UN-HABITAT released a new report on Wednesday highlighting its activities in eastern, southern and central Europe with a view to promoting better urban planning, stronger local government, climate change measures and decentralisation.
“The 2010 Regional Bulletin is published at a time when many of the countries of this region are facing serious flooding, subsidence and brush fire related problems,” writes Krzysztof Mularczyk, Director of UN-HABITAT’s regional office in Warsaw. “What these natural disasters have brought to the fore is the role of spatial planning in protecting people from future disasters. It is clear that in many cases development was mistakenly allowed on flood plains and in areas where subsidence was likely. Urban sprawl as a phenomenon has contributed to this as these areas tend to be on the outskirts of cities.”
In his introduction to the report, Mr. Mularczyk also says it is increasingly difficult to deny that the downgrading of planning has contributed to the problems being experienced.
“Not only does that lead to development which does not include adequate provision for public space or even infrastructure, but it also can contribute to sustaining heavy material and human losses as a result of natural disasters,” he says.
UN-HABITAT has consistently advocated the need to ensure that planning takes account of risks of natural disaster and thatcities should be compact rather than sprawling. The agency has also argued for cities to prepare for climate changes with investment in adequate drainage and air corridors to ensure a natural cooling effect.
Local government, as it acquires additional powers and resources will increasingly be the decision maker on these issues. Decentralisation has brought with it many benefits and helped in building the civil society we all want.
“However, there must be room for a legal and supervisory framework to protect both individuals and communities from unsustainable forms of development. Let us hope that this is the positive lesson that will come out of the problems our countries have experienced this year,” Mr. Mularczyk said.