7 June 2001


Press Release

General Assembly Thematic Committee

Twenty-fifth Special Session

3rd Meeting (AM)



Considering case studies presented by the United Republic of Tanzania, Sweden, China and Poland, the Thematic Committee of the General Assembly’s special session this morning focused on the issue of urban environmental planning, management and rehabilitation, as well as compact city development and innovative approaches to creating new housing.

The Thematic Committee is a new entity, created for the purpose of exchanging experiences and lessons learned during the special session's review of the implementation of the Habitat Agenda, adopted at the 1996 Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) in Istanbul.  In five interactive sessions, the Committee is addressing 16 case studies during the current session, on such issues as shelter; social development and the eradication of poverty; environmental management; economic development; governance; financing; and international cooperation.

Presenting a case study on Stockholm’s sustainable development, Sweden’s representative stressed the importance of long-term urban planning and a participatory approach to decision-making.  The fact that many industrial facilities had been removed from the city, leaving behind vacant land, presented a good opportunity for the rehabilitation of those areas.  Major investments in the centralized heating, water and sewage systems had resulted in improved water quality and sanitary conditions.  As the city developed through both preservation and new construction, a “green belt” would be expanded, and local infrastructures would be adapted to the needs of a healthy and liveable city.

Presenting the case of Chengdu, China, that city's vice-mayor described the Fu and Nan Rivers project initiated in 1993.  In addition to successfully implementing measures to prevent flooding and pollution, the project had relocated about 30,000 families that had settled along the banks of the two rivers in low-lying areas with few sanitation facilities and threatened by disease and crime.  The relocation had been completed in 18 months and had included the laying of water and gas pipelines, electric cables, and telecommunications lines.

The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania spoke about a successful partnership between local communities, the private sector and the Dar-es-Salaam City Council in upgrading a flood-prone settlement that had previously lacked proper roads and waste collection services.  By decreasing flooding, the project had reduced malaria cases from 4,000 to 2,000 in 2001.  Collection and

management of waste had increased, creating employment and generating income.  At the same time, property values in the settlement had risen.

Presenting the case study of Katowice, Poland, the city's mayor, noting the area's restructuring and transitional problems, said the creation of a united structure was required in response to the common challenges.  Various stakeholders were involved in the project and the knowledge and experience gained in the implementation of the project could be used in other areas.

Presentations were made by Tumsifu Jonas Nnkya, Professor at the University of Dar-es-Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania; Mats Pemer, Director of the Strategic Department, Stockholm City Planning Administration; Shaoxiong Wang, Vice Mayor of Chengdu Municipality, China; Piotr Uzdok, Mayor of Katowice, Poland; and Justina Gorgon, Director of the Katowice Project.

Facilitating the discussion this morning were Reuben Mutiso (Kenya) and Toshiyasu Noda (Japan).

The Committee will continue its work at 3 p.m. today, when it is expected to take up four case studies from Brazil, France, Nigeria and Spain.

Environmental Planning, Dar-es-Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania

According to a paper prepared by the Government, settlements in Dar-es-Salaam, the capital, are characterized by lack of basic community infrastructure services, including water supply, sewerage, access roads, drainage and solid waste management systems.  Currently, between 40 and 70 per cent of the urban residents live in informal settlements.  Until the mid-1990s, the overall urban environment had deteriorated to the extent that less than 5 per cent of the solid and liquid waste was collected.  Five years ago, the people of Dar-es-Salaam lived in a city of chaos, with a maze of restrictive by-laws that prohibited local authorities from entering into partnerships with the private sector.

Since 1996, however, the country in collaboration with Habitat, has adopted the Environmental Planning and Management (EPM) approach, which emphasizes government collaboration with slum dwellers, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and other participants.  The process of identifying problems, negotiating strategies and implementing action plans is pursued through working groups drawn from participating institutions.  The new partnerships have improved the delivery of services and squatter settlements and slums have been upgraded.

The report outlines two cases that illustrate some of the achievements and lessons learned during the implementation of the Habitat Agenda.  The first is the upgrading of the Hanna Nassif Settlement through a government initiative that used an innovative institutional set-up and community contractors and management.  The second case concerns the privatization of solid waste collection since 1994, following a successful completion of the “emergency clean-up” campaign.  The project created an efficient public-private partnership and encourages local garbage collection, recycling and composting.

(The paper is available on the Special Session Web site, although not as a United Nations document.  For more information contact S.T. Sijaona, Ministry of Lands; Human Settlements Development; tel: 255-22-2124576; fax: 255-22-2113165;

e-mail: makazi@africaonline.co.tz)

TUMSIFU JONAS NNKYA, of the University of Dar-es-Salaam, said environmental hazards included low-lying areas susceptible to floods, beach erosion resulting from dynamite fishing, and overcrowding.  A unique feature of the city's informal settlements was that they were not inhabited exclusively by the poor.  Rich businessmen and other elites also lived there, an aspect that was viewed as positive rather than negative.

He said the partnership between local community, private sector stakeholders and the Dar-es-Salaam City Council in upgrading the Hanna Nassif Settlement had provided previously absent services and decreased flooding, resulting in a reduction in malaria cases from 4,000 to 2,000 in 2001.  Collection and management of waste had increased, creating employment and generating income, while property values and rents had risen.

But, the most important feature was an increase in municipal revenue to

70 per cent, he said.  In addition, the establishment of a micro-credit project had led to labour-intensive micro-enterprises that generated employment and income as opposed to the capital-intensive enterprises favoured by the World Bank-funded projects of the 1970s.

Regarding solid waste management, he said the city was now able to collect more than 50 per cent, up from 5 per cent before 1992.  Community-based organizations were receiving city contracts to collect waste and clean up the environment through recycling and better management of landfill sites.  The city was cleaner and there was a better understanding of environmental hazards.

In addition, he pointed out, it had been possible to scale up the upgrading from 10 wards to cover all city wards.  From one settlement, 22 were now lined up for upgrading.  At the national level, the city's experiences had been replicated to all nine municipalities and to several small towns around the country.

He said the project's most important aspect was its ability to establish partnerships and facilitate the mobilization of resources.  Capacity had been built through action to address problems rather than through the drawing up of plans and programmes.  There had been a change of attitude in the community and among professionals, who had learned to relate to the community.  Residents were no longer waiting for the government to act.  Bridges had been built among the stakeholders and the public sector's credibility had been restored.

The facilitator REUBEN MUTISO (Kenya) said that the two case studies had clearly shown the effects of partnership, participatory approaches and gender equity in improving the urban environment.  The urban poor had been included in the initiative.  There was evidence of urban pollution reduction, leading to the prevention of diseases.  However, there was a need for information on legislative action.

In the ensuing discussion, one speaker asked for information on the chain of management in dealing with waste from the pre-collection to disposal stages.  Another speaker asked how many households were being served and how they had been convinced to start a dialogue with other stakeholders.  How had the resources been generated?

Noting the rise in property values and rents, another speaker asked what effect that would have on low incomes residents.  What mechanisms were in place to prevent the formation of new informal settlements as the poor were filtered out?  A speaker from the United Republic of Tanzania noted that while the upgrading project had brought women on board, it was still a challenge to get the youth involved.  Another speaker asked if there was any conflict between the community and the local authority and yet another asked how urban agriculture and open spaces were managed.  Had people been relocated during road rehabilitation?

Responding, Mr. NNKYA said the National Environmental Management Council had established a policy on upgrading of settlements and a review of the principal planning legislation was underway.

He said the community had provided part of resources required for improving services and that residents were also paid for their labour.  The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the municipality had contributed technical assistance, while the Ford Foundation and other private sector stakeholders had provided funds for capital works.

Regarding rising property values, he said they were inevitable.  However, the Hanna Nassif residents owned their own houses, unlike settlements in other countries where absentee landlords owned the houses.  Where rising rents affected low-income tenants, the Sustainable Dar-es-Salaam Programme was planning a city expansion process to prevent new settlements.

He said nobody had been relocated in the upgrading of roads and drainage systems, a major achievement of the Hanna Nassif Settlement.  That had been achieved by exercising flexibility in standards.  Even where a house was affected by the upgrading, the household was not displaced.  Urban agriculture was a challenge that had traditionally been treated as a non-issue, but it was now being accepted and included in planning policy, he added.  There had been no conflict between the local government and the community.

Mr. MUTISO, the facilitator, said it was clear that many problems could be solved where there was political will.  The readiness not to insist on unattainable standards was very important.  Sometimes, alien standards were taken on when they were impossible to attain.  In such a case, nothing could be achieved.

Sustainable Development of Stockholm, Sweden

A discussion paper, prepared by the Swedish Government, addresses sustainable development in Stockholm.  It states that the city preserves its unique character because of its large green areas and the islands upon which the city was built.  Today’s Stockholm is very much a result of planning efforts and development strategies of the past.  Since the 1920s, the city has taken an active part in providing people with affordable and decent housing and an important part of the strategy was to buy land for development and to preserve areas for recreation.  The strategy and the planning goals were inspired by modernistic ideals, with clear physical separation between dwelling, work and business areas.

Another important part of the strategy to develop a modern liveable city was establishing large-scale systems for heating, sewage and waste treatment.  Thanks to major investments, the water in the city today is clean enough for swimming.  Major efforts were also made in establishing an efficient public transport system, based on a network of metro lines and commuting trains.

In response to the need for new planning strategies, Stockholm City

Plan 99was adopted by the City Council in October 1999.  It was adopted following a broad discussion among citizens, organizations, local authorities, companies and governmental authorities.  The aim of the City Plan 99 is to “build the city inwards,” avoiding the use of virgin land for new development.  The plan aims at achieving sustainable urban development in accordance with the commitments of the international community reflected in the Habitat Agenda.

(The paper is available on the Special Session Web site, although not as an official United Nations document.  For further information contact:  Mats Pemer, Director, Strategic Department, Stockholm; tel: 46-8-508-266-44;

fax: 46-8-508-272-23; e-mail: mats.pemer@sbk.stockholm.se.)

Presenting the case study, Mr. PEMER, Director of the Strategic Department, Stockholm City Planning Administration, said that as a developing city, Stockholm had important future possibilities.  To preserve the city’s attractiveness, it was important to continue to develop the city.  Since 1920, the city had been buying land for development, preserving some of it for parks and recreation areas.  Major investments, which had been made in the centralized heating, water and sewage systems, had resulted in improved water quality and sanitary conditions.

The fact that many industrial facilities had been removed from the city, leaving behind vacant land, presented a good opportunity for rehabilitating those areas, he continued.  The city authorities had sought wide participation from citizens and companies, as well as local government, in urban planning for the new century.  Through that process, a plan of “inward development” had been selected.  With 70 per cent of the people coming to work from the suburbs, the improved transportation system would open new possibilities for suburban development.  A highly developed network of pedestrian lanes and bike trails would contribute to the environmental health of the city.  An extension of the inner city in the modern shape was being pursued, transforming disadvantaged and abandoned areas into attractive neighborhoods.

He said that continuing urban sprawl had a negative impact on the city’s development, and the city authorities were trying to address that problem.  Stockholm would develop through both preservation and new building.  A so-called “green belt” would be expanded.  Local infrastructures should be adapted to the needs of a healthy and liveable city.

Facilitator of the segment, TOSHIYASU NODA, Director for Disaster Preparedness of the Cabinet Office of Japan, highlighted the main points of the presentation, saying that the strategy of the new plan was not to use virgin land for new development.  It was important that previously developed land was being re-developed.  Pursuing the principle of compact development, the city was making efforts to transform industrial areas into attractive neighbourhoods.  Urban sprawl was not positive from the point of view of sustainability, and the creation of a network of fast and reliable trains was establishing an important urban-rural linkage.  It was also reassuring that the inhabitants were participating in the project.

In the ensuring discussion, a speaker said that in order to make cities attractive, jobs had to be created and innovative approaches should be sought.  With the creation of jobs, people would return to run-down areas, helping to turn them around.  Another speaker added that Sweden’s example showed that it was possible to obtain good results after centuries of development.  Fast solutions and immediate results were often artificial.  The fact that Sweden had devoted a long time to finding sustainable and lasting solutions was an important lesson.  Instead of seeking immediate results, it was necessary to look for sustainable solutions.

More emphasis on public transportation was of utmost importance, a country representative said.  Also, compact cities increased the value of the land, and that question needed to be addressed by appropriate land registration and taxation.  Other speakers emphasized the importance of good forests and water supplies and said cities should be green and livable.  Several speakers also expressed great interest in industrial re-conversion and inward growth, asking for details of such projects.

Responding to comments and questions, Mr. PEMER said that, as a result of suburban development and deterioration of inner city areas, the population of Stockholm had actually decreased during the 1970s.  Today, due to major investments in inner city infrastructure, the center of the city was most attractive, but unfortunately, also most expensive.  He agreed that long-term policies could provide the most reliable solutions to urban problems. 

The city of Stockholm owned up to 70 per cent of land within the city borders, he continued, but most of that land was leased to private companies.  For that reason, much of the land had to be dealt with in the same way as privately-owned packages.  Negotiations were needed with private companies, which occupied buildings and leased the land.

He said that experiences of suburban development showed that the division between housing and work areas was not always productive, and under the new approach mixed use of the city for commercial and housing purposes was being promoted.  Internet and entertainment firms were among the fastest growing businesses in Stockholm.  The role of the private sector in housing and transport was strong in the city.  There was a balance between the public and private sectors in that respect.

In pursuing inner city development, there was a risk of “squeezing out low-income residents”, and the city authorities were trying to address that problem, he added.  He hoped that for the next 30 years, there would be enough land for development within city boundaries in Stockholm.

In his concluding remarks the facilitator, Mr. NODA, said that the city of Stockholm had undertaken an important challenge.  It was important to stick to the principle of sustainable human settlements.  In Japan, the problem of urban sprawl was very important.  Despite the fact that population growth was going to be arrested in the new century, the spread of cities continued.  He strongly recommended the participants to adopt the policies pursued by Sweden in that respect.  

Comprehensive urban environmental renovation in Chengdu, China

A discussion paper concerns the comprehensive revitalization of an ancient irrigation system in Chengdu, China, which was built in 256 B.C. and is still recognized as a triumph of hydraulic engineering.  The system was neglected in the 1970s, but the Fu and Nan Rivers Comprehensive Revitalization Plan has since saved the two rivers and the city of Chengdu from severe pollution.  A public awareness campaign and effective mobilization of multiple stakeholders have resulted in public investment and community participation in the restoration of the city.  About 30,000 households have been resettled away from the slums on the riverbanks.  Other projects dealing with sewage and industrial waste have helped to change many undesirable areas into green zones.

(The paper is available on the Special Session Web site.  For more information contact: Lin Xuegui, Ministry of Construction, Chengdu, China;

tel: 0086-28-6271961; fax: 0086-28-6642750; e-mail: wsxhja@yeah.net)

SHAOXIONG WANG, Vice-Mayor of Chengdu, said that in the 1970s, with rapid industrialization, accelerated urbanization, a population explosion and a sharp increase in water usage, the Fu River seasonally dried out and the Nan River dried up completely.  Floods caused by silt sedimentation resulted in heavy economic losses.  In addition, waste-water was discharged into the rivers, which turned the two rivers into dirty and smelly ditches.  About 30,000 families, comprising some 100,000 people, settled along the banks in damp, low-lying areas with few sanitation facilities.  The area became a breeding ground for disease and crime.

In 1985, the municipal government organized experts to draw up a plan, resulting in the Fu and Nan Rivers Comprehensive Revitalization Plan, he said.  Clear targets were set for the project, including preventing flooding of the city in the short term.  In the medium and long terms, floods and pollution would be controlled and the rivers would be cleaned up.  The expected social, environmental and economic objectives included new housing for slum dwellers, restoration of the river flow, improved water quality and development of housing.

The relocation of the 30,000 families was the most difficult and important part of the project, he said.  Cooperating with real estate developers, the local government allocated land for the building of 24 well-equipped residential areas.  The resettlement was completed in 18 months without a single case of litigation.  Water and gas pipelines, electric cables, and telecommunications lines were laid underground during construction.

He said the initial plan was to control pollution and flooding.  But as the project progressed, it was expanded to improve the city's urban infrastructure. With the active support of the general public, improving the urban environment became the common objective of both the government and the citizens.

During the discussion, a speaker asked whether the private sector investors were involved in the project's maintenance.  Was there a loan scheme for financing the new homes?  Another speaker drew attention to the need for preparatory work in planning sustainable urban development.  There was also a need for constant monitoring of changes in the transition countries.  Support from Habitat and other United Nations agencies was indispensable.

Had Chengdu experienced problems of sedimentation and pollution carried by the rivers from upland cities and areas? speaker asked.  Another speaker wanted to know how far away from their original homes the families had been relocated and whether any businesses had been moved.

Mr. WANG said the mobilization of funding was difficult.  Two points had been emphasized:  to mobilize all institutions and sectors since the area needed reconstruction even without changing the river course; and providing land and construction incentives to investors.  He added that, as a local government, Chengdu recognized that the rivers would be affected by problems from elsewhere.  The central Government had supported plans to establish a dam and reservoir upstream, so that the flow of the two rivers could be adjusted.  The

30,000 families had not been moved very far.  The only difference with their original homes was that their living space increased and the environment was much better.

Mr. NODA, the facilitator, said that important practices in the case study included the municipal government's immediate action in responding to the problem.  It was also important to reinforce the partnerships between the various stakeholders.

Environmental Management, City Development Strategy for Katowice Agglomeration, Poland

According to the discussion paper prepared by the Government of Poland,

4 million people -– 10 per cent of the country’s population -- live in the Katowice region, which produced 15 per cent of the gross domestic product of Poland.  The area has suffered from decades of uncontrolled mining and industrial pollution, and by the 1980s, two thirds of the water supply was considered too contaminated even for industrial use, let alone human consumption. 

The sulphur dioxide, dust and carbon monoxide regularly emitted from over

4,000 chimneys led to one of the highest rates of premature birth in Europe, the paper states, and many children in the area suffered from bronchitis and respiratory diseases.  Since 1996, however, the Union for Sustainable Development of the Municipalities of the Katowice Agglomeration had achieved visible positive results in environmental reclamation, improved housing conditions and rehabilitation of old industrial neighbourhoods.

(The paper is available on the special session Web site.  For more information contact: Piotr Uszok, Mayor, Katowice City Hall-Uzad Miasta Katowice;

tel: 48-32-2538133; fax: 48-32-2537143; e-mail: prezydent@um.katowice.pl)

Presenting the case study, PIOTR USZOK, Mayor of Katowice, said the cities of the Agglomeration had been cooperating with Habitat since 1996.  The area had been involved in numerous industrial activities, which had been the primary source of serious environmental pollution.  The area was also encountering restructuring and transitional problems.  There were about 15 municipalities in the Agglomeration, with Katowice –- the largest of them -- being the capital of the region. 

There was a need to create a united structure in response to the common challenges before various entities in the region, he continued.  The union formula was considered an initial step in administrative reform that transformed the territorial system of the country, introducing a three-level authority structure and shifting responsibilities to the local level.  A variety of stakeholders were involved in the project.  The knowledge and experience gained in the implementation of the project could be used in other areas.  The future activities would be centered on waste management, reduction of pollution, and water and land improvement.

Director of the project, JUSTINA GORGON, added that the project’s goal had been to achieve sustainable development and rehabilitation of the area through local participation.  The focus was on the improvement of the quality of the environment and the quality of life.  Technical proposals had been developed to build institutional capacity for the management of the area.  Five working groups had been the main tools for rehabilitation of contaminated post-industrial areas and waste management, among other things.  Educational and training activities had been of great importance.  Each of the five pilot projects was to present particular solutions for certain problems that were endemic to the whole region.  The area required a rapid and radical transformation, and the experiences gained in the implementation of the Katowice project were available to all.

Facilitator of the segment, Mr. MUTISO (Kenya) said that post-industrial management associated with mining was not an isolated problem.  There were examples of such problems all over the world.  Concerted efforts by the Government of Poland to take measures to overcome the problems should be commended.  There was a participatory approach on behalf of the local and national governments, and United Nations and donor agencies had been involved.  The programme could be applied to other areas.  Prevention of disasters and rebuilding settlements were among the issues to be seriously addressed.  He would also like to find out about the financing of the projects.

In the discussion that followed, several speakers said that it was important to establish urban indicators, as a way of monitoring progress and changing policies.  Linked to the question of indicators was the definition of sustainability at city level, as well as the length of time needed to evaluate the programme’s success.

Regional bodies were needed to carry out the rehabilitation of post-industrial areas, and questions were asked regarding the mechanisms of inter-municipal cooperation, as well as interaction with the national Government.  Coordination among the various bodies involved was of particular interest to the delegates, as well as the questions of decentralization, coherence of efforts and territorial responsibility.

In response, Ms. GORGON said that at the project’s beginning, a system of urban indicators had been developed, with the help of several other large agglomerations.  Habitat’s urban indicators programme had also been consulted.  The database was being elaborated in order to foster collaboration between data-collecting institutions and the authorities responsible for the monitoring of the project’s implementation.  Concerning the role of women, she said that coal mining was an industry employing men, but women had been actively involved in the transformation and rehabilitation of the region.

Mr. USZOK added that the financing of the project had been ensured by the central and city governments, the European Investment Bank and the World Bank.  The post-industrial areas were being transformed to suit other functions, including commerce, services and recreation.  The area of Katowice covered

160 square kilometers, only 7 of which were covered by forests.  The reclamation of post-industrial areas in the center of the city was based on the development of the infrastructure and the transportation system.  The budget for the 4-year project amounted to $200 million. 

Regarding the level of local authority, he said that the responsibility of the city counties had been dramatically increased in order to carry out the project.  Cooperation among various actors had been very successful in the case of Katowice, but it was not so in other cities.  In many cases, the authorities of large cities also provided solutions for satellite cities, developing the infrastructure and creating jobs.  Regarding decentralization, he emphasized that no reform would force people to cooperate.  What was absolutely necessary was the good will and cooperation of all authorities involved.

In conclusion, the facilitator, Mr. MUTISO, said that it was important to foster both vertical and horizontal cooperation, as opposed to competition between cities.  People could not be forced to cooperate.  Common criteria, feasibility and replication were very important in selecting programmes.

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For information media. Not an official record.