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Millennium Development Goals Part VI – Environmental Sustainability03 May 2011
In 1950 less than 30% of the world’s population lived in cities. Today it is 51%, and by 2050 it is estimated it will be 70%. Well thought-out sustainable development is badly needed for the billions of people that are, and will be, living in slum conditions. This article will look at the seventh Millennium Development Goal (MDG) - to ensure environmental sustainability. The targets of this goal are to integrate sustainable development principles into government policy and reverse the loss of environmental resources, reduce biodiversity loss, increase sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation and to achieve a significant improvement in the lives of slum dwellers.
Urbanisation & Slums
As agriculture becomes less labour intensive, and no new arable agricultural land becomes available for a growing rural population, employment opportunities shift to the manufacturing, industrial and service sectors of major cities and people naturally migrate to those cities seeking jobs.
Many countries already have multiple cities with over one million residents. China has over 166 such cities, India has 41, Mexico has 12, Indonesia has 8, and the Philippines has 6 cities with over one million residents.
According to the UN, the percentage of urban dwellers living in slums decreased from 47% to 37% in the developing world between 1990 and 2005. The percentage decrease, however, is a statistical trick. Due to rapid urbanisation, the number of slum dwellers as a proportion of the urban population has gone down, however, the actual number of slum dwellers has still increased.
One billion people worldwide now live in slums and the
The one billion people living in slums, shanty towns or favelas suffer from inadequate water, sewerage, shelter and lack other essential services such as garbage collection and drainage. The small piece of land a family occupies in a slum is likely to be overcrowded and be subject to insecure tenure and property rights.
Even though, since 1960, 1.6 billion people gained access to safe drinking water, in recent years there has been a decline in pro-poor investment in water and sanitation. With spending cuts by many governments due to neoconservative economic policies - especially following the
Private companies are not interested in providing services, such as water, to people who cannot afford to pay.
Impacts on Women
It has also been found that where there are no school latrines, girls are often unwilling to attend classes.
Inadequate housing, water and sanitation invariably leads to
Many governments of developing countries attempt slum clearance programs where the residents of a slum area are transferred to an area on the outskirts of the city. In doing so, the people are often also removed from their part-time or casual employment or opportunities to earn income in the casual economy, to an area where there are no jobs or opportunities to earn income through self-employed work.
Experience, however, has shown that if people in a slum area are given ownership of their tiny piece of land, and communal water taps are provided along with sewerage,
The Millennium Development target of improving the lives of 100 million slum dwellers between the year 2000 and 2015 is easily achievable - all we lack is the political will.
This is the sixth in a series of articles in our quarterly newsletter looking at the Millennium Development Goals - the eight point plan by all the world's nations
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