Originally Posted 10/21/2016
Habitat III is the third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development. The first Habitat conference was held in 1976 and the subsequent conferences have been held every 20 years (1996, 2016). In 1976, the concept of “rapid urbanization” was a new idea: mass migration into cities was beginning as a global phenomenon and the provision of shelter for the growing populations was an emerging issue. In 1996, the conference identified the increasing deterioration of shelter in urban centers and called for shelter for all. It also sought to ignite a global effort, based in local participation, to address the sustainability of cities in terms of consumption, production, population size and distribution, poverty, infrastructure, environment, etc.
This year, 2016, according to the Habitat III webpage, the objectives of the conference are “to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable urban development, assess accomplishments to date, address poverty and identify and address new and emerging challenges. The conference will result in a concise, focused, forward-looking and action-oriented outcome document.” This document is entitled the “New Urban Agenda” and is intended to be a document that will be officially adopted in Quito, Ecuador this week.
In addition to representatives from the 200 UN governments, other stakeholders, governments, researchers, members of the private sector, and non-governmental organizations will be in attendance. But other than the adoption of the New Urban Agenda, what are the intended outcomes of these conferences? The conference intends to act as a forum to get everyone “on the same page” in terms of sustainable development goals, to serve as a public opportunity for nation states to make commitments in their respective countries, and aims to steer funding agencies towards prioritizing and supporting the goals outlined within the New Urban Agenda. However, though the adoption is structured as a participatory conference, it will be interesting to see whether participants have influence or primarily act as observers of the process (see this article for an interesting perspective on the role of scientists in this process:http://www.nature.com/news/scientists-must-have-a-say-in-the-future-of-cities-1.20760).
The New Urban Agenda is highly relevant to the work of MEGADAPT both topically, in terms of water related issues, and in its statements relating to the role of research/researchers. The agenda calls for cities that “provide universal access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation” as well as for the conservation of water. It recognizes that urban centers are increasingly vulnerable to climate change, flooding, extreme weather events, water scarcity, water pollution, and drought — all issues that are encompassed within the scope of the MEGADAPT project.
The agenda commits to “long-term urban and territorial planning processes and spatial development practices that incorporate integrated water resources planning and management, considering the urban-rural continuum at the local and territorial scales, and including the participation of relevant stakeholders and communities.” MEGADAPT’s ambition to incorporate and visualize the different perspectives on the problems and solutions of water related risk in Mexico City will contribute directly to this goal. The New Urban Agenda also promotes sustainable water usage via revitalizing urban water resources, treating waste water, reducing water losses – all issues that are highlighted in MEGADAPT’s synthesis of stakeholder knowledge and experience, and in the scenarios of solutions that are planned in MEGADAPT for the coming year. Additionally, the Agenda proposes investment in all categories of water infrastructure in order to reduce water-related disasters and health risks and to eliminate inequalities related to water provision.
Thinking of infrastructure broadly is critical: cities need to rely on innovative strategies that incorporate green and grey infrastructure as well as “soft” infrastructural solutions that focus on governance and institutions. The Agenda calls upon research organizations to work with governments to improve the governance process and to promote effective participation in decision-making. It supports “science, research, and innovation, including a focus on social, technological, digital and nature-based innovation, robust science-policy interfaces in urban and territorial planning and policy formulation, as well as institutionalized mechanisms for sharing and exchanging information, knowledge and expertise, including the collection, analysis, standardization and dissemination of geographically-based, community-collected, high-quality, timely and reliable data…” We hope that MEGADAPT will play such a role in helping Mexico City meet its water and urbanization challenges.
Ultimately, the challenge at hand requires investment in transdisciplinary research, collaborative implementation, and, an approach to the science-policy interface that helps articulate the disparate meanings, values, and understandings on sustainability and development associated with the inhabitants of the world’s cities. Cities embody the complexity of values, politics and social relations that define society, and circumscribe the relationship of people to place and to the environment. Solutions to the challenges of cities this century must place the nexus of social equity, human rights and environmental integrity in the spotlight. Habitat III will articulate the challenge and outline possible solution pathways, but where do we begin? We hope that MEGADAPT will contribute to the debate, and build on the New Urban Agenda to help articulate some pathways for change. Are you on board to help?
The official website: https://habitat3.org/
The New Urban Agenda:https://www2.habitat3.org/bitcache/97ced11dcecef85d41f74043195e5472836f6291?vid=588897&disposition=inline&op=view
A look at inclusion within the New Urban Agenda by our collaborators at the STEPS Centre:http://steps-centre.org/2016/blog/the-new-urban-agenda-and-its-47-inclusions/
A helpful overview of the history and current events of the UN’s Habitat Conferences:http://citiscope.org/habitatIII/explainer/what-habitat-iii
Originally Posted 9/27/2016
This past Sunday was World Rivers Day- a day to celebrate natural waterways around the world and encourage stewardship of these valuable resources. Through the basin of Mexico, where the Mexico City Metropolitan Area is located, there once flowed many rivers. However, as the city grew, most of these rivers were enclosed in drains or transformed into sewers (Legorreta, J. 2009). However, there is one remaining free-flowing river and source of surface water within the city- the Magdalena River.
The Magdalena river is located in the Magdalena Contreras region, on the southwestern edge of the city. Like most rivers that run through urban areas, the Magdalena River was transformed as the city grew. Though the amount of water flowing through the river has not drastically changed, the quality of the water has. Clean water is taken out of the river and replaced with untreated wastewater (Mazari-Hiriart et al, 2014). As the river enters the urban area, the physicochemical and biological indicators such as electirical conductivity, nitrogen, phosphorous, fecal coliforms, and fecal enterococci increase dramatically (Mazari-Hiriart et al., 2014 & Jujnovsky, J., 2010). In many sampling sites within the urban area, researchers have found that the water quality does not meet the criteria required for human consumption (Mazari-Hiriart et al., 2014 & Jujnovsky, J., 2010). Additionally, the river contains concentrations of microbes that parasitize and cause disease in humans and animals (Mazari-Hiriart et al, 2014).
This information is not new to city residents and city officials and there have been conversations about the restoration of the river. A Master Plan was developed with significant public participation, and parts of it have been implemented. Transforming a river within an urban area, however, is challenging. What does restoration look like for an urban river? Knowing that it will never mimic its pre-urbanized state, to what state is it restored to? If you know of or are involved in any restoration projects in Mexico City, or in other urban environments, please comment below! We would love to hear from our readers.
Jujnovsky, J., Almeida-Lenero, L., Bojorge-Garcia, M., Monges, Y.L., Cantoral-Uriza, E., Mazari-Hiriart, J. 2010. Hydrologic ecosystem services: water quality and quantity in the Magdalena River, Mexico City. Hidrobiológica 20(2): 113-126
Legorreta J (2009) Ríos, lagos y manantiales del Valle de México. Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Gobierno del Distrito Federal. Artes Impresas Eón, S.A. de C.V. México, D.F. 365 p.
Mazari-Hiriart M, Pe´rez-Ortiz G, Orta-Ledesma MT, Armas-Vargas F, Tapia MA, et al. (2014) Final Opportunity to Rehabilitate an Urban River as a Water Source for Mexico City. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102081. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102081
A collaborative project seeking to improve capacities for risk management in Mexico City and to serve as a model for climate-change adaptation in developing countries.