“1 Million Dead in 30 Seconds”: That’s the appropriately jarring title of an article by Claire Berlinski in the Summer volume of City Journal, about the increasing risk of earthquakes for massive destruction as cities grow larger. It’s really an excellent piece that speaks to wealth, risk, and how this plays out in the human costs of a natural disaster: “Mother Nature doesn’t have it in for the poor. Rather, earthquakes come to our attention only when they are disasters, and they are disasters only when they strike dense urban areas full of badly made buildings.” The image above is an earthquake vulnerability map made by Benjamin D. Hennig at the University of Sheffield.
Flood Blame Game: Massive flooding in Lagos, Nigeria caused not only widespread damage but also accusations that President Goodluck Jonathan is insensitive to disaster victims for failing to visit the state after the destruction. The federal government shot back that the flood was the result of poor planning by a local government that allowed housing and road construction in drainage areas vulnerable to flooding. The housing problem that in part caused irresponsible building in the first place is now worsened by the loss of so many homes in the flood.
India in Numbers: The Wall Street Journal reported on India’s Census numbers, which revealed that the pace of urbanization is speeding up – the growth rate for urban areas over the last decade was about 32%, making the 12% rise in rural growth pale in comparison. Interestingly, the same WSJ India blog reported back in April about how the population in Central Delhi actually fell by 10% in the same time span – mostly due to massive slum clearance. Could that trend be reversed? Last week a panel of private sector, government and academic minds convened a panel in Mumbai moderated by Mint with a bold premise: “The country must stop looking at slums as a problem.” The post has an abbreviated transcript with some interesting thoughts about planning, urbanization, and the value of informal settlements in India.
This Week in Waste: With the heatwave it was unfortunate timing that a fire in a Manhattan wastewater treatment plant sent 200 million gallons of untreated sewage into the Hudson river last week – it not only smelled terrible but also brought to light an aging system that’s woefully under capacity especially as more people move to New York. On a brighter note, this NY Times post highlights how cities in the Western U.S. facing water shortfalls are finding opportunities in treated wastewater for irrigation instead of simply discharging it into waterways.
Sea Span: The longest sea bridge in the world opened last week in Qingdao, China. Over 26 miles (42 km) long, the Jiazhou Bay Bridge links more modern development on one side of the bay with the older government and banking center on the other side.
Public Housing in Hong Kong: Asia Sentinel report Alice Poon was interviewed by Shanghai’s Dong Fang Daily Shanghai Review of Books about her recent work, Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong. The interview offers interesting insights into the history of public housing and real estate development in Hong Kong, and cultural perceptions of property rights. The photos below are by photographer Michael Wolf – check out his project to photograph residents in Hong Kong’s oldest public housing estate here, where he photographed 100 rooms, each 100 square feet in size.
Armchair Engagement: Yuri Artibise’s Yurbanism blog highlighted a new tool that might just bring more people into the process of planning our cities without scheduling more public meetings. PlaceSpeak is being tested in Canada and would offer residents a way to voice their opinions about local issues using an online platform. Check it out and browse some issues in Vancouver, and what local residents have to say about them, here.
Want to take an urban land use class?: The World Bank Institute is offering a seven-week e-learning course called “Sustainable Urban Land Use Planning” starting on September 1st. The cost is $600 – registration is open until August 11.