Unit 6: City Solutions:
A Healthy Urban Future
The city as self, the city as cosmos...
Ihab Hassan, Egyptian-born academic
The child in the barrio of Bogota, waiting in line for hours to collect water for her family at the communal tap; the woman scavenging through mounds of garbage in Lagos, searching for saleable items so she can feed her children; the student in Washington, D.C., who has to carry a gun to school to protect himself; the day-labourer in Calcutta who leaves his shanty of reeds every morning to haul cartloads of bricks to the construction site of luxury apartments; the family in Paris that carries its belongings in one bag and looks for a place to sleep tonight. Common scenes from the urban landscape.
From newspapers to discussions at home, much is said about the problems of cities. Much less is said about the health of cities.
Yet, urbanization may be the best solution for the future. It may be the only way to deal with the massive population increase. The problem is not that cities are bad. The problem is that with more and more people relying on the city's services and infrastructure, governments, planners and the society have not managed to keep pace with the demands and the pressures. This world and its cities have the resources to provide for the population that lives there. What it takes is a stronger will and a better distribution of resources.
To begin with, we should ask: what is a healthy city? As part of its healthy city programme, the World Health Organization (WHO) has come up with a set of criteria.
Among other things, a healthy city must have: