Over the past 15 years, Haiti has experienced a rapid urbanization and the number of urban dwellers has doubled from 3 million to 6 million people. Haiti is now the third most urbanized country in Latin America and the Caribbean, after Trinidad and Tobago, and Mexico. Each year more than 133,000 Haitians move to cities.
What does this mean for the future of urban dwellers? And how best can cities respond to growing demands for services, jobs, and accessibility? These are some of the questions the Haitian government and the representatives of many other countries and cities will be asking during the World Urban Forum in Kuala Lumpur next month.
For Anabela Abreu, World Bank Country Director for Haiti, “Effective policies and investments are key to build sustainable cities with the participation of citizens and local communities; future cities where economic opportunities go hand in hand with population growth.”
Many residents of Port-au-Prince struggle to find a place to live with affordable rent and running water, and many spend hours in traffic as they commute to their work place every day. Responding to our twitter poll on @WBCaribbean, our audience identified resilient infrastructure and access to services as the two most pressing priorities in building resilient cities in Haiti.
Despite the challenges of rapid urbanization, extreme poverty levels have declined in Haiti and coverage of some services in cities has improved. Major cities are now all connected to the main road network, and access to micro credits has improved.
Here are five challenges and opportunities to build resilient cities in Haiti, highlighted in a new report, “Haitian Cities: Action for today with an eye on tomorrow”:
Sixty-four percent of Haitians live in cities and the number of urban dwellers could surge from 6 million to 11 million people by 2050: Such rapid urbanization comes with growing demands for infrastructure, services and jobs, but most importantly it also brings economic opportunities. This is particularly striking in the streets of Port-au-Prince, which is bustling with people, small street vendors, telecom shops and colorful tap-taps – painted vans used as public transports. To seize these opportunities, the report calls for more resilient urban planning to close the gap in infrastructure, services and to prepare for future urban growth.
Access to basic services has improved, particularly in urban areas, but more needs to be done to respond to fast growing needs: While residents in the capital of Port-au-Prince or the second largest city of Cap Haitian have better access to schools, health services and electricity, two thirds of urban residents lack improved sanitation and the collection rate of solid waste is very low. Strengthening municipal financing will allow local governments to make the right investments and engage citizens in decision making.
Accessibility and affordable transport is key to access economic opportunities: 60 % of households are not using motorized transport. Tap Taps are the most widely used form of public transport, yet some of the most vulnerable can spend up to 73 percent of their total income in Tap Tap fares just by riding in these collective vans twice a day during the week. Investing in roads and improving efficiency and affordability of public transport, as well as strengthening urban land management, will be key to reducing the time people spend sitting in traffic and in improving the accessibility to jobs and markets.
Costly natural disasters have undermined the benefits of the urbanization process: More than 96 percent of Haitians are at risk of two or more natural hazards. High concentrations of construction are found in seismic areas, and half are built in flood prone areas. Following the 2010 earthquake, Haiti developed disaster risk management information and planning tools, such as multi-hazard risk assessments, the mapping of seismic zones and exposed assets. A first open data platform – Haitidata.org – was also launched to better allocate public resources in post-disaster situations.
A stronger system of municipal finance is needed to close the infrastructure and service gap and accommodate the growing urban population: Only 0.6 percent of GDP is currently spent by communes (municipalities). As cities expand in size and population, the challenge is to finance sustainable and inclusive urban development growth.
Cooler buildings and lower bills in summer thanks to green walls and roofs
A 15% cut in the energy bill with a 40% reduction of the direct solar radiation in dwellings and a lower indoor temperature by up to 3 degrees thanks to plants grown on roofs, balconies and external walls. These are part of the outcomes of the Italian pilot project ENEA is conducting at its research center near Rome.
“We developed a green wall based on an extensive roof-garden system and a self-supporting structure positioned at 50cm from the wall of the School of Energies building, where we conduct training courses”, Carlo Alberto Campiotti at the Department Unit for Energy Efficiency, said. “Successively – Campiotti went on – we’ve begun to study the interactions among green coverings, energy flows, the microclimate and indoor comfort, diversifying the species”.
The “plant system” installed on walls, roofs and balconies, has proved capable of creating an actual insulating pad enveloping houses and condos; in this way vegetation can mitigate temperature peaks during summer, capturing most of solar energy, which doesn’t directly hit the building surface, dissipating through evapotranspiration of plants a large amount of thermal energy (up to 1 liter of water daily per square meter) which would otherwise be absorbed by the building and released as heat inside the house.
“In summer this vegetation system allows to reduce up to 15% of energy for cooling- Campiotti pointed out- while in winter savings for heating reach 10% thanks to the chimney effect between the wall and the vegetable blanket; in practice, a natural ventilation system removing moisture from walls and reducing the thermal dispersion of the building”. Each plant has its own type of leaf given by color, thickness, shape, arrangement on the stems and biological cycle, which determines the amount of solar radiation it captures instead of hitting the walls of the building.
The parameter defining the energy and bio-agronomic traits of plants is called green factor (kv) and it varies from a minum of 0 to a maximum of 1. In practice, if kv is 1, it means the green mantle doesn’t exert any shielding towards solar radiation and, in summer conditions, the temperature of the external wall is superior to both that of the air and that inside the building; but if the value is zero, it means that vegetation exerts a total shield and the temperature of the wall is equal to that of the air.
“The Pandorea Jasminoides variegata – Germina Giagnacovo at the Energy Efficiency and Productive Activities Department explained – is a climbing evergreen with an excellent ability of neutralizing solar radiation, as Lonicera hall prolific and Partenocissus quinquefolia do, although slightly less effectively”.
“In addition to an improved thermal and acoustic insulation and living comfort for individual dwellings, these solutions also have advantages for the entire urban context: green roofs and walls, in fact, contribute considerably to the reduction of the “heat island”, which can cause a peak of the electrical load during summer, between 3 and 8% for each additional degree of temperature.
Furthermore, less use of air conditioning means less greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2, methane, fluorinated gas and water vapor. Installing green roofs, balconies and walls also means mitigating the effects of the so called “rain bombs” – roofs and balconies account in fact for 20% of the total surface of cities and covering them with plants would allow to absorb up to 50% of rainwater, regulating its flow into the city’s water system- in addition to improving air quality, since 25 m2 of plant surface generate oxygen for one person, while 1m2 eliminates 0.2 kg of particulate matter in the air.
“For many sectors in distress in our economy, including the building sector, new prospects for recovering are opening up- Campiotti continued- also thanks to the introduction of the green bonus with the last Budget Law, a new fiscal incentive which allows to recover 36% of the costs, up to 5thousand euro incurred for re-greening single dwellings and parts of condos, an intervention which could increase the value of the building itself”.
“Extensive, mildly intensive and intensive are the three types of green coverings we’re experimenting with at ENEA- Susanna Mariani at the Department Unit for Energy Efficiency, explained. We are particularly interested in the experimental use of autochthonous varieties, such as climbers and evergreens, but also rare wild species such as Echium vulgare, also known as viperina grass, much loved by bees, which can guarantee maximum protection of biodiversity, adaptability to climatic variability and resistance to summer droughts “.
In detail, the extensive coverings are characterized by varieties of plants that are easy to grow (of the genus ‘sedum’, a set of various species of succulents, and perennials) that need little maintenance and rescue irrigation (mosquito-proof), since they can store a large amount of water. This type of roofing is particularly suitable for walls and slopes, since the installation reaches a weight of about 100 kg / m2. Intensive coverings, on the other hand, foresees the inclusion of trees, require high maintenance and increased irrigation, involving the installation of a weight on the building ranging from 400 to 1000 kg / m2, while the mild intensive is positioned halfway between the other two varieties of coverings, by type of plants and maintenance, weighing between 200 and 400 kg / m2
In september, at the School of Energies of the ENEA Casaccia Research center, the Energy Efficiency Department will organize a course on the cultivation of plants best suited for green coverings. The course is free of charge and is addressed to agronomists, land surveyors, architects, biologists and natural sciences graduates.
Innovation: Italian approach to Smart City development
ENEA promoted a new initiative for outlining the passage from the conceptual model to a concrete implementation of Smart Cities in Municipalities, through the development of “tailored” measures for slashing costs and easing access to information.
The project, also involving the Presidency of the Council of Ministries, Consip, the Italian Industrial Federation and the Agency for Digital Italy, aims at promoting a digital transformation of managing processes of urban and territorial contexts, starting from a conceptual, methodological and technological convergence.
“In developing these new urban contexts, adopting a common language for identifying, processing and evaluating strategic data for the management of instractures supplying the main urban services, is crucial. Developing and sharing management models, standards, transmission protocols, technical specifics, platforms and performance indicators is a fundamental starting point for initiating the process of innovation and urban regeneration from a Smart City perspective” Nicoletta Gozo, ENEA researcher at the Smart Energy division, explained. Implementing a trasformation path towards a Smart City is the goal ENEA has set up, launching also the “ National Smart City and Community Convergence Table” .
“Cities and territories – Gozo went on – become smart if a close collaboration can take place among the main actors of management and urban innovation processes and the market, in the broadest sense of the term.
Management models, technical specifics, standards and protocols, in addition to instruments, actions and enabling technologies contribute to outlining the path, an actual roadmap towards a Smart City, with a support aid kit for administrators, a sort of “tool box” containing useful instruments for local governments”- “Currently, most of the cities manage strategic services such as illumination, water, electricity and gas supply, waste and mobility through utilities, completely autonomously and without sharing, not taking advantage of the strategic value of the great amount of data potentially held by them. The path we’ve taken promises to be long and winding and it comprises a roadmap of which we’re beginning to glimpse the first steps”. The Table, where the main actors of the national urban innovation process sit, has already produced “SmartItaly Goal”, the first policy document of the national roadmap.
In London, a neighbourhood plan with global ambitions
Simon Birkett is on a mission to reduce the toxic levels of air pollution in his beloved London. A former HSBC banker, Simon was inspired to take on the cause full-time after his early retirement in 2009. You could say that he loves his city too much to give up on it.
“I had one vision,” he says. “To make my neighbourhood an exemplar for healthy air in London.” Beyond his immediate neighbourhood of Knightsbridge, he hopes to get all of London to fully comply with the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines.
“That is still the mission,” he says. “But now I have a bigger vision: London and the rest of the world.”
One day in 2015, eight years after he had started his Clean Air in London campaign, Simon was invited to join the steering group for the UN’s Global Environment Outlook (GEO) process – a series of expert meetings that result in reports to inform the UN’s work to protect the environment. He was hooked by the discussions and engagement with environment experts from a variety of disciplines and geographies, all with one goal – a more sustainable future for the planet.
Around the same time, Simon was setting up the Knightsbridge Neighbourhood Forum, which had the opportunity to produce the first neighbourhood plan in central London under new legislation. A major challenge in that work, Simon says, is that the vitally important climate targets set for 2030 or 2050 seemed “unreal and unrealistic”. What he sought, and found in September 2015, were concrete targets and a framework around which he could organize the local plan: the newly agreed UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Some have called the Knightsbridge neighbourhood plan ambitious. But, he says, “it is achievable. We had five themes, ten objectives and 42 policies. And every single policy can contribute to one or more of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.”
He had made the connection, he said, between the lofty global goals agreed to by every nation on the planet, and the meaningful impact of these goals at the local level.
“I never would have thought of the SDGs unless I had been involved in the GEO process. Through this, I have learned a lot. Now things all fit together to achieve meaningful outcomes.”
Simon says he is now a true believer in the SDGs, especially at the city level. “We need to get people working towards them, as well as getting the data. We need people signed up.”
Simon says he will not rest until he has achieved his objective: turning London into one of the world’s cleanest and most innovative sustainable cities. Lobbying the British Parliament, the Mayor’s Office, the European Union and the World Health Organization have all been part of that strategy.
At a briefing session over breakfast with London’s deputy mayor on environment and energy, Simon said, the deputy mayor asked if there were any questions. He saw his opportunity.
“Have the Sustainable Development Goals been embedded in the mayor’s plan?” he asked. There was silence. Simon smiled at the memory.
“The deputy mayor said, ‘Can you do that?’” And I said, “‘Hey, we’ve done it in a neighbourhood plan. You can do it in the London Plan!’”
Simon expects the alignment of the final London plan to the SDGs “to cause massive change. This could have a seismic effect… all European cities will want to keep up with London.”
Simon wants London to develop a model that can inspire New York, São Paolo, Bangkok, Shanghai, Johannesburg, and Nairobi – as well as other cities in Europe. He says Mayor Sadiq Khan and the Deputy Mayor will lead the way.
Having a global framework with the SDGs allowed him to speak a global language. But he insists that the real work has to be happen at the neighbourhood and city level. GEO6 is already articulating the need for urgent, sustainable and equitable action.
“You have to combine political leadership with technology and lifestyle changes,” he says. “Then, you can crack this problem.” Meanwhile, in his spare time, Birkett has drafted the legalisation for a new ‘Clean Air Act’ that would make clean air a human right in the United Kingdom.
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