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About UNEP
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United Nations Environment Programme
Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
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Urban Issues

Please note that resources contained in this page are derived from previous/closed Work Programmes (~ 2004). The information presented here is for archival purposes only. For current on-going activities, please see http://www.unep.or.jp/
Background
Urban Sprawl
Pressures
on Natural Habitats
Urban Waste
Management
Climate Change and
Air Pollution
Energy,
Environment
and
Development
Public Health
Problems
Related
Institution
and links
Reference
Background


At IETC we pay specific attention to urban environmental problems such as water supply, sewage, solid waste, energy, loss of green and natural spaces, urban sprawl, land contamination, traffic, transport, air pollution and noise. The present state of these problems will be introduced and discussed by topic. The urban environmental problems are serious in developing countries and countries with economies in transition due to the collision between the economic plan of short run and the environment protection. The Centre serves as a proactive inter-mediator for cooperation between sources and users of Environmental Sound Technologies. We also play a role in strengthening the capacities of peoples living in our target areas to make sensible decisions about technologies for sustainable development.

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Water Supply


The world's population is increasingly found in the cities. Today, throughout the developing world, urbanization trends are gaining speed and are irreversible. From a technical standpoint, it is easier to provide water and sanitation services to people living closer together in urban settings than in dispersed rural communities. However, the costs of meeting the needs are much higher per capita, and are growing. The health risks posed by the lack of sanitation increase exponentially as densities increase and as people share drinking water and sanitation resources.

The urban environmental sanitation crisis in developing countries is taking a large health, economic, and environmental toll on all city residents. Willingness to pay for basic water and sanitation services is often high in peri-urban neighborhoods, provided that services are appropriate, effective, and affordable. The use of a strategic sanitation approach should helps to build capacity within implementing agencies and enhances the ability of communities to make sustainable sanitation improvements.

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Urban Sprawl


The global changes mask quite distinct regional differences in land use changes. As mentioned above, urbanization is developing very speed and is irreversible. In industrial regions, agricultural land is projected to increase from its 1990 level by about 3 per cent by 2015 and 10 per cent by 2050. In North America, the percentage increase is 4 per cent by 2015 but only 2 per cent by 2050, while in Europe and the former USSR the figures are 4 per cent by 2015 and 18 per cent by 2050.

In summary, to meet future food demands, a considerable extension of the area currently used for agriculture is needed, in addition to improvements in yields, unless more drastic changes take place in societies. It is projected that this extension will principally affect developing regions and some parts of North America, Europe, and the former USSR. In all areas, any extension of agricultural area is projected to occur at the expense of remaining natural areas.

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Pressures on Natural Habitats


According to the Global Biodiversity Assessment, species have been becoming extinct since 1600 at 50-100 times the average estimated natural rate, while the extinction rate is expected to rise to between 1,000 and 10,000 times the natural rate. The Global Biodiversity Assessment identifies the five major causes of biodiversity loss as the fragmentation, degradation, or outright loss of habitats (through the conversion of land for agriculture, infrastructure, or urbanization, for example); overexploitation; the introduction of non-native species; pollution; and climate change, Some positive initiatives have also been identified, however, such as the establishment of protected areas, habitat regeneration, and measures that mitigate pressures from human activities.

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Urban Waste Management


The closure of existing open dumpsites and the introduction of sanitary landfill is an urgent priority everywhere in the developing world. Even where complementary disposal technologies such as composting or incineration (waste to energy plants) are practiced, a landfill is still required and is the backbone of any sustainable disposal system. Given the essential nature of the landfill for final disposal, and the lack of local experience and financial resources for introducing sanitary landfills, central government support in terms of technical assistance and access to financing is needed in many lower and middle income countries. Matching grants designed to encourage landfill investments and sustainable operations may be an appropriate instrument to consider, primarily because the environmental damages and benefits tend to spillover into neighboring municipalities and regions, or into underlying groundwater resources.

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Climate Change and Air Pollution


Climate change and acidification are recognized as current or potential problems in both industrial and developing countries. Recently, a better understanding of how these two problems overlap and interact has emerged. First, greater combustion of fossil fuels increases the emissions of many acidifying pollutants as well as greenhouse gases. Second, changes in weather patterns stimulated by climate change will alter the intensity and distribution of acid deposition. Third and perhaps most important, because it complicates projections of climate change emissions of acidifying pollutants, especially sulphur dioxide, lead to the accumulation in the upper atmosphere of aerosols that partly mask the effects of greenhouse gases. The two important global issues addressed here climate change and acidification have the same underlying cause: a high level of economic activity that results in the emission of huge amounts of polluting substances into the atmosphere. Energy consumption in industrial regions has increased almost exponentially with the growth of population and economies.

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Energy, Environment and Development


Energy is basic to development. They improve people's productivity. In the aggregate, modern energy services are powerful engine of economic and social opportunity: no country has managed to develop much beyond a subsistence economy without ensuring at least minimum access to energy services for a broad section of its population. It is not surprising to find, therefore, that the billion who live in developing countries attach a high priority to energy services. On average, these people spend nearly 12% of their income on energy. More than five times the average for people living in OECD countries. As a "revealed preference", to use the economistsEjargon, energy services are high on the agenda of the world's poorest people.

At the same time, the provision of energy services especially through the combustion of fossil fuels and biomass can create adverse environmental effects. In rich countries, much attention is directed to the regional and global consequences of fuel combustion, because many of the local effects have been controlled at considerable expense over the past half-century. In developing countries, the local environmental problems associated with energy use remain matters of concern that are as, or even more, urgent than they were in industrialized countries 50 or 100 years ago. Further, it is the poor who suffer most severely from such problems, because it is they who are forced to rely upon the most inefficient and polluting sources of energy services for lack of access to better alternatives.

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Public Health Problem


In currently developing regions, a multitude of health determinants have an influence at the same time. There are important negative impacts of environmental factors, as well as more positive impacts, of which economic situation and family income, education and insight, and behavioral changes appear to be dominant influences. Major improvements in health have been achieved over recent decades in terms of both decreases in overall morbidity and mortality and more specific parameters such as the incidence of infectious diseases or prenatal and infant mortality. Life expectancy has increased nearly everywhere, and this has led to increases in population, despite declining birth rates in many countries. In some countries, however, this fertility transition is slow or stagnating.

At the moment, children under age five account for more than 25 per cent of global mortalities. These occur almost exclusively in developing countries, where 85 per cent of mortality (10.6 million deaths) in children under age 5 is caused by communicable diseases nearly half of them diarrhea diseases. Nevertheless, mortality in children under age 5 attributable to communicable diseases in developing countries is declining; if this trend continues, it will lead to significant decreases in global mortality.

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Related Institutions and Links


Global Environment Centre Foundation (GEC) was established in 1992 to make use of the abundant accumulation of knowledge and experience in the field of environmental preservation in Japan, to support contributions of UNEP for urban environmental management in developing countries, to promote international cooperation for environmental conservation, and thereby to contribute to the conservation of the global environment.

As a part of the Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) of UNEP, IETC is currently closely coordinating its activities with substantive offices of UNEP, mainly Division of Environmental Policy Development and Law and Division of Environmental Policy Implementation, INFOTERRA and UNEP's regional offices. We are also implementing joint activities with the Sustainable Cities Programme (SCP) of UN-HABITAT), and working in close collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the Regional Economic Commissions and the United Nations organizations at large.

The World Bank (WorldBank) and the regional banks of reconstruction and development, for example, The Asian Development Bank (ADB), The Inter-American Development Banks (IADB), The African Development Bank (AFDB), The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and The Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC) also are planning and implementing the urban environmental improvement projects.

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Reference


This paper was written mainly base on the materials on the homepages of UNEP and IETC, The World Bank and The UNDP-World Bank Water and Sanitation Program (WSP), especially following reports:
  1. Vandeweerd, V.; Cheatle, M.; Henricksen, B.; Schomaker, M.; Seki, M.; Zahedi, K., Global Environment Outlook (GEO)―UNEP Global State of Environment Report 1997
  2. Daniel, H.; Thomas, L., What a Waste: Solid Waste Management in Asia. The World Bank, Urban & Local Government Working Paper Series No. 1, Washington, DC, May 1999.
  3. Executive Summary of Fuel for Thought. World Bank Group's Board of Executive Directors. Washington, DC, July 1999
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