Government responsibility and action
Urbanisation often exploits both cultural and natural resources. The long-term negative impacts of urban development should outweigh the importance of short-term development and economic growth. Urban growth, including redevelopment and restoration, needs to be maintained in a sustainable manner on various levels. These levels include protecting the environment, economy, culture and interests of all stakeholders.
Governments have a responsibility to safeguard their resources. They also have a responsibility to provide their people with basic standards of living. National governments, however, need to work with other organisations, corporations and local communities to help make changes towards a more sustainable urban environment.
Many individuals and groups will have a short-term view on urbanisation and the use of regional resources. Corporations and other businesses, for example, often have duties to their shareholders, which can result in short-term actions. Ideally, it is governments which should consider the
long-term and act accordingly. Governments are ultimately responsible for implementing plans to manage urban development. They should take into account long-term public interest regarding environmental issues of urbanisation. Refer Image 1
Democracies include politicians elected by the public. The government responsibility within a democratic country is initially placed in the hands of the general public through election. This could be a problem as the majority of the public is often unaware of all the information and facts regarding urbanisation.
For many of the larger democratic or semi-democratic countries worldwide, the issue of urbanisation may not come to the forefront until the public is truly concerned, which, ultimately, could be too late. As for non-democratic governments, if the pressure of public opinion is of no concern to the officials, then they have little incentive to make changes other than the pressure of doing what is 'right'. All government officials, however, have an economic responsibility to safeguard their resources for the long-term.
United Nations Convention on Human Settlements
The UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) was held in Istanbul in 1996. This Conference focused on improving the lives of humans around the world. The two concepts addressed were Adequate Shelter for All and Sustainable Human Settlements Development in an Urbanising World. The Habitat Agenda was developed to provide a framework for national and local governments, businesses and other individuals to take action towards sustainable urban development. By ratifying this Agenda, the participating States agree to undertake the two themes as individual goals.
Third World Urban Forum (WUF3)
The World Urban Forum (WUF) was established by the UN Habitat group and is held every two years. The 2006 WUF was hosted by the Canadian government in Vancouver. The purpose of these forums is to discuss issues surrounding urbanisation and ways to promote sustainable urban development. The goals of the WUF are to combat poverty, provide sanitary living conditions, alleviate smog and promote sustainability. This event allows government officials of all levels, members of the public, NGOs and corporations to share ideas, perspectives and to discuss how to overcome challenges.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) - Agenda 21
The UNEP Agenda 21 programme, introduced at the 1992 UN Earth Summit Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, addresses key environmental and human rights issues. This includes combating poverty, promoting human development, protecting the atmosphere and water supplies and promoting ecologically sustainable development. The UNEP has realised many of these issues can be addressed at a local level in order to start making a global change. The Programme has produced an outline of recommended actions to be taken by governments in order to effectively address the issues of Agenda 21. They have also provided ways for local governments and communities to become involved in promoting sustainable management of the human and natural environments. Refer Image 2
China - Regional and national
In 1999, the Beijing Municipal Government required city vehicles to use natural gas rather than liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as natural gas emits fewer pollutants than LPG. The Municipal government is also improving and expanding public transport.
On a national government level, China has also been working towards cleaner urban air. The Cleaner Production Promotion Law, created in 2002, addresses the issues of poor air quality, ways to use cleaner and more efficient resources and outlines the implementation of Cleaner Production for the whole of China. Refer Image 3
Since about the 1950s, there have been national restrictions on internal migration within China. The Household Registration system attempted to control rural-urban migration by promoting rural and small town development. Large cities, however, still attract countless numbers of people seeking better lifestyles.
In order to start reducing some of the various pollutants in Mexico City air, the Government of the State of Mexico, the Ministries of the Environment and of Health, along with the Government of Mexico City created PROAIRE. This program focuses on reducing air pollution through fuel efficient cars, improving public transport and reducing factors contributing to soil erosion. Alternative fuels and more fuel efficient cars were promoted and adopted throughout the city. The PROAIRE programme was evaluated in 2002 and because of improvements in some areas of air pollution, there are now plans to work on further improvements.