Reflections: Justainability & Urban Environment Problems


Here are some of the thoughts I had after reading the three papers. Please note the (italic) text and provide examples, disagreements or anything I have missed.


Addressing environmental problems is a concern for several international development organizations. The paper discuses the definition of “environmental” problems as one of the obstacles to proper handling of the problem and allocating appropriate funding. Although this is true to a large extent, it is valid to argue that international aid is also bound by geopolitical forces and interest of the donating agency. Providing funding to address environmental problems is usually part of a larger cooperation agreement between governments or international agencies and therefore is derived by the interest and the agenda of the international agency.

The definition is indeed a problem and this wide range (broad Vs narrow) of understanding plays a role in identifying and measuring the success of the program.

The challenges addressed in this paper seem to be common across the developing world. From previous experience I can reflect and provide examples as follow:

(1) Decision by central government is taken far from the location context and with absence of good knowledge of the context.

— the central government in Egypt developed a prototype for housing for the poor and named it (Taweteen). Spreading it out to remote areas of the country makes it extremely irrelevant and not suitable for the local tribes in the southern border near Sudan. This is because the lack of suitable design and absent of knowledge of the local conditions in such a remote area.

(2) Broad definitions is a problem, especially that most f the environmental and health issues are related to lack of infrastructures (i.e. water & sanitation).

— the environmental component of upgrading project end up of being a construction project instead of looking at the real environmental issues and resolve it. Again the absence of (appropriate technology) sometimes lead environmental improvement programs to be limited to installing pipes and provide urban utilities without proper needs assessment.

(3) Stand alone initiatives Vs Main stream: The paper here argues that main stream is more important. Although this seem to be valid to a large extent. It is important not to ignore specific conditions where stand alone initiatives can also be equally important. Especially in initiatives that are newly introduced and can not be part of the original development framework. A good example is the initiatives of developing green stars for tourism establishments that consider all sustainability elements. It would not be a successful one if addressed as a continuation of the existing rating system. (Folks, if you have other examples, please share)

(4) Pressure from Northern environmentalist.

— Either it is a blind copy of the developed world or a post colonial influence or looking forward to implementing good environmental practices from the North, the gap remains wide between the targeted and the achievable practices. A good step forward to transfer the good practices within the same region before looking forward to importing what might not work well from the North.

The table in the paper is consistent in addressing the hazardous and the grouping by “scale” seem to be one of the appropriate categorizations to address the environmental hazards.


I enjoyed this paper so much. And I fully agree that in absence of economic justice and political will, all sustainability efforts are wasted and become individual initiatives.

Although racial segregation might not be the main problem in some parts of the world, class segregation remain the dominating scheme in many countries. So even if the paper is about race, the injustice remain a challenge in many countries around the world.

“Greening is not only our responsibility, it is our right”

an amazing statement that, to me, a philosophy that I have taken in my life and it is the main principle of several NGOs I engaged with. The challenge here seems for the first while to be a (technical) concern (what and how to make it Green). While in fact, and from experience in several development countries, it has a political side where greening is against the interest of major stakeholders and capital control group.

Green economy and sharing wealth is an entire dilemma and without this level of realization, developing countries will not move forward. It should start from the country constitution, the country leadership, the top management in governments and corporates. Otherwise it will remain a nice green tag that will be limited to success stories on a website.


In the first paragraph this sentence stroked me: “… the urban poor are less directly dependent on natural resources for their livelihood…..”  Although I understand the argument here, but I think it doesn’t seem valid to generalize. Do you agree with me? Or you think we can generalize? Any Examples?

Helping the poor shall not be contradicting with protecting the future. I am not sure why the argument is framed in such a manner. The poor in urban favelas or squatters are for example encouraging on agriculture land in many countries (i.e. the Nile Delta in Cairo) and helping them out as poor is actually in synergy with protecting the Nile Delta.