Urbanization in Nepal
Nepal is located in South Asia with a population of roughly 29 million people. It is currently one of the 10 least urbanized countries in the world with approximately less than 20 percent of the nation being urbanized. However, at the same time, it is also one of the 10 fastest urbanizing countries not only in the Asia Pacific region but in the world. Here are six quick facts about urbanization in Nepal over recent years.

6 Facts About Urbanization in Nepal

  1. A natural population increase is one of the primary reasons for the gradual transition from rural to urbanization. Natural population increase occurs when the infant mortality rate decreases and when people bear more healthy children. It can also occur as more people move from small villages to bigger cities.

  2. People in predominantly rural countries, such as Nepal, are choosing to move to more urban areas for many different reasons. For example, wars may force many to move to places with better access to food, water and shelter for the safety of themselves and their families.

  3. Towns and rural areas in Nepal are seeing urbanization increase between 5 and 7 percent each year. This is even more than the country’s capital, Kathmandu, with a 4 percent increase every year, and Pokhara, with a growing urbanization rate of 5 percent per year.

  4. The most populated urban region of the country is Kathmandu Valley, consisting of 24 percent of Nepal’s urban population. In addition, Kathmandu Metropolitan City consists of 9.7 percent of the urban population.

  5. There are three classifications of ecological regions in Nepal. Of them, the hill region has the highest percentage of urbanization at 21.7 percent, followed by the Terai region at 15.1 percent and the mountain region at 2.8 percent.

  6. While the push for urbanization comes with benefits in efforts to create a higher standard of living for people, it is not without challenges. For example, slums populate many urban cities, which have very low-quality living conditions. Overcrowding, limited sanitation and limited access to clean water cause these poor conditions. This results in people having to use open sewers to use the bathroom, leading to other issues.

With urbanization becoming a more common trend worldwide, it can be easy to understand why the concept is appealing to many people who are from traditionally urban nations such as Nepal. The push to urbanize developing nations has positive intentions to not only help the individual citizens but to build countries’ economies so they can be a world power. However, it is also imperative that the country makes efforts to ensure that its citizens in more urbanized regions have access to adequate living conditions, as the act of urbanization alone does not guarantee this.

As demonstrated, many cities, such as the ones that have been recently urbanized in Nepal, lack clean sewage, acceptable air quality and proper shelter. In order to create a prosperous metropolis where Nepalese people can enjoy a high quality of life, people must take all these factors into account.

– A. O’Shea
Photo: Pixabay

7 Facts About Poverty in Havana
In 1962, the U.S. imposed a full embargo on Cuba which prohibits all trade between the two countries. Since then, Havana, the capital city of Cuba, has become ridden with poverty and inequality. Here are seven facts about poverty in Havana.

7 Facts About Poverty in Havana

  1. Living Conditions: Under the Castro government, the housing deficit in Havana has grown by 20 percent each year since the 1990s. Out of 2.6 million housing units, 1 million are below standards. Most buildings have not been updated or maintained properly since 1959. There are 696 multi-family buildings in a critical state, leaving some Havana residents in fear of having their roofs collapse. In rural areas, Havana residents sometimes live in self-made huts with dirt flooring. The government is working to improve living conditions, but it could take up to 10 years to meet demands.
  2. Economic Classes: The Cuban government has not recently published poverty data for Havana; however, the average salary for those working a government job is around $20 a month. Doctors and nurses have recently received a raise which gives specialized doctors $67 a month and entry-level nurses $25 a month. If a doctor works a typical 40-hour workweek, this means that they would make around 42 cents an hour. Waiters and cashiers in Havana on average earn less than $220 a year, which is four times less than what doctors make.
  3. Hotels and Tourism: Around 26 hotels in Havana are tied to the Cuban military and therefore the money gained from tourism does not benefit the people of Cuba. An alternative option for tourists is Airbnb, as this directly benefits citizens by allowing them to rent out their rooms. Sometimes, the money Cubans earn from Airbnb rentals is more than they would make in an entire month.
  4. Food Rationing: In Havana, the government rations chicken, eggs, rice, beans, soap and other basic goods. Rationing has forced the citizens of Havana to plant their own gardens and farms. Today, over 90 percent of the produce that people consume in Havana grows there. An organization called Proyecto Communitario Conservacion Alimentos (Community Food Preservation Project) helps teach Cubans to grow and preserve their own food. These efforts have helped many people in Havana learn to cook food from the goods they produced themselves.
  5. Social Systems: Despite the fact that the average person in Havana lives on less than $1.20 a day, Cuba boasts having one of the highest literacy rates in the world due to their free education. Health care is also free and considered a human right. People in Havana live just as long as U.S. citizens, regardless of their impoverished living conditions.
  6. Currency: Cubans have two currencies, each with different uses. Local Cubans in Havana use the CUP (Cuban Peso Nacional), which converts as 25 CUP per $1 USD, while tourists use the CUC (Cuban Convertible Currency), which holds the same value as the U.S. dollar. The dual currency system has created large inequalities in Havana because only those working in the tourism industry use CUC. This has created a two-tier class system that benefits only those working in tourism. To remedy this, however, the Cuban government has plans underway to eliminate the dual-currency system.
  7. U.S. Embargo: The embargo between the U.S. and Cuba has been a contributing factor to Havana’s fall from grace. According to NAFSA, resuming American travel and trade will not only boost the Cuban economy but will also empower Cubans to impose change on their government. The NAFSA Cuban Engagement Initiative works on legislation that will end the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

There is a long road ahead to end Havana’s poverty crisis, but with people doing work to change U.S. policies and increase responsible tourism, the world could see Cuba’s capital city return to its once elevated state. The most important step is to spread awareness and mobilize to change government policies that will benefit Havana’s citizens.

Lisa Di Nuzzo
Photo: Flickr

 

improvingsierraleonesurbanmobilitySierra Leone is a country in Western Africa that borders the North Atlantic Ocean. It contains four pronounced physical regions: the coastal swamp, the Sierra Leone Peninsula, the interior plains and the interior plateau and mountain region. Currently, about 62 percent of people in Sierra Leone live in a rural area. These villages center most of their economic activity around rice farming while Sierra Leone as a country obtains most of its economic growth through mining, primarily iron ore. By improving Sierra Leone’s urban mobility, the country will be able to increase its economy.

Many of these villages, as well as the country itself, are still recovering from the civil war that dismantled many of their institutions. In the 1980s, the government of Sierra Leone initiated a program to modernize their road system, which had been used as a railway until 1975. However, the new road system was also a victim of the aforementioned civil war. Organizations like the World Bank are improving Sierra Leone’s urban mobility by improving infrastructure.

The Integrated and Resilient Urban Mobility Project

On June 13, 2019, The World Bank introduced the Integrated and Resilient Urban Mobility Project for Sierra Leone. Their objectives are to “improve quality public transport, address climate resilience, improve road safety in selected areas and enhance institutional capacity in the transport sector.” The Integrated and Resilient Urban Mobility Project is comprised of five main sections:

  1. Modernization and Professionalization of Public Transport Services: This section will “focus on Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD) in the sector”: This section will include a bus fleet renewal scheme with private operators in order to make improvements upon the current informal operator system as well as a bus to school program. The World Bank will be providing technical assistance to strengthen the Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation, improve capacity building and training for transport operators and install ancillary facilities.
  2. Strategic Resilient Mobility Investments: These investments will be used to “improve access, climate resilience and road safety.” With this section, the World Bank hopes to improve the connection to international markets and the ferry for pedestrians and vehicles. It also plans to improve road conditions, drainage capacity, traffic management, signalization, parking and more while taking into account the country’s strategic city plans.
  3. Building Human Capital and Institutional Capacity: Here, the aim is “to promote public transport reform and operationalize the MFD agenda.” This section focuses on enhancing logistics and strategies for the country in the long term. The World Bank plans to improve road safety and road safety databases, enhance climate resilience by assisting pre-existing sectors as well as improve academic capacity, women’s empowerment and citizen engagement.
  4. Project Management: This sector aims to improve funding for “goods and services to support project management, financial auditing, data collection, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and operating cost.” This section will also aid in refining project management, social and environmental safeguards, grievance redress mechanisms, response to sexual exploitation and abuse efforts and mitigation of gender gaps.
  5. Contingent Emergency Response Component (CERC): CERC will “enable the rapid reallocation of funding among project components following an emergency.” With a CERC, the World Banks hopes to strengthen disaster preparedness, both natural and manmade, and strengthen the response to conflicts, epidemics and economic shocks.

The Freetown Urban Transport Authority

One way to improve urban mobility in Sierra Leone is by improving infrastructure in the country’s capital, Freetown. The World Bank is working with Adam Smith International, an award-winning global company that specializes in the delivery of projects that improve economic growth and government reform initiatives. They created a six-month project in line with the current Integrated and Resilient Urban Mobility Project, which will improve urban mobility.

Together, they developed a fully integrated mobility plan that updates regulation and planning in the urban center of Goderich and Hastings. It will work to create the Freetown Urban Transport Authority. They are working to rebuild and refurbish new and existing infrastructure to make it more sustainable and improve the roads in Freetown, the Capital of Sierra Leone.

As a country with an initially weak infrastructure and poor economy, Sierra Leone has struggled to adapt its foundation to modern needs. As a country with a higher percentage of rural areas than urban, Sierra Leone has had trouble with their transportation system. However, organizations such as the World Bank and Adam Smith International are working towards improving Sierra Leone’s urban mobility in order to provide more functional and safer streets and easier access to economic and travel centers.

Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr

the urban-rural poverty gap in morocco

Though Morocco’s economic and political status has improved as a result of King Muhammad VI’s reign, the North African nation remains impoverished. Specifically, the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco is one of the nation’s most complex issues. Morocco’s larger cities, namely Casablanca and Rabat, are evolving into flourishing economic centers, attracting companies and tourists from around the world. Simultaneously, Morocco’s rural and agrarian communities–the Amazigh people–have found themselves stuck living with little access to modern commodities.

A First-Hand Account

Sophie Boyd, an undergraduate student majoring in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Colgate University, studied abroad in Rabat last summer. Boyd provided the Borgen Project some insight into the poverty situation in the North African nation. “There was a huge disparity between the living conditions of Moroccans in cities compared to the rural Amazigh villages we visited,” Boyd said. “You could be wandering around the enormous shopping mall in Casablanca and still only be an hour drive away from people who live with almost no electricity. This extreme gap was unfortunate to see and these neglected and impoverished people desperately need more accessible resources and aid.”

The Amazigh People

Unfortunately, Boyd’s observations were fairly accurate and realistic, as Morocco’s Amazigh population has faced hardship and poverty for decades. Though there are about 19 million Amazigh people living in Morocco, which makes up approximately 52 percent of the nation’s population. Their language, known as Tamazight, was not even recognized as an official language of Morocco until 2011. Not only do the Amazigh people who occupy these rural communities not have adequate means to subsist on, but they had also lost their representative voice in the Moroccan government until recently.

Urban Gains

A 2017 study conducted by the World Bank and the Morocco High Commission for Planning found that poverty was actually decreasing at a much faster rate in urban areas than in rural communities. This makes sense considering there is more room for economic growth and consumption in urban centers. Still, this phenomenon contributes to the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco and creates an even more drastic inequality between rural and urban communities.

Poverty Rising

Another aspect of the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco that has continued to develop over time is the concept of subjective poverty. The subjective poverty rate refers to the percentage of people, in this case, Moroccans, who consider themselves to be poor or impoverished. The aforementioned World Bank study found that from 2007 to 2014, the subjective poverty rate in rural areas increased from 15 percent to 54 percent. This drastic increase can be partially attributed to the recent economic growth in urban areas. However, it may also have to do with the daily living conditions of the rural Amazigh communities. For example, CIA World Factbook states that only 68.5 percent of Moroccans are literate. This can make life for rural people trying to emerge from poverty increasingly difficult, compounding with other factors such as the infertile, arid land.

A Hopeful Future, Still

The Moroccan government has made it a point to address the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco. The nation has already demonstrated its interest in resolving this gap through initiatives such as the National Initiative for Human Development Support Project, a plan launched in 2005 to try and close the poverty gap. Morocco will have to continue to work toward better living conditions in its rural communities. If the nation can fix issues like illiteracy and decrease the subjective poverty rate, then it will be well on its way toward closing the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

Water quality in Macedonia
A landlocked nation of mountains, lakes and historic buildings, the Republic of Macedonia is located on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. Macedonia has the distinction of being among the few countries in the world of meeting the water access and sanitation needs for 100 percent of the urban population. In other words, everyone in its urban areas is provided with safe drinking water.

Water is used for electric power, agriculture, industrial and municipal purposes. There is no inexpensive substitute for this precious resource, so measures increasing water efficiency and reducing waste are desperately needed with the looming effects of climate change. According to the Green Growth study, by 2050, all water basins in Macedonia will see a decline in mean annual runoff despite having an increased water supply through 2020.

Increased temperatures mean greater evaporation of water from lakes and reservoirs, thus less water is available for general or industrial use. A World Bank study found that Macedonian crops are adapting to increased temperatures by demanding water a month earlier than they normally do. Additionally, water used for cooling purposes in the thermoelectric sector is greatly stressed, reducing its availability. By 2050, hydroelectric production is slated to sharply decline from about its current production levels of 1,500 gigawatt-hours to 1,100 gigawatt-hours.

Consistent with the international standards, Macedonia conducts tests on its waters for the presence of physical, chemical, biological and even radiological elements. Eighty percent of Macedonians have access to wastewater, yet only 10% of the sewage is treated with the rest being discharged into the three lakes and four river basins in the country. In these situations, water quality in Macedonia could use further improvements.

In 2014, the Woman Engage for a Common Future (WECF) Project devised Water and Sanitation Safety Plans to “encourage the population to promote local action for the improvement of water supply and sanitation systems.” This plan is to be done by engaging local residents, government officials, teachers, students, and the young of the rural populations of both Macedonia and Romania.

Problems remain, however. While 99% of Macedonian households have a central water supply system, an inadequate water infrastructure with aging water pipes has deteriorated the condition of the water supply system. This has had a disproportionate impact on both rural and urban areas: according to the U.N. Human Settlements Programme, 23% of residents do not have access to good water quality in Macedonia.

Of the water emerging from karst aquifers, 80% is inundated by rainfall runoff and surface water. In rural areas, additionally, usage of pit latrines is common and access to safe water sanitation is difficult if not unavailable.

In the past, the most frequent water-borne diseases found in the water supply facilities were diarrhea, intestinal typhus and paratiphuses, and infective hepatitis A. Water-related diseases with infective elements, such as leptospirosis and malaria, have also been found in epidemic, endemic and hyperendemic forms.

To efficiently preserve its water resources and promote its sustainable and safe use, Macedonia needs to invest in its current irrigation infrastructure, incorporate farmer training to minimize water losses, and find ways to prevent, detect and repair water system leaks.

Increasing water demands require greater public awareness of the limited resources and the state of water quality in Macedonia. Together with growing environmental protection, the level of public concern is also increasing. Macedonia is already one of the few countries in the world with very high access to safe drinking water. The country needs to maintain its commitment to improving safe drinking water access for all of its population by 2020.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Google