This is the first of a multi-part special report that focuses on the growing city of Bacolod amid the apparent political excitement over the battle royale in recent years between longest-sitting Mayor Evelio Leonardia and, to some observers, his most formidable opponent to date, former Third District Cong. Alfredo Abelardo “Albee”Benitez. This face-off is the first in recent years since the city became a highly-urbanized one in 1984.
This report will focus more on the issues candidates must address as the city faces the challenges of modernity.
The editors of DNX have chosen to adopt the framework of the World Economic Forum in October 2018 that laid down the top five biggest challenges cities must confront in the future as, the WEF noted, urbanization speeds up in Asian and African nations.
The editors decided to adopt the framework as this is internationally accepted and was drawn from the SDG11 of the United Nations.
The WEF adds, however, that the Framework “… is drawn from expert- and machine-curated knowledge on the World Economic Forum’s Strategic Intelligence platform; it is not a reproduction of the official text of the SDG.”
These five challenges are:
- Environmental threats, which includes flooding, tropical cyclones, heat waves, and epidemics.
The WEF notes “rapid urbanization, which strains basic infrastructure, coupled with more frequent and extreme weather events linked to global climate change is exacerbating the impact of environmental threats.”
The challenge, therefore, for city authorities is to make theirs more resilient against environmental threats and for them to take urgent action.
- Resources, which the WEF says includes water, food and energy, resources cities to be viable.
“Urban sprawl reduces available water catchment areas, agricultural lands and increases demand for energy. While better application of technology can boost agricultural productivity and ensure more efficient transmission of electricity, many cities will continue to struggle to provide these resources to an ever-growing urban population.”
Beyond these basic requirements, haphazard growth will see the reduction of green spaces within cities, negatively affecting liveability. As fresh water becomes scarce and fertile lands diminish, food prices may escalate, hitting the poorest hardest.
The following paragraphs are quoted in full from the World Economic Forum found on its website:
When it comes to both the provision of basic resources and resilience against environmental threats, the forecast is uneven for different groups of urban inhabitants. As the number of urban super-rich grows, many cities will also see increased numbers of urban poor.
The widening gap between the haves and have-nots will be accentuated in the megacities of the future. Such inequalities, when left unchecked, will destabilize society and upend any benefits of urban development. There is a critical need for policy-makers to ensure that the fruits of progress are shared equitably.
Technology will be increasingly used in the development and running of cities of the future. Smart planning used in Singapore can harness solar energy for use in housing estates and create man-made wetlands for ecological balance. Smart mobility technology can alleviate traffic gridlocks which plague many cities.
The use of environmental technologies which can cool buildings more efficiently or run vehicles that are less polluting will also lead to better future cities. Installing sensors in the homes of ageing seniors living alone can connect them to the community and summon help when they are unwell or hurt.
However, technology can exclude urban inhabitants who cannot afford it or lack the capability required for its adoption. As future cities become more digitized, care must be exercised to prevent the emergence of a new form of social divide rooted in the technological.
Future cities offer immense possibilities to enrich the lives of their inhabitants even as the challenges are stark. To make the best out of inevitable urbanization, good governance is imperative. Cities will increase in size and their populations become more diverse. Governing these cities will, therefore, be progressively complex and require the most dedicated of minds.