Ambulance. China. Credit: Flickr, egorgrebnev.

Spatiotemporal access to emergency medical services in Wuhan, China: accounting for scene and transport time intervals

Reference

Luo, W., Yao, J., Mitchell, R. et al. Spatiotemporal access to emergency medical services in Wuhan, China: accounting for scene and transport time intervals. International Journal of Health Geographies. 19, 52 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12942-020-00249-7

Background

Access as a primary indicator of Emergency Medical Service (EMS) efficiency has been widely studied over the last few decades. Most previous studies considered one-way trips, either getting ambulances to patients or transporting patients to hospitals. This research assesses spatiotemporal access to EMS at the shequ (the smallest administrative unit) level in Wuhan, China, attempting to fill a gap in literature by considering and comparing both trips in the evaluation of EMS access.

Methods

Two spatiotemporal access measures are adopted here: the proximity-based travel time obtained from online map services and the enhanced two-step floating catchment area (E-2SFCA) which is a gravity-based model. First, the travel time is calculated for the two trips involved in one EMS journey: one is from the nearest EMS station to the scene (i.e. scene time interval (STI)) and the other is from the scene to the nearest hospital (i.e. transport time interval (TTI)). Then, the predicted travel time is incorporated into the E-2SFCA model to calculate the access measure considering the availability of the service provider as well as the population in need. For both access measures, the calculation is implemented for peak hours and off-peak hours.

Results

Both methods showed a marked decrease in EMS access during peak traffic hours, and differences in spatial patterns of ambulance and hospital access. About 73.9% of shequs can receive an ambulance or get to the nearest hospital within 10 min during off-peak periods, and this proportion decreases to about 45.5% for peak periods. Most shequs with good ambulance access but poor hospital access are in the south of the study area. In general, the central areas have better ambulance, hospital and overall access than peripheral areas, particularly during off-peak periods.

Conclusions

In addition to the impact of peak traffic periods on EMS access, we found that good ambulance access does not necessarily guarantee good hospital access nor the overall access, and vice versa.


Aerial view of informal settlements of the Cape Flats, Cape Town, South Africa. Shutterstock - Andrea Willmore

Neighbourhood Inequality and Division Undermining Drive for Sustainable Cities

This blog was written by Ya Ping Wang and Keith Kintrea [i].

World Cities Day 2020 aims to celebrate communities in cities as essential building blocks of positive economic, social and environmental change.

Its call for action is for communities to be integrated into policymaking and for a different kind of city to be co-created with urban managers. This call comes in an extraordinary year in which communities in neighbourhoods across the globe have been forced to develop their own responses to COVID-19, including its health risks but also its wrecking of livelihoods and food supply chains.

But new research from the GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods in 14 cities in Africa and Asia [ii] shows that trends in urban development are leading to cities that are socially and spatially fractured and provide a shaky basis on which any turn towards communities can be built.

The call of UN Habitat’s 2016 Urban Agenda for planning as a basis for more equitable and sustainable cities appears to have gone largely unheeded. Although most cities boast they have a master plan, neighbourhood planning is rare and almost always benefits only the rich and the emerging middle class.

Over the last 10 or 15 years most cities in the study have experienced large scale population growth – as much as 100% in the case of Dar Es Salaam – driven by rural and (sometimes) international migration. This is especially so for large cities and national capitals, even if the recent rate of growth has slowed. Population growth has been accompanied by rapid spatial transformation. Already dense inner cities have become ever more greatly densified, as existing neighbourhoods have become more crowded, taller new buildings constructed and green spaces and water bodies built over. In our study, Dhaka and Manila city represent the most extreme densification. Dhaka reached  32,000 people per square kilometre in 2015 and Manila City 71,000, probably the most densely populated city in the world.

SHLC research also shows that cities have sprawled out towards and beyond their boundaries, with the fastest growing African cities doubling in area.

Densities are also increasing on the urban periphery in most cases. But these new residential areas are usually informal settlements without any meaningful planning. Their communities are often poorly served – or not served at all – by basic infrastructure such as water, sewerage and electricity, and they are usually distanced from health and education services and from jobs, which cluster in central areas. In some cities, fast expansion of informal settlements means that the proportion of housing considered to be adequate by local norms has been falling, even as the economy grows.

There are exceptions to these trends. In all cities a small proportion of new development caters for privileged groups. This includes commercial development of condominiums and gated enclaves, as well as areas of suburban type detached houses. The benefits of professional urban planning – or at least of building regulation – is enjoyed predominately by the rich and emerging middle class whose neighbourhoods have basic site designing, road access and infrastructure provision. The other main exception are the study’s Chinese cities where most new residential areas are regulated and poor old town areas and urban villages are in the process of compulsory redevelopment.

In most cities in the research, neighbourhoods used to be divided by race, ethnicity and religion, and in South Africa (Cape Town and Johannesburg) and India (Delhi and Madurai) by institutionalised discrimination though apartheid or caste. Migrant origin and, in China, hukou status, were further sources of division. But across the 14 cities, to different degrees, these divisions are being replaced or at least blended by social class through housing market sorting.

So, in Dhaka, although there remain religious and occupational clusters, its new neighbourhoods are by far the most diverse in Bangladesh. However, the poor and even the middle class are shut out of well-regulated central neighbourhoods, and slum neighbourhoods sit side by side with wealthy areas. In South Africa, Johannesburg continues to show the shape of apartheid demarcation. Yet tropes about race and space are being modified by class mobility, evident in clusters across the city. Urban transformation is driven by service provision and travel connections as emergent key markers of spatial inequality.

Increasing inequality and division in cities will not lead to sustainability.

The communities that UN-Habitat urges should be engaged in city-making have so far been pushed into crowded informal settlements and slums or out to the city margins far from jobs and services. As the experience of COVID-19 again shows, major shocks have disproportionate negative impacts on poor urban neighbourhoods. Cities need to address the causes and consequences of urban neighbourhood and spatial division; pro-poor urban planning should become the reality rather than just a slogan.


[i] Ya Ping Wang is Professor of Urban Futures and Director of SHLC. Keith Kintrea is Professor of Urban Studies and Housing and Deputy Director of SHLC.

[ii]  This month the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC) at the University of Glasgow published 14 new reports on African and Asian cities, which are the product of research on their internal structure and neighbourhood dynamics.

The cities are Delhi and Madurai in India, Dhaka and Khulna in Bangladesh, Manila City and Batangas City in the Philippines, Chongqing and Datong in China, Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa, Dar Es Salaam and Dodoma in Tanzania and Kigali and Huye in Rwanda.

The reports are authored by members of SHLC based at  the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa;  Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania; Khulna University, Bangladesh;  Nankai University, PR China; the National Institute of Urban Affairs, India; the  University of Rwanda; the University of the Philippines Diliman; and  University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

http://www.centreforsustainablecities.ac.uk/research/


Informal housing and urban expansion in Kigali, Rwanda. Credit: Ya Ping Wang, University of Glasgow

New Research: Exploring Diversity and Division in Urban Neighbourhoods

Urban development trends in fast-growing developing countries are leading to socially and spatially fractured cities, according to our latest urban neighbourhood research.

As more and more people continue to migrate to cities in search of better jobs, better learning opportunities and better living standards, how cities change and adapt in response to this burgeoning urban growth is a crucial component of supporting sustainable development.

In a suite of new research summaries, the international research team at the GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC), have explored urban expansion and patterns of neighbourhood distribution in 14 fast-growing cities across Africa and Asia.

Informal housing and urban expansion in Kigali, Rwanda. Credit: Ya Ping Wang, University of Glasgow
Informal housing and urban expansion in Kigali, Rwanda. Credit: Ya Ping Wang, University of Glasgow

Despite different growth patterns what is common across most of the case study cities is benefits of urban planning intended to support this urban growth are not enjoyed by all, says SHLC’s Principal Investigator Professor Ya Ping Wang.

“Our research in 14 cities in Africa and Asia shows that trends in urban development are leading to cities that are socially and spatially fractured. The call of UN Habitat’s 2016 Urban Agenda for planning as a basis for more equitable and sustainable cities appears to have gone largely unheeded. Although most cities boast they have a master plan, neighbourhood planning is rare and almost always benefits only the rich and the emerging middle class.”

Understanding how the city is expanding is just one part of the story. Delving deeper into official statistics, such as the population census and using analytical techniques like k-means clustering to examine secondary data, the new suite of research summaries also investigates the internal structure and dynamics of different neighbourhoods across the city.

Disarray of urban functions in Joydebpur. © 2020 SHLC Bangladesh
Disarray of urban functions in Joydebpur. © 2020 SHLC Bangladesh

Reflecting on research results, SHLC’s Deputy Director, Professor Keith Kintrea says that understanding and responding to neighbourhood differentiations, and divisions, is crucial to supporting sustainable urban development:

“Increasing inequality and division in cities will not lead to sustainability. The communities that UN-Habitat urges should be engaged in city-making have so far been pushed into crowded slums or out to the city margins far from jobs and services. As the experience of COVID-19 again shows, major shocks have disproportionate negative impacts on poor urban neighbourhoods. Cities need to address the causes and consequences of urban neighbourhood and spatial division; pro-poor urban planning should become the reality rather than just a slogan.”


Students in Primary Seven at Zanaki Primary School, Tanzania. Credit: Sarah Farhat / World Bank

Is your neighbourhood your destiny? How the neighbourhood you live in determines your educational opportunities

This blog, written by Yulia Nesterova, explores quality education in urban settings and was originally published via UKFIET. The views in this article are those of the author and not attributable to SHLC.

A wealth of social and economic opportunities continue to attract people from rural areas to fast-growing cities, especially in Africa and Asia. By 2050, nearly 70 out of 100 people in the world will live in cities.

Cities have helped lift millions out of extreme poverty. They have improved livelihoods. But rapid and poorly controlled urbanisation has also brought tremendous challenges and increased risks. More people has led to worsening air pollution in some cases, and in the unsustainable use of resources like water in others. It has also overburdened infrastructure and services, making them inadequate.

What’s more, around a billion urban poor people live in informal settlements like slums, with this number estimated to skyrocket to three billion by 2025.

Access to better educational opportunities is one of the top reasons people migrate to urban areas. Since facilities are sometimes lacking in rural communities, cities feel like the simple solution. The place to find better-resourced schools that offer greater quality and effectiveness of education and provide a wider range of extracurricular activities to enhance and enrich the lives and opportunities of residents.

But not all people who live in cities benefit from quality education.

Students in Primary Seven at Zanaki Primary School, Tanzania. Credit: Sarah Farhat / World Bank
Students in Primary Seven at Zanaki Primary School, Tanzania. Credit: Sarah Farhat / World Bank

The opportunities and benefits – as well as the challenges and harms – that cities offer are not equally distributed.

In fact, the research done by our consortium, Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities that explores a range of important urban issues in over a dozen growing cities around Africa and Asia, shows that urban opportunity is often confined to people residing in high-income neighbourhoods. What is more, those in poorer neighbourhoods tend to be disproportionately affected by the consequences of systemic and structural inequalities, violence, insecurity and environmental risks.

In this sense, the neighbourhoods that people find themselves in become their destiny. Where they live determines what opportunities and support they can access… if any.

Slum dwellers provide an extreme example. The precarious places they call home have a massive impact on what they can expect to achieve in future. This is because deprivation is extreme and there is limited access to even the most basic infrastructure – be it housing, electricity, sanitation systems, clean water or transportation. By extension, access to education services and learning opportunities is limited as well.

Over the last three years, we have been studying ultra-poor parts of Bangladeshi and Tanzanian cities, where we’ve found the number of available and accessible schools to be inadequate.

What is available is restricted to the primary school level and is poorly resourced. There are not enough classrooms, qualified teachers, textbooks, toilets or clean water, let alone extracurricular activities.

While there are more schools of different levels in India’s slums, conditions are just as inadequate, and drop-out rates are as high as those in Bangladesh and Tanzania. Schools in poor urban settings in the other countries we work with – the Philippines, Rwanda and South Africa – seem to suffer from a range of common issues linked to staffing (not enough qualified teachers) and infrastructure (lack of water and sanitation facilities and properly equipped classrooms).

What is interesting is that unequal distribution of opportunities does not only affect people in the very poorest neighbourhoods.

In lower middle-income (and even some middle-income) neighbourhoods, the situation is better, but not by much. There might be a greater variety of schools and more of them, but this is not a given everywhere. And the issue becomes more complex when you look inside schools.

To be sure, there are some differences that come with being in a higher income bracket. We noted more availability of extracurricular activities in schools – ranging from sports to cultural. But issues like high drop-out rates, teenage pregnancies and challenges in accessing schools in better-equipped neighbourhoods due to the lack of walkable footpaths and transportation remained constant.

People living in these neighbourhoods still have lower literacy and school completion rates compared to higher-income areas, and, as a result, less opportunities for socio-economic advancement.

It does get better. Middle- and upper-middle income neighbourhoods have – save a few exceptions – good availability, coverage and quality of educational institutions. They offer not only primary and secondary schools, but also kindergartens, colleges, adult learning institutions and universities.

The problem is that these neighbourhoods have clusters of poverty and the people who find themselves living in these neighbourhoods are often quite isolated – ‘stuck’ in schools located in old, unsafe buildings and overcrowded classrooms.

When it comes to high-income areas, the situation is by far better than across the rest of the cities. Here you find renowned institutions, well-equipped and resourced schools, variety of extracurricular activities, well-educated parents, strong parent-school relationships and great ambitions on the part of the children.

As our Tanzanian part of the research shows, migration into high-income neighbourhoods is putting pressure on the available services that cannot develop as fast as people migrate. This shows that even better resourced neighbourhoods are not prepared for what urbanisation is bringing.

What is needed then is targeted research that explores educational opportunities at the level of neighbourhoods.

Localised data will help us develop interventions that address the effects of urban complexity and disparities. What is also important, as our work shows, is collaborating with local academic and non-academic partners. Partnerships with local governments, NGOs, schools and communities do not only ensure local buy-in, but do help to get research into policy and practice for a successful change.


Figure 2: Community mapping with residents. Credit: Arnisson Andre C Ortega

Counter-mapping for urban social justice: notes from the urban periphery in the Philippines

This guest blog, written by Assistant Professor Arnisson Andre C Ortega, features a community-engagement project in a peri-urban region north of Manila in the Philippines. The project uses counter-mapping to foreground the voices of marginalised farming and indigenous communities who face the scourge of government-initiated urban development projects. The views in this article are those of the author and not attributable to SHLC. The project was funded by the Scottish Funding Council as part University of Glasgow’s GCRF Small Grants Fund.

Urbanisation in the 21st century is occurring in urban fringes as vast tracts of land along city edges are converted and transformed into major urban developments.

Cities in the Global South are witnessing particularly dramatic transformations are putting the spotlight on critical issues of land dispossession, environmental degradation, and inequality underpin these changes. Marginalised communities are caught in these transformations, bearing the brunt of urban accumulation as they face threats of eviction.

Building a “smart” and “sustainable” city

In many Global South contexts, governments plan and develop new urban projects in an attempt to attract new investments into the country. In the Philippines, “new city” projects are big business involving an alliance of state and private sector actors, from real estate developers and landed elites to local businesses and multinational corporations. Like in other parts of the world, many of these “new city” projects in the Philippines gain popularity as they are seen to progress the nation’s competitive edge in the global market and provide much-needed jobs for the population.  But, the usual outcomes are far from ideal, as they typically involve corruption, insufficient decent-paying jobs, and land dispossession.

New Clark City is a prime example.  Located 120 kilometers north of the Metropolitan Manila, the project is promoted as the country’s first “smart, sustainable, and disaster-resilient city” and the viable solution to the urban congestion of Manila. Managed by the government agency, Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), the project plans to build “green” and “smart” designs and infrastructure that will champion sustainability, while attracting much-needed investors and generating jobs for thousands of residents. It will include several districts, from technology parks and central business districts to mixed-income housing and university campuses.

But like other “new city” projects in the Global South, New Clark City is poised to dispossess thousands of residents. The project covers a massive 9,450 hectares of land that straddles several towns and villages (Figure 1). Farming communities and indigenous groups have been opposing New Clark City, as they fear losing their land, livelihood, and culture. In the last few years, ground operations have been underway as farmlands, regardless of whether farmers were compensated or not, have been bulldozed while several villages have been enclosed. In the highland fringes, indigenous Aeta communities face the danger of displacement. To suppress resistance, militarisation of the area has intensified, as residents face harassment and intimidation from security forces.

Figure 1: Coverage of New Clark City
Figure 1: Coverage of New Clark City

What is counter-mapping?

In an effort to foreground the struggles of farmers and indigenous peoples caught in urban transformation, the project, “Counter-mapping for Peri-Urban Social Justice,” was established bringing together scholars from the University of the Philippines and the University of Glasgow in partnership with community organisers and residents.

The project argues that urban sustainability has to attend to social justice concerns, especially marginalised communities caught in urban transformations, which researchers did by conducting a participatory study that uses a mixed-media counter-mapping methodology. Counter-mapping is a cartographic practice that unsettles dominant power relations and foregrounds the lived experiences and narratives of marginalised populations.

This project conducts counter-mapping through a community-engaged and mixed-methods approach, making use of various data collection techniques (see figure 2 below), like mental mapping, auto-photography, walking interviews, focus group discussions and drone video captures, to produce multiple map formats.

Against the glossy “official” maps of New Clark City, the project developed maps contesting these “official” narratives and spotlighting the struggles of affected communities.

Figure 2: Community mapping with residents. Credit: Arnisson Andre C Ortega
Figure 2: Community mapping with residents. Credit: Arnisson Andre C Ortega

Don’t bulldoze us: Counter-mapping reveals productive land and thriving communities

The official narrative promoting New Clark City claims that the land where the project will be built is “idle” and that there will be no indigenous community to be negatively affected by the project. But findings from the study reveal multiple communities are set to be effectively evicted to make way for the project. Residents identified important sites in their communities, from sacred grounds to valuable streams (Figure 3). What emerges from the counter-map is a rich landscape comprised of productive lands and thriving communities that have lived in the area for centuries.

Drone footages (see video below) show the drastic change in landscape in the area, whereby former rice fields and agricultural lands were bulldozed, and mountains were carved out for the construction of roads and other structures.

Figure 3: An indigenous resident points to the golf course where their spiritual mountain called Mount Kanuman was once situated
Figure 3: An indigenous resident points to the golf course where their spiritual mountain called Mount Kanuman was once situated

Residents recounted how there were little to no warnings of bulldozing activities. In one of the villages where the initial phase of the project was going to be constructed, houses and rice fields were flattened while security personnel regularly patrolled the area to ensure demolition and construction of structures. Some villagers were compelled to accept financial compensation, while others were not even paid a single cent. Despite the promises of new jobs, residents lament on their loss of livelihood and land. Plans for relocation were not discussed.

The indigenous peoples are worried that the construction of New Clark City will destroy their culture and land, especially that many of them do not see themselves working in this “new city.” Several sacred grounds and other important sites to indigenous residents have been destroyed and many are still under threat of demolition.

New Clark City prides itself as the Philippines’ green and disaster-resilient city. However, the project is being built on certain flood-prone zones (Figure 4). The construction of new structures, from highways to buildings, has already recontoured certain lands and as such, may potentially exacerbate flooding in some areas.

Figure 4: Map showing the flood-zone areas.
Figure 4: Map showing the flood-zone areas.

Promoting social justice to achieve urban sustainability

Amidst overwhelming calls for urban sustainability and resilience, urban projects like New Clark City capitalise on big business to convert land and concomitantly dispossess marginalised populations.  It’s particularly interesting to note that the construction of ‘green’ and ‘smart’ city projects, in the case of New Clark City, entails the destruction of actually green landscapes and the indigenous residents that inhabit them.

What needs to be underscored is urban social justice, as a critical component of sustainability, which champions the plight of marginalised populations who are caught in urban transformations. For two years, the study has produced numerous map outputs that foreground the campaigns of farming and indigenous communities in the area, from maps printed onto life-size tarpaulins or included in informational flyers for residents, to online maps in memes disseminated through social media. The project has also now expanded to become the Counter-mapping PH Network, which brought together more scholars, activists, artists, and community organisers in an effort to work and engage with various marginalized communities grappling with development aggression.

For more information about the Counter-mapping PH Network, visit the project’s website or follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


Dar es Salaam’s new bus transit system. Credit: World Bank

Dar es Salaam: the unplanned urban sprawl threatening neighbourhood sustainability

This study analyses the internal structure of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to support better understanding of the physical changes, neighbourhood formation, population growth and distribution, and segregation in the city over time.

It explores the impact of these on health and education, and uses qualitative approaches to examine the balance of social, economic and environmental sustainability of neighbourhoods.

Key findings:
  • Dar es Salaam is the second fastest growing city in the world and the fifth largest city in Africa. Over the past 20 years, the city has experienced substantial increases in both built-up areas and population size.
  • The city is becoming densely populated. While the population is deconcentrating in and around the commercial business district (CBD), peripheral wards are seeing high population growth linked to both migration and a population shift from the CBD and its vicinity.
  • This population shift is being driven by improved transport infrastructure such as ring roads, the Bus Rapid Transit project, bridge construction and resettlement schemes from hazardous areas of the city.
  • Although the government is not involved to a high degree in acquiring land or planning and real estate development, it supports and monitors private firms that provide land survey services and regularisation of informal settlements.
  • However, government investments in infrastructure and the workforce are not keeping pace with the rates of population growth and urban expansion in Dar es Salaam. From the perspective of residents, this represents a critical gap that threatens neighbourhood sustainability.


Panoramic view of Dodoma city, Tanzania. Credit: Ifakara Health Institute

Dodoma: building a sustainable city to meet neighbourhood needs

This research analyses the internal structure and neighbourhood disparities in the capital city of Dodoma, Tanzania.

Further, it provides a qualitative assessment of the balance of social, economic and environmental sustainability from the perspectives of residents within these neighbourhoods.

Key findings:
  • Dodoma gained capital-city status in 1973 when the then government decided to transfer its seat from Dar es Salaam to a more central location. Consequently, Dodoma has experienced general urbanisation and intensified migration that has led to major changes in land use and spatial development. Built-up areas comprising residential, industrial, business and public spaces have increased across the city at the expense of farmland owned by Dodoma’s native citizens.
  • In recent years Dodoma has seen rapid urbanisation and uneven population growth. The near-central business district, peri-urban and urban parts of the city have grown very fast as a result of intensified urban planning and surveying of land.
  • Although the city is growing outwards, urban wards have become increasingly concentrated and dense over time following changes in development guidelines such as those on vertical development.
  • There are wide disparities between rural and urban wards in access to, and provision and quality of services, with urban wards benefiting from better coverage. Consequently, residents from low-income and urban villages face risks around health and education deprivation and reduced life chances.


Soweto township in Johannesburg, South Africa. Credit Shutterstock, Gil.K.

Johannesburg: the growing importance of class in shaping neighbourhoods

This research explores the nature of spatial change and neighbourhood development in Johannesburg, South Africa, particularly pertaining to the sustainability, health and education outcomes in the city.

Using innovative analysis, it considers neighbourhoods in Johannesburg as a series of clusters that characterise the spatial landscape, but that are driven by class mobility as well as race and space.

Key findings:
  • Johannesburg is undergoing a profound transformation, which includes population growth, significant informal encroachment and far greater class fluidity across races than normally acknowledged.
  • Ranging between 2.63% and 3.24% per annum in recent years, population growth in Johannesburg has remained consistently high since democracy. This indicates the substantial stress placed on the urban fabric of the city.
  • Johannesburg continues to be profoundly shaped by apartheid spatial planning and neighbourhood demarcation. Yet class mobility, which is evident in clusters across the city, and informality provide a nuanced picture of neighbourhood fluidity in place of stereotyped tropes about race and space.
  • Formal dwellings have grown massively between 1990 and 2018, but informal land cover has grown fivefold. By 2018, informal land use had grown to the equivalent of almost a third of formal land use, which suggests that a profound set of changes have been taking place in the city.
  • Our methodology allows us to avoid easy assumptions about what is happening within informality, and instead reveals a considerable scale of service access and class structure.
  • Johannesburg’s Afropolitan populations have found innumerable ways of by-passing the barriers of space. Any fixed notion of settlement type determining the life chances of residents fails to recognise the new forms of connectivities, urban mobilities and neighbourhood transition in the city.


Dhaka: diverse, dense, and damaged neighbourhoods and the impacts of unplanned urbanisation

This study explores the internal structures and differentiation of neighbourhoods within Dhaka – one of the world’s fastest-growing megacities.

Using city – and neighbourhood-level analysis, it reveals the critical urban challenges that threaten the sustainability of the city as well as the health and education outcomes of its residents.

Key findings:
  • Dhaka has seen rapid and unregulated growth. In a context of weak urban policies on migration and growth management, poor application of development control regulations and limited planned interventions at the neighbourhood level, the city experienced average annual rates of urban growth for 1991–2019 of 43% in the outskirts and 8% within the city boundary.
  • The economic benefits of urbanisation are outweighed by the significant damage caused to the natural environment and ecosystem, pressures on food production, and declines in living standards and quality of life.
  • As a consequence of urban transformation and migration, Dhaka’s neighbourhoods host a more diverse mix of people in social, economic, religious and ethnic terms than any other city in Bangladesh. Unplanned neighbourhoods embrace this diversity.
  • But responsive urban planning policies and interventions are lacking, which has led to social segregation. The quality of urban infrastructures, services and amenities are disproportionately better in affluent neighbourhoods; middle – and lower-middle-income areas are mostly unplanned and suffer high-density living and inadequate, poor-quality and unaffordable healthcare and education facilities. The situation is worse still in low-income communities, slums and urban villages.
  • Emerging urban settlements suffer most from the crowded living environment, with narrow roads, no piped water supply and a poor sewerage system. These settlements represent future threats for the sustainability and effective urban management of the city.


Khulna: the diversity and disparity of neighbourhoods from organic growth

This study explores the internal structures and differentiation of neighbourhoods in Khulna, a typical large city in Bangladesh.

Analysis of city – and neighbourhood-level information reveals the critical challenges that citizens face in terms of urban sustainability, health and education, and that require focus for future policy-making for the city.

Key findings:
  • Khulna’s neighbourhoods have evolved spontaneously over the last 30 years, leading to urban sprawl and distinct internal changes. The rapid decline of farmland (by 49%) and water bodies (by 19%) in Khulna and the dramatic increase in human settlements (96% in the city and 468% in the periphery) have reshaped the future of this city.
  • 91% of Khulna’s neighbourhoods have evolved organically and have been adaptive to the transformation process. Population growth, shifts in economic activities, and the development of roads, urban amenities and related infrastructure have influenced changes at the neighbourhood level.
  • The old, organically transformed neighbourhoods accommodate a diverse mix of socioeconomic groups and have avoided significant social segregation. Yet, there are isolated clusters of slums, religious minority groups and certain ethnic classes.
  • Poor coverage of urban amenities and limited formal economic activities have resulted in neighbourhood differentiation and a division between well – and under-served areas. Such divisions have severely affected the poor and working-class population, forcing them to live in low-cost communities with inadequate amenities.
  • While neighbourhoods are responding to the city’s growing need for housing, the same cannot be said about urban amenities, and health and education facilities. The unplanned and organic nature of urbanisation in Khulna has resulted in unsustainable and unequal living environments across neighbourhoods.