Global goals 10
“For he looked for a CITY which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”- Hebrews 11:10
“What is the use of a house if you don’t have a decent planet to put it on?” – Henry David Thoreau
Mark Twain once said, “Plan for the future, because that is where you are going to spend the rest of your life.” It is very glaring to note that the earth is increasingly getting disorganized by the day; the equilibrium between economic development and environmental resources has been greatly destabilized. The United Nations has ascertained that more than half of the world’s inhabitants live in cities and this migration trend is expected to continue. By 2050 more than two-thirds of the world will be urban dwellers. India alone is expected to double the number of city dwellers by adding 404 million new people to cities over the next 35 years!
In defining the term ‘planning’, Alan Lakein said, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” In order to make our communities and cities to be fit for the future, adequate planning is not negotiable. We must review the design of our cities and communities with the future in perspective.
A city that is unsustainable has been empowered to destroy itself and in comparing modern calamities with ancient, I will quickly like to allude to the destruction of one of the most adorable cities of ancient antiquity. The City of Rome has always been the envy of savage enemies, several attempts had been made to destroy Rome but to no avail. Due to the fun-loving nature of the Roman citizens, the master plan of the city was mundanely tinkered to accommodate the overbearing lifestyles of its citizens. Even the prediction of an impending disaster could not caution the citizens and their leaders to prepare the city for a disaster that was glaringly inevitable.
It is poignant to note that mortal weapons did not destroy the city of Rome, as the city was built to defy the enemies’ invasion, but was actually destroyed by the ‘structure-less’ lifestyle and attitude of its citizens. The last Roman Emperor, Emperor Nero, reduced Rome to an ordinary fun-city to the extent that it was documented in ancient literature that Nero was fiddling while Rome was burning.
The Great Fire of Rome was an urban fire that started on the night between July 18 and 19 in the year 64 AD. It caused widespread devastation, before being brought under control after six days. In the end, the fire destroyed over 15,000 buildings, or two-thirds of the city. The Emperor’s mindless tinkering with the original master plan of Rome and the unguarded lifestyles of Rome’s aberrant citizens eventually signalled its doom.
Urie Bronfenbrenner said: “In the planning and designing of new communities, housing projects, and urban renewal, the planners, both private and public, need to give explicit consideration to the kind of world that is being created for the children who will be growing up in these settings.”
The might of a nation is in the sustainability of its cities and communities. We need a stakeholder meeting to redesign Nigeria to be fit for the future. Most cities in the country are unsustainable for the exponential influx that has bedevilled them over the years. We need to map out strategies of how we can bridge urban inequality in the present Nigeria; we need safe and resilient communities. We need to evolve and monitor critical indicators for social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability in order to create vibrant and sustainable cities that can meet the demands and challenges of the 21st century. We must work assiduously towards the implementation of master plans in cities as a means of achieving sustainable human settlements in the country. Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how.
We should not just abandon the responsibility of evolving sustainable cities and communities to the government alone, we must take individual and corporate responsibility in the campaign of giving our environment a sustainable face-lift. I was so much fascinated by the novel idea of Heineken and their #ShapeYourCity initiative. Shape Your City is a global campaign that inspires us to take small actions to create a transformation in the cities that we live in. This global campaign will give people anywhere in the world the platform to contribute ideas that will help in making their cities more resilient and fascinating. Though Heineken is looking more at the entertainment aspect, but I would encourage government to design a platform that can help citizens contribute their ideas towards reshaping their city.
There are so many environmental infringements that are destroying our cities and communities, but responsible citizens cannot voice it out because there is no platform for this. The Ministries of Environment and that of Physical Planning and Urban Development at the state level should come together to design a platform (it could be a website), where responsible and committed citizens can notify government of any infringement or foul play noticed in their environment that could actually sabotage development and planning. This initiative will help people take ownership of their communities and cities, as government will not be able to note all defaulting individuals and companies without the help of citizens.
Planners under the umbrella of Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) have severally reiterated the abuse of master plans. They have vigorously campaigned and advocated for the implementation of master plans in cities and communities as a way of ensuring that planning and development are in tandem with global and best practices. One of the targets of the United Nations global goal of ensuring sustainable cities and communities is to support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning.
The United Nations believe strongly that it will be under the auspices of cities where we will succeed or fail in achieving our goals of poverty eradication, equality, climate change reduction, and ensuring healthy lives. It will be the cities that will determine if we will achieve inclusive economic growth or yield to greater inequality. It is in cities where people will seek opportunities for higher education and employment. And, it will be the cities that will determine if we will continue our steadily increasing usage of the world’s resources or if we will realize a more sustainable path.
The interplay of land use and transportation, as well as facilitating liveable communities with transportation choices is sacrosanct to sustainable development. I was in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 2014 for a British conference and was really fascinated by their rail transportation system. The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, has clearly stated that the revamping of the rail transportation system is crucial for successful diversification of the nation’s economy and increased earnings from non-oil investments. The claim by the minister that the country has no functional National Transportation Policy is a great indictment on the transportation sector of the country and should be seriously looked into.
The Minister declared that the time is apt to have a cost effective road transport model that satisfies the aspirations of citizens, enhance investors’ confidence and promote tourism. The Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness, Muhammad Sanusi II reached out to the ministry of transportation at a two-day stakeholders’ workshop on “Road Transport Management and Mass Transit Operations” in Abuja, on the need to provide good road transportation system as well as subsidized fare in Nigeria to help solve the challenges of transportation in the country.
William Hastie said, “Strategic planning for the future is the most hopeful indication of our increasing social intelligence.” I am reaching out to all the Commissioners of Environment and Physical Planning and Urban Development in all states of the federation to rise up to this challenge of building sustainable cities and communities that can accommodate us presently without jeopardizing the opportunities and well-being of future generations. We must plan meticulously today in order to curtail our spontaneous growth in the face of a changing world.
Next week, I will be writing on the 16th goal of the United Nations: Peace, Justice and Strong institutions. Until then, act locally but think globally.
*To learn more on how you can get involved in these global goals, you can go to www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment.