development based on active-participation has transformed a welfare-oriented approach with masses of passive beneficiaries to a development aimed at disadvantaged communities through self-help. The key instrument of this strategy is community empowerment.43 World Bank defines ‘Empowerment is the process of increasing the assets and capabilities of individuals or groups to make purposive choices and to transform these choices into desired actions and outcomes’.64 The comprehensive process of empowerment entails, raising consciousness, developing relevant skills, knowledge, identifying issues and needs, prioritising them and evolving the whole of project cycle of strategic selection and implementation of the most appropriate solution, and evaluation of the outcomes.17,43 Effective empowerment is an enabling process of imbuing all the planning, design and management processes, associated technical issues, assessing resources and constraints, negotiation and implementation with the support of a host of actors like CBOs, NGOs, government officials, politicians and often donor agencies.


13. Good Governance


            Governance means the process of ruling a state or a municipality by making and implementing policies, plans and regulatory framework. The government is the principal actor of governance. The other actors include the national and provincial government decision makers, elected local officials, entrepreneurs, and elite of the civil society. All actors other than government and the military are grouped together as part of the civil society.65 (UNESCAP 14 Nov-em).


            The attributes of good governance include, participatory, transparent, responsive, accountable, efficient, tackling corruption, equitable, democratic, and follows the rule of law.65  They are directly associated with programmes that seek greater effciciency and effectiveness in the use of resources through the structural adjustment of government administration.38 Structural adjustment programmes involve policies favouring privatisation and the promotion of market-oriented systems, public sector cutbacks, retrenchment, and devaluation. These policies are often associated with rising levels of urban poverty and reduced rate of urban growth.27


            The term urban governance formerly associated with urban management has transformed to represent both government responsibility and civic engagement. Generally it refers to the process by which local urban governments, in participation with other public agencies and actors of civil society respond effectively to local needs in a participatory, transparent and accountable manner.1,40  Improved urban governance with increasing community participation is a prerequisite for improved urban management.41 Good governance should afford more responsibility and resources to community based organisations CBOs, NGOs and other voluntary sector groups (United Nations Centre for Human Settlements (UNCHS).4  Discourse has been deployed as a means of endearment during the times of adversity, using the natural disasters and environment as a metaphor to articulate government agenda.17 Many agencies have shifted a significant part of their support for urban development from specific urban projects to what was originally called strengthening the institutional capacity of urban governments and later called supporting good governance. The aim of the change is to stop deterioration of donor-funded urban infrastructure projects, and improve the local capacity to manage and maintain them.4


            For cities, sustainable development is about developing systems of governance that can reconcile meeting development goals with environment.4 The true indicators of good governance are in the achievements in improvements in environment, transport and quality of life of the poor. Good governance should negotiate foreign investment to establish less polluting industries in the cities to provide employment for local people, and allocate shared space for housing the urban poor. Outward form is not a reliable indicator of the quality or viability of a structure, whether it be physical or administrative. Changes that do not touch the underlying factors responsible for generating particular conditions are palliatives beneficial to few, rather than solutions.8


14. Enabling Paradigm


            There are two contributory sources of enabling paradigm. One is that, the concept of state as enabler is an outcome of the conflation of two prevailing socio-economic ideas by the international aid agencies in the 1980s. These are, that financial resources were too limited to implement centrally funded mass housing schemes, and existence of high levels of under-and unemployed among the poor could be converted to sweat equity. These two ideas came together and gave rise to the view of the state as facilitator or enabler and not provider.27 The current policy of enabling paradigm is based on the approach of initiative combined with social ideals of persuasion and accommodation. Whereas formerly the government was regarded as the leader, provider and sustainer, the new roles assigned to it are primarily those of a facilitator and enabler. A transformed government is supposed to foster regeneration in society of individual freedoms and responsibilities.38 Successful enablement is always a careful balance between encouragement and control.4


            Another initiative is the participatory self-help movement that was introduced to reduce the construction costs and public expenditure in the low-cost housing sector that would save the contractor’s overheads and profit. Participatory, enabling strategy for housing is based on good governance that fosters qualities of transparency, deregulation, decentralisation and devolution of responsibility and authority. They are associated with programmes that seek greater efficiency and effectiveness in the use of resources through the structural adjustment of government administration.38  

15. Economic Impacts


            A boom in the housing industry whether it is public sector funded, subsidised or by private sector development for high- middle and low-income residents, put a strain on building resources, land, skills, labour and materials. Rise in demand of resources without a rise in supply, increases the cost of resources which is inflationary.17 In an ideal industrious, competitive market, the entrepreneurs will grasp the opportunity of demand for resources, and the production and supply of building materials that will keep the price of materials stable. The government as the enabler and facilitator must ensure the adequate training and availability of skilled and semi-skilled labour from the under-and unemployed masses, and environmentally sustainable generation of material resources. Without integrated development of land, skills and material resources, the  house construction is impeded by distortions in markets. Timber is a vital commodity that can be produced in rural gardens and in forest plantations. There are appropriate technologies that turn waste into building products, and research in these areas should be encouraged. In the informal sector standards are determined by the market which is driven by the economic demand of willingness to pay. Skills training and material production must maintain appropriate standards. The government should disseminate the standardised technological information appropriate for community infrastructure.17 Appreciation of affordable quality and a healthy competition must thrive to maintain standards.




            Sustainability of urbanization is about improving the capacity of urban centres to enable its populations to maintain a decent quality of life and to ensure the cities as centres of multifunctional operations in the nation, continue to function in an efficient environment. Sustainable development entails realising a vision by implementing necessary constituent parts to meet the mosaic of inputs and outputs of an integrated programme. Sustainable urbanization does not generate in isolation without economic alliance with the rural sectors.


            About one-third of the urban population is regarded as law-income communities and large proportion of this live below poverty line. Overcrowded ramshackle housing, inadequate access to basic needs of water, sanitation, health care, education, and other services are characteristics of slum settlements. To improve the living standards of the poor, mixed development of high density, low-income housing development is promoted in partnership with private land owners, commercial enterprises, public sector and civil society organizations. Aided self-help housing and environmental health infrastructure and services development by low-income communities is the current trend of slum upgrading. A key objective in empowerment is the process of education and training of low-income communities to organise and improve their housing environment by self-determination. Integrated slum upgrading embraces health, education, income generation, microcredit and the needs of children and women. The civil society organisations are an important force in initiating and mobilizing integrated slum improvement programmes. Skills training and sustainable development of building materials to build and maintain housing and infrastructure services are fundamental to sustainable urbanization. Sustainability of infrastructure lies crucially on the careful selection, innovative adoption, and adroit implementation of technology appropriate to the set of circumstances. Attempts to boost housing and infrastructure without increasing the supply of skilled labour, land and material resources have caused cost escalation and inflationary problems. Attraction of foreign investment and enterprise partnership with foreign investors are vital to urbanization. Good governance is important to attract inward investment. Good governance represents both government responsibility and participatory civic engagement. Industrialization policies must favour less polluting industries and technologies. Environmental protection and integrated development need a national consensus of the stakeholders. Community participation in urban waste management, integrated drainage and wastewater management and urban farming are assets of sustainable urban development. Third World cities have a formidable task of cleaning their rivers to use them as a source of water to meet their demand. Improving road networks and public transport, implementation of mass transit systems, and fiscal control of car use during congestion are means of improving urban traffic management and transport. Walking, cycling, and using public transport instead of the use of car in cities during peak hours are common inspirations both in western and Third World cities. Pedestrian friendliness, tourist attractiveness, parks and open spaces are essential features in sustainable urbanization. Sustainable urbanization needs a vision concentrating on major areas of problems and planned solutions. The solutions should embrace the key stakeholders, including foreign investors, and low-income, under-and unemployed inhabitants.   Economic, technological and environmental resources and constraints should be appreciated.




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