Friday, 14 October 2016

Urbanization, Governance and Environmental Management

“Sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strength governance”. Ban Ki-moon 
According to the World Resources Institute (WRI) by 2050, 2.5 billion people, a larger population than China and India combined will move into the world’s cities. As the global population increases so too are the chances of interpersonal conflicts as we share the space around us. It matters a whole lot that governments work assiduously to make our cities safe and sustainable for all its inhabitants in spite of budgetary constraints. The United Nations (UN) has been around for more than 50 years and has been integrally involved in programmes aimed at transforming societies for the better. The UN has established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) all of which are geared towards ending poverty, protecting our planet and ensuring prosperity for all. The New World Encyclopedia defines sustainable development as balancing the protection of the natural environment with the fulfillment of human needs so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but in the indefinite future. Regrettably, sustainable development is not always as obvious to policy makers as in too many situations the environment is sacrificed on the altar of development. Goal 17 of the UN’s (SDG’s) addresses the issue of partnership which is critical to sustainable development. According to the United Nations a successful development agenda requires partnership between governments, the private sector and civil society. These partnerships the UN added should be built upon principles and values, a shared vision and shared goals. Unfortunately, we live in a society where the laws are not always adhered to by some of the citizenry. There is a tendency for many of us in the society to dispose of garbage into gullies which oftentimes are flooded during times of disasters. We then blocked the roads and cry for justice forgetting to connect the dots that we too have a civic responsibilities to make our cities safe and secure. One can be poor with a heightened sense of civic pride. The society must remind itself and be mindful that government also has a wider responsibility to the citizenry to ensure that the gullies and drain are clean regularly. Recently, we saw what less than an hour’s rain can do to our urban and rural areas as many roadways, communities and gullies were flooded.  It can be argued that each social class has its own set of principles and goals which inevitably leads to chaos and underdevelopment. All across the corporate areas and in some parts of rural Jamaica, areas once considered as prime residential locations have been allowed to be taken over and changed into commercial purposes without any sanctions being applied to those who are involved in such practices. For example, in recent times there have been influxes of junk yards selling used car parts. In many instances these used car parts are stored on top of buildings or elsewhere without being secured. The recent scare with hurricane Matthew has made us realize that as a society our community risk management approach is not where it should be. The government needs to act now to ensure that we look at the broader picture regarding risk management instead of the insular and incremental approach which now exits. The current situation increases the stake for huge risks and hazard for communities all across the country. What would have happened to all those unsecured car parts stored in junk yards and elsewhere if hurricane Matthew had impacted us directly? Presently, unsecured used car parts form the basis of a potential peril and threat to the life and the security of residents. No one is advocating that we should not have outlets which sell used car parts. The issue here is one of regulation and enforcement of zoning rules so that we do not continue to erode neighborhoods and negatively change the dynamics of such communities. The Kingston and St. Andrew (KSAC) and all the other relevant government agencies need to act with a sense of urgency to address this growing problem. It should not be that anyone because of wealth and or political connection is able to do just about anything without thinking about his/her responsibilities to the wider community. The concept of social justice must work for all Jamaicans, whether they live uptown, midtown or downtown or in rural areas. Jamaica’s 20/30 vision is at risk if we continue along this path. We will not realize the dream of Jamaica becoming that place to live, work, raise families and do business if we do not effectively manage risks in a communal manner and be mindful of the rights of others. The UN reminds us that by 2030 almost 60 per cent of the world’s population will live in urban areas. This has implications for all of us as our personal space is set to decrease with urbanization and an increase in population. We must develop and put policies in place now in order to meet these new realities, development cannot be sustained in this unstructured manner. There needs to be some monitoring of these junk yards by the authorities. We all have a right to enjoy the country of our birth regardless of our social class. In the words of Samuel Wilson, “as population susceptibilities are better understood, we will be in a better position than we are in today to make informed decisions about risk management.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.