How can mega-cities innovate to reduce traffic congestion?

29 May 2014 by Matthew David Viccars

 Infrastructure can't keep up as the number of cars on the streets of the Bangladeshi capital increase at breakneck speed, slowing traffic to a crawl. Photo: Mohammad Asad/UNDP
How do the 15 million residents of the Bangladeshi capital get to work? ‘Slowly’ is the answer. It’s common for a short commute across Dhaka (let’s say 7km) to take longer than an hour through perpetually gridlocked traffic. Transport is a big problem for anyone who needs to move about in this mega-city and it affects all residents rich and poor alike, stealing their time and exposing them to unnecessary pollution and stress everyday. Dhaka’s now infamous traffic jams keeps people from their families and has been equated to a loss of 3.86BUSD in productivity each year. That’s 3.3 percent of 2012 GDP!  So we thought us boffins at the UNDP should look into doing something about it. Now we’re avid (sometimes fanatical) supporters of public transport and cycling here at the UNDP. In fact in the last few years, cycling’s caught on massively among young people! So the solution to us was clear, let’s install bus and bike lanes. Easy, jobs done we can all go home! Right? WRONG! If that’s all it took to fix Dhaka’s choked transport system it would have been done long ago. We quickly recognized that other organizations and people, many smarter than us, have … Read more

Working women’s empowerment into conservation initiatives

15 Apr 2014 by Doley Tshering

 Ensuring gender equity is the only path to sustainable development. Photo: UNDP
It is 6:00 a.m. My mother wakes me. Her motto: anyone who sleeps late is “not going to be able to eat their food warm”. It’s a Bhutanese phrase meaning one is unable to feed oneself or meet the needs of the family. As early as it feels to me, I know she has already spent two hours feeding the animals, fetching a mountain of leaf litter (to serve as bedding for the cows and later be used as compost), and cooking breakfast for all of us. This is how most women in my village begin their days. After breakfast my mother and other women tend crops, walk through the forests to collect firewood or leaf litter, and travel far to bring water to irrigate the fields.   Women play the dominant role in natural resource management, agricultural production and the well-being and very survival of many rural families. Despite the fact that women also play a critical role in the conservation, management and use of biodiversity, their contribution is often overlooked; they are ‘invisible’ stakeholders. For effective natural resource management they must be seen and heard for the simple reason that this is the most equitable and effective strategy to make … Read more

100 days after Haiyan, the Philippines transitions to recovery

14 Feb 2014 by Jo Scheuer

February 16th marks 100 days since Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines. The emergency response is almost over and the beginning of long-term recovery has begun. I have been to the Philippines twice since Haiyan struck. In the early days, I went to help coordinate the response to this tragedy. Just recently I returned, to advise on the transition to long-term recovery. The progress over 100 days has been remarkable. Immediately after the storm, UNDP began helping the government prepare for recovery. For example, only weeks after Haiyan, we facilitated a visit to the Philippines from the Government of Indonesia, bringing Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, who led the reconstruction effort in Aceh-Nias after the 2004 Tsunami. He attended a Philippines cabinet meeting on recovery, sharing with his colleagues the challenges and lessons learned from Indonesia. This visit may have been low-key – but was very valuable to the Philippines authorities – and it led to UNDP experts starting to work with the government to plan, prepare and budget the recovery. But attention must now shift beyond the first 100 days and focus on the future. It is essential that we build resilience into the new cities that rise from the rubble. Disaster risk reduction … Read more

Saving the imperiled Hamouns of Eastern Iran

31 Jan 2014 by Gary Lewis

 The UNDP-supported Conservation of Iranian Wetlands Project aims to enhance the effectiveness and sustainability of Iran’s system of wetland protected areas as a tool for conserving globally significant biodiversity. Photo: UNDP Iran
“Angels will kiss the hands of those who help us,” the man said. The face behind the handshake was grizzled and weathered with  leathery skin that bespoke years of harshness. The fisherman’s eyes welled with suppressed tears. He yearned for a time when his life was one of plenty.  Lakes brimmed with water and fish, his children were happy, and life was good. He wanted me to tell the world about the desperate conditions in Iran’s harshest, poorest region: the Hamoun wetlands of Sistan. 'Wetlands' is really not the right word for these parched lands. There is little gainful employment, and more than half the residents get by on welfare delivered through the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation (IKRF), a parastatal organization. They were mainly fisher folk, though almost all are now unemployed, living amid the decayed ruins of ghost-like villages built alongside once-thriving lakes. Hamouns comprise three large wetland areas covering 5,660 square kilometers.  Two-thirds of these wetlands are located in Iran, linked and fed by water from Afghanistan’s Helmand River. Twenty years ago, most of this area was green, and the lake teemed with fish. The wetlands also supported agriculture and water buffalo herds, providing a livelihood for thousands of … Read more