People Make a City: Towards More Inclusive Urban Planning

This article was written by Charrlotte Adelina and Diane Archer and originally published by SEI. The views expressed in this article are of the writer and not attributable to SHLC.

How can inclusive community planning help make urban areas more livable? SEI is partnering with local people in the city of Udon Thani in northeast Thailand to find creative ways to improve the urban environment.

Green spaces and walkable urban pathways are important for residents’ physical and mental health, as well as having ecological benefits, and can also help to reach goals for sustainable and healthy urban lifestyles. However, it is a big challenge to conserve green spaces in Udon Thani because of competing demands on land and finance. Bringing participatory approaches into urban planning can help prioritize key issues that can make cities more livable.

Credit: SEI Asia

Walking, in particular, has been shown to have positive impacts on the mental and physical health and wellbeing of urban residents. Walking encourages a healthy lifestyle, provides recreational opportunities, and helps residents identify with their neighbourhoods, while also promoting low-carbon modes of moving around the city. But in most Asian cities, walking spaces are poorly maintained or sometimes even non-existent.

Credit: SEI Asia
Credit: SEI Asia

To create greater potential for active transport in urban settings, we asked Udon Thani’s residents about their experience of walking around the nieghbourhood and what challenges they face when doing so, and asked them for suggestions on what would improve their walking habits.

We used two interactive methods – photovoice and mental mapping – to understand the enablers and barriers to walking.  Our photovoice walks with the elderly in the city of Udon Thani showed us how these challenges can impact their decision to use their motorbike or walk.

Credit: SEI Asia

Some participants engaged in a mental mapping exercise, where they drew their route from home to a green space based on their memory, marking important landmarks and sites.

The photovoice and mental mapping exercises revealed that residents were concerned about safety and cleanliness at the nearby lake park, and the risks posed by cyclists riding on the walking path. Other conditions such as a lack of pedestrian crossings, rains, dust from the roads during the hot season, and smoke from grilled chicken stalls, also affected their decisions on when and where to walk.

Credit: SEI Asia

Cars speeding along roads without pavements, or low-hanging cables close to the pavements may turn a simple walk into a dangerous activity. Such concerns are especially important for the mobility of the elderly.

“A main obstacle for walking from my house to the canal is the water pipes which are on the footpath. They need to put them underground.”

— Udon Thani resident

Credit: SEI Asia

Encroachment on pavements for parking or other commercial and residential uses is not uncommon.

The exercises revealed that shady, safe, green spaces, and unobstructed pedestrian footpaths were highly important for the mental relaxation and well-being of residents.

The research team were quick to tweak the methods to suit the needs and interests of participants, for example, by allowing visually challenged participants to describe a mental map. Our activities helped elderly participants easily recollect site-specific challenges and experiences of walking in their neighbourhood.

Credit: SEI Asia

The photovoice and mental mapping activities yielded rich location-specific and evidence-based suggestions to improve walkability at the neighbourhood level. Researchers delivered these insights in a policy workshop with local decision-makers from relevant departments within the municipality. The municipality showed great interest in incorporating community-driven inputs in their upcoming interventions for improving walkability in Udon Thani.

Credit: SEI Asia
Credit: SEI Asia

 This photo story was produced from community workshops in Udon Thani, with funding from the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities (SHLC) and the SEI City Health and Wellbeing (CHeW) Initiative.

Credits to the SEI Asia Communications team for the photos.

The project was led by Dr. Diane Archer from Stockholm Environment Institute Asia.

This research project ‘Towards More Inclusive Urban Planning in Udon Thani (Thailand) and Nakuru (Kenya)’ was funded by the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC)’s Capacity Development Acceleration Fund. SHLC is funded via UK Research and Innovation as part of the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

Private health facility on the fringes of Kigali, Rwanda. Credit: Ramjee Bhandari, University of Glasgow

Addressing health inequalities: why neighbourhoods should be front and centre of building a fairer world

This blog was written Dr Rajmee Bhandari from the University of Glasgow. The views expressed in this blog are of the writer and not attributable to SHLC.

The emergence and spread of Covid-19 all across the globe has meant that more than ever, we have realised the importance of the context and place we live in.

We have become more appreciative of accessible and adaptive physical and social features of our local neighbourhood. Liveability and sustainability of our neighbourhoods and cities determine our health and wellbeing and lately, with the impacts of Covid-19 felt throughout every community, this has received significant attention. Our work at SHLC is exploring how sustainability can be achieved at a neighbourhood level.

A year ago, a colleague and I argued how a bottom-up approach (neighbourhoods to local governments and above) is crucial in the race to manage the fast-spreading pandemic. As the virus has embedded, COVID-19 has highlighted the limitations we have in our system and has also brought to the surface the resilience built up from the neighbourhoods and communities that have helped us to keep going.

Most importantly, this pandemic has exposed how inequalities in health happens in cycles. The impact is disproportionate and those living in vulnerable circumstances are bearing most of the disease and associated socio-economic burden. It is clear to see, as the World Health Organization emphasises, “our world is an unequal one.

This year’s World Health Day focuses on a campaign to build a fairer and healthier world. The constitution of the World Health Organization enforces health as the basic and fundamental right of every human being, which is to be experienced without distinctions in any form. The envisioned fairer and healthier world is achieved only when there is equity in accessing the services and equality in the outcome. Inequalities in health is a global issue and not just for resource-constrained countries. COVID-19 has further highlighted this gap, which is mostly attributable to wider socio-environmental conditions where people are born and/or spend their time – what is most commonly referred to as ‘the social determinants. Cities host more than half of the global population and during this pandemic, the health of our urban population is bearing a detrimental impact.

Private health facility on the fringes of Kigali, Rwanda. Credit: Ramjee Bhandari, University of Glasgow
Private health facility on the fringes of Kigali, Rwanda. Credit: Ramjee Bhandari, University of Glasgow

Determinants of urban health

The determinants of urban health are multi-sectoral and multi-level in nature. The role of sectors other than health, which integrate, overlap and coordinate are crucial in shaping the health outcomes in our changing urban context (see Figure 1). A supportive social environment, healthy physical attributes and responsible politics all interact together to create healthy cities. While the importance of these social and environmental determinants of health is now uncontested, the rapid and often unplanned urbanisation in developing country cities has strained the ability of governments to build healthy and liveable neighbourhoods.

Figure 1. The syndemic of COVID-19, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and the social determinants of health (Bambra et. al., 2020)
Figure 1. The syndemic of COVID-19, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and the social determinants of health (Bambra et. al., 2020)

Unfair neighbourhoods

While cities bring opportunities for better health, they also bring many challenges if they are unplanned or unregulated. It is essential to recognise the social differences in our cities and to act to mitigate these differences in fair and just approaches. Compared to rural or non-urban areas, cities tend to have more health and social services. There is, however, a marked inequity in access and take-up of these services. In health sectors, the introduction of the private sector/market has resulted in wider availability of healthcare services, but the cost associated with it creates inequality and excludes certain populations who do not have the resources to access it.

These services are often placed near high-income neighbourhoods, providing significantly less benefit to those who cannot afford to pay. For example, in Khulna city in Bangladesh, the ratio of public, private and nongovernmental organisation (NGO) health facilities in Purba Sonadanga (a planned high-income neighbourhood) is 14:79:7 versus a ratio in Lobonchora (a low-income organically established neighbourhood) of 0:75:25. Though a diversity of service providers has increased available options, in developing country settings, the private providers are often poor and not adequately regulated.

For sectors other than health, there are similar issues of accessibility, affordability and usability. Education is another key social determinant impacting urban health that also has issues of structural inequity and quality to contend with.

We often see cities within cities, with distinctive urban conglomerates of planned and informal/unplanned/organic areas found side by side. While planned neighbourhoods have access to better urban services, informal settlements often lack the provision of basic amenities. The proximity of features such as a public open space is often associated with where you live, if you live in a deprived neighbourhood, these spaces are less likely to be accessible to you and you are less likely to use them. Urban residents living in deprived communities are more at risk of being impacted by events such as the current pandemic or other economic shocks. Building a safer city thus requires having a safety net to protect the vulnerable groups.

Public sport facility in Batangas City, the Philippines. Credit: Ramjee Bhandari, University of Glasgow
Public sport facility in Batangas City, the Philippines. Credit: Ramjee Bhandari, University of Glasgow

Way forward

To address urban health inequalities and end discriminatory practices, a coordinated approach is required. A proper alignment of population distribution and amenities, health services along with others, necessary for neighbourhoods is possible with proper planning. The role of governments and stakeholders at all levels are key to the protection of basic human rights in health and creation of a better environment where everyone can enjoy the best possible health outcomes.

Considering the impacts all sectors have on health, it is imperative to recognise health in all policies. As cities start to recover from Covid-19, there is also an urgency to rectify the systemic health gap this pandemic has brought to the surface. Without further hesitation, we need to move faster to create healthy and equitable neighbourhoods by realising that the health of its citizens is the most important asset any city can have.

Kigali, Rwanda. A wide view looking down on the city centre with Pension Plaza in the foreground. Credit: Shutterstock, Jennifer Sophie.

Celebrating a revamped Kigali car free zone: Imbuga city walk

This article was originally published by The New Times. The views expressed in this article are of the writer and not attributable to SHLC.

This week, we woke up to big news that the long awaited ‘Imbuga City Walk’ project on Kigali’s car free zone, as we know it, has come to fruition. The street will be transformed into ‘a recreational and green space’, whose implementation is on the move and expected to be complete within three months.

The news further detailed the project components as: pedestrian and cycling friendly pavements; green corridor landscaping; kiosks for food court and other items; exhibition zone; and kids’ playground. Several support facilities will also be in place such as; street benches and free WiFi; city lounge and arcade; pedestrian-friendly street lamps and public toilets. What more can we ask?

On 15th September 2015, I started making opinion column contributions in this newspaper, having been inspired by the then active debate on the events and aspirations on the car free zone.

I recall celebrating the move the City of Kigali had made in setting precedent on the war against the ‘asphalt and concrete jungle’ that has been attacking cities from all ends in this era of rapid urbanization.

Kigali, Rwanda. A wide view looking down on the city centre with Pension Plaza in the foreground. Credit: Shutterstock, Jennifer Sophie.
Kigali, Rwanda. A wide view looking down on the city centre with Pension Plaza in the foreground. Credit: Shutterstock, Jennifer Sophie.

At the time, I was only beginning my doctoral studies, on the topic of public space, disturbed by the fact that many cities especially in the global south have shown only marginal expansions in their public open space, despite the overwhelming expansion of the built environment.

Kigali’s intention to host her first ever car free zone at that point in time was indeed a terrific inspiration, as it served as a living testimony that cities can, after all, pay attention to their quality of urban life in unique ways, opening up possibilities in which streets could become successful social spaces.

Many other streets in Kigali remain ubiquitous with car use and hence why the idea of a car free zone, with pedestrians deserving a higher priority that vehicles that have growingly dominated the space, becomes an exciting one.

Over the last five years, we have had several pieces written on the topic of Kigali’s car free zone, published in this paper or elsewhere, and most of them have been sharing the concern that the street remained dead over a longer period of time, than expected.

The opinions, based on the optimism of the zone, have been good and healthy, as they kept a constant reminder to the city urban planners to fast track the process but we may not be having a lot of pace now to complain and rant about the absence of life and vibrancy on the street. The city has finally moved forward to nail it and basically we have been given three months, while the city completes the project, to start planning our activities on the Imbuga City Walk, obviously in respect to existing health protocols.

Considering that for the last 12 months we have largely been spending time in our homes or neighbourhoods, with travel restrictions in place and calls for social distancing as a way to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, this news is both timely and relevant to us all.

But just what will make the Imbuga city walk work?

The first conversation is around the concern of empty street. To ensure that the street does not remain ‘dead’ as we have critiqued it to have been, it will need people and activities. You and I will need to make intentional decisions to show up and be present there.

Obviously before the new design that is being implemented now, it was still difficult for the street to attract people and activities. There was not so much to do there, the zone, although absent of vehicles, was still not comfortable as it was without basic support facilities and amenities.

Now that there is a purposeful design in place, that is aiming to transform the zone into recreational and green space, one would expect that the addition of support facilities, improved accessibility, better linkages, safety and comfort, would make it substantially attractive leading to a more active and vibrant public space.

The second is around the businesses along the street. There has been concerns shared on the survival of businesses along the street, whose presence is of paramount important to the survival of the Imbuga city walk, but whose survival ought to be also supported by the public space.

This dialectic relationship is important since the street business will be affected by the street design changes. Hopefully, the case of a participatory design process, in which the business owners were involved in the conversations during both the design and implementation of the car free zone is expected to introduce business-friendly design elements that support both the social life as well as the economic life of the street.

Obviously business serve customers on their feet, not in their cars and hence the project increment in users of the Imbuga City Walk may as well bring in more customers to the adjacent businesses. The business on this zone have also been offered working service lanes parallel to the KN4 street and if they have survived the last 5 years of an empty street, they can only expect to do much better now.

The third is around equitable access. It is expected that the city walk will attract many more people than it has been doing in the last five years. Visitors will be drawn from the different economic levels and so a consideration in ensuring efficient bus transit from the various neighbourhoods in Kigali and other bus terminus, with efficient bus stops on either sides of the zone, would be very useful to the many visitors, especially the low-income citizen who rely on buses.

Bicycle lanes are already incorporated in the zone and this is expected to boost the already arising trend in cycling in Kigali.

The newly designed public space will be a container of multiple human activities, making it better capable of catering for our functional, social, and recreational needs in a more successful manner. This way, the Imbuga City Walk is expected to increasingly and positively associate with economic growth, better physical health of people and a stronger sense of community.

Participatory Research in Gurugram, Haryana, India. Credit: S. Ram Aravind

Healthy Cities for Adolescents: Participatory Research in Gurugram, Haryana, India

This participatory research project, which was funded by SHLC’s Capacity Development Acceleration Fund, aims to improve adolescent health and to enhance their influence on adolescent health services in Gurugram, Haryana, India.

The project will incorporate the voices and perspectives of marginalised adolescents into the planning and designing of adolescent specific health policies and programmes in India.

Participatory Research in Gurugram, Haryana, India. Credit: S. Ram Aravind
Participatory Research in Gurugram, Haryana, India. Credit: S. Ram Aravind


Over the past decade, the Government of India has implemented several programmes to improve the quality of life within cities, particularly in relation to health and hygiene. Substantial growth in the number of urban poor in India has highlighted a gap in health inequalities within the population, mainly due to poor living conditions and limited access to good health services.

Adolescents constitute about a fifth of India’s population and as a group experience significant health challenges. Adolescence is a dynamic stage of human growth, marked by distinctive physical, psychological, cognitive and social changes that demand special attention in national development policies, programmes and plans.

The project has three main objectives:

  1. To enquire, from the perspective of marginalised adolescents, the health needs and health education necessary for transition into healthy adults.
  2. To examine existing government funded health policies and programmes for the adolescents; this includes identifying the right tools and techniques as well as the right triggers and incentives for engaging the adolescents in the planning, implementation and monitoring of adolescent specific health services.
  3. To offer practical proposals for national and state policy and programmes, based on existing successful models of engagement and knowledge exchange.

Project Outputs

The project was led by Participatory Research In Asia (PRIA).

This research project ‘Healthy Cities for Adolescents: Participatory Research in Gurugram, Haryana, India’ was funded by the Centre for Sustainable, Healthy and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (SHLC)’s Capacity Development Acceleration Fund. SHLC is funded via UK Research and Innovation as part of the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

Implementing a Rapid Emergency Supplies Provision (RESP) Assistance to Design a Sustainable Solution for COVID-19 Impact Areas in the National Capital Region, Through a Public Private Collaboration

Online Workshop: Doing Knowledge Exchange During the COVID 19 Pandemic – What Lessons Have We learnt?

Online Workshop: Doing Knowledge Exchange During the COVID 19 Pandemic – What Lessons Have We learnt?


This online workshop Doing Knowledge Exchange during the COVID 19 pandemic – What lessons have we learnt? was hosted by the Low and Middle Income (LMIC) Research Network at the University of Glasgow.

The move towards online and digital platforms has led to innovative approaches to overcome barriers to the active participation of all project stakeholders. This workshop will provide an opportunity for researchers and research partners to share experiences and identify good practices. The discussion will be used as a basis for a guide setting out key challenges and effective knowledge exchange strategies for projects working in the Global South.

  • Prof Charles Nherera – University of Zimbabwe / UKRI International Panel Member (Zimbabwe)
  • Dr Raul Valdes-Cotera – Senior Programme Specialist and Programme Manager of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities/UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (Germany)
  • Prof Mario-Delos Reyes – International Co-Investigator for the GCRF Centre for Sustainable, Healthy, and Learning Cities and Neighbourhoods (Philippines)
  • Dr Anshuman Karol – Researcher at Participatory Research in Asia (India)
  • Dr Barbara Read – Reader in Gender and Social Inequalities, School of Education, University of Glasgow (United Kingdom)

Read and download the concept note for more details.

This workshop is targeted at researchers, project partners and doctoral students working in Low and Middle-Income Countries.

Affluent or upmarket suburb and coastal living. Cape Town, South Africa. Credit: Shutterstock, Roxane 134

Social Inequality and Spatial Segregation in Cape Town


Turok I., Visagie J., Scheba A. (2021) Social Inequality and Spatial Segregation in Cape Town. In: van Ham M., Tammaru T., Ubarevičienė R., Janssen H. (eds) Urban Socio-Economic Segregation and Income Inequality. The Urban Book Series. Springer, Cham. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-64569-4_4


Cape Town is widely considered to be South Africa’s most segregated city. The chapter outlines the history of social stratification and spatial segregation, including the coercion of colonial and apartheid governments to divide the population by race. Since 1994, the democratic government has lacked the same resolve and capacity to reverse this legacy and integrate the city.

The chapter also analyses the changing socio-economic and residential patterns between 2001 and 2011 in more detail. It shows that the extent of segregation diminished between 2001 and 2011, contrary to expectations. It appears that affluent neighbourhoods became slightly more mixed and people in high-status occupations spread into surrounding areas. Some low-income neighbourhoods also became slightly more mixed by accommodating middle class residents.

Further research is required to verify and explain these findings.

Prof. Tanjil Sowgat presenting the SHLC research findings at Khulna City Corporation. Credit: Khulna University

Meeting the Mayors of Dhaka and Khulna: New Hopes for Pragmatic Research

This blog was written Tanjil Sowgat and Shilpi Roy from Khulna University. The views expressed in this blog are of the writer and not attributable to SHLC.

From the beginning of our research, SHLC’s research team in Bangladesh has been committed to engaging key policymakers to inform their decision-making.

When our recent findings on Dhaka and Khulna started to demonstrate new insights, we knew it was important to share our recommendations with the key policymakers of our two case study cities in Bangladesh. We met the three city management authorities of these two cities, namely Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Khulna City Corporation (KCC).

Engaging Bangladeshi policymakers

Getting access to policymakers is not easy for researchers in Bangladesh. The country depends mostly on ‘consultancy’ driven research with individual paid consultants informing policies amid the limited research capacity of the city authorities. Policymakers feel a disconnect of knowledge sharing between academia and city management authorities, as they feel research studies advocate academic jargon demonstrating an unhelpful gap between theoretical knowledge and real-world problems. In contrast, the real-world situation seeks solutions that are not always research-informed. Policymakers often are sceptical about the applicability of research findings in a pragmatic context.

Despite this usual disconnect, the Bangladesh team received an outstanding response from all the city mayors. They met with us alongside a team of high-profile officials, which included the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Town Planner, Chief Engineer, Health Officer, Assistant Town Planners and other relevant officers. They wanted to hear what we had found and how we think the city should respond. During the meeting, our two advisors: Hon’able Vice-Chancellor of Khulna University, Professor Dr Mohammad Fayek Uzzaman and S. M. Mehedi Ahsan, were present.

Prof. Tanjil Sowgat presenting the SHLC research findings at Khulna City Corporation. Credit: Khulna University
Prof. Tanjil Sowgat presenting the SHLC research findings at Khulna City Corporation. Credit: Khulna University

Neighbourhood matters: telling policymakers why a response to rapid urbanisation is key

We shared our research findings at the city and neighbourhood level and told the city officials that big cities are becoming exhausted by new migrants without a national urban policy. Rapid urbanisation at the city periphery is also becoming an emerging threat because this growth prompts haphazard growth and filthy living conditions in the spawling areas. We called on the City Mayors to focus on strategies to guide the development process in the peri-urban areas.

We also showed how the inner-city areas are transforming day by day.  We discussed how development control could help safeguard rapidly decreasing water bodies and vegetation in inner cities and city outskirts. Our neighbourhood findings emphasised growing socio-spatial division in the city and the resulting imbalance in development because of the lack of provision for neighbourhood specific planning interventions.

To showcase what these findings mean in real-world situations, we focused on the results from our case study neighbourhoods to tease out the current urban sustainability challenges such as segregation, disproportionately distributed urban services, land use planning challenges and urban management gaps.

Our recommendations for Dhaka and Khulna highlighted that the problem of uncontrolled mass in-migration and the resulting pressure on existing services could not be addressed if migration could not be diverted to other cities. We also called for neighbourhood level planning to tackle inequality and unbalanced migration.

Honorable VC of Khulna University shares SHLC reports with Mayor of KCC and DSCC. Credit: Khulna University
Honorable VC of Khulna University shares SHLC reports with Mayor of KCC and DSCC. Credit: Khulna University

Supporting evidence-based urban policy

The Mayors appreciated our findings and said our research hinted at many practical challenges and offered policymakers new directions. Each wanted to include our study findings in their upcoming plans particularly around concerns of sprawling, lack of neighbourhood level planning, and the need for national urban policies.

The Honourable Mayor of Khulna City Corporation notably endorsed our findings on the city’s future growth areas. He said that he would revise the proposal for the extension of the KCC boundary following our suggestions.

The Honourable Mayor of Dhaka South City Corporation felt that more research is needed to support Dhaka’s future planning. He acknowledged the importance of co-sharing of knowledge and wanted to conduct joint studies, including collective action research between DSCC and SHLC to tackle the waterlogging and drainage issues in the city.

The honourable Mayor of Dhaka North City Corporation sought future studies on slum improvement, reclaiming water bodies, and strategies to reclaim the footpaths and encroached roads. He instructed his colleagues to arrange more sharing events and joint studies.

All three mayors showed keen interest to sign ‘MoUs’ (Memoranda of Understanding) between Khulna University and the city corporations to continuing benefiting from academic research. At the same time, they promised support for our future field and impact activities. Honourable VC of Khulna University agreed on the need for MoUs and pledged to take the necessary steps.

City Mayors of Dhaka and SHLC team during their meetings. Credit: Khulna University
City Mayors of Dhaka and SHLC team during their meetings. Credit: Khulna University

The three events were initially planned to engage city corporations to inform policy-making. However, the events successfully added more values as the mayors acknowledged the need for urban research in delivering sustainable cities and neighbourhoods. Their promise for MoUs and interests in joint studies gave new hope to the SHLC team.

Collaborative studies will offer new directions for the sustainable urbanisation of Khulna and Dhaka. SHLC’s Bangladesh team was encouraged to see how our research made an impression on crucial urban policymakers. We feel that similar sharing events would significantly contribute to both cities’ policy-making. The goodwill, dedication, and insightful thoughts of the city authorities gave new hope for continued pragmatic academic-public authority collaboration.

Cities of dragons and elephants – Urbanization and urban development in China and India


Ahmad, S.  (2021) Cities of dragons and elephants – Urbanization and urban development in China and India. Regional Studies,  doi: 10.1080/00343404.2021.1879488

Key messages

China and India, the most populous countries in the world, accommodate over one-third of the global population. Both countries have a similar level of rural population (23% of the population lives in rural grid cells), but the majority of Indians live in urban centres (54% versus China’s 41%) rather than urban clusters (India’s 24% versus China’s 37%) as per the degree of urbanization (European Commission, 2015). Given the similarities and differences, particularly at development stage and trajectory, China and India can learn from each other to achieve sustainable development outcomes.

By understanding why and where to urbanize in the context of China and India, this edited volume makes a timely contribution to urbanization and urban development debates. This book is divided into nine parts after an introductory chapter: (I) Urbanization and Rural Development; (II) Urban System; (III) Migration; (IV) Land and Housing; (V) Capital Flow and FDI; (VI) Infrastructure; (VII) Human Capital; (VIII) Congestion and Pollution; and (IX) Poverty and Inequality in Urbanization. Each part consists of two or three chapters (a total of 21 chapters) and deals with Chinese and Indian urban issues separately, rather than comparatively.

The key message from this book is that China’s and India’s urbanization are in the form of megacities that face the challenge of liveability and equality within and across cities. Based on robust empirical analyses, this study makes four policy recommendations to achieve efficacy, equity and sustainability:

  1. ensuring the efficiency of factor markets by removing the institutional barrier to migration in China and integrating labour markets by reducing language and cultural differences across regions in India;
  2. instrumenting central–local fiscal transfer to equitable public services and quality of life;
  3. ensuring the optimal exploitation of management and technology to build liveable and equitable cities (e.g., large-scale efficient urban transits, e-governance and green technologies); and
  4. setting up accountable and efficient governments for urban management and development.


These recommendations are made with reference to China and India, but are equally applicable to other emerging economies.

Does building development in Dhaka comply with land use zoning? An analysis using nighttime light and digital building heights


Rahman, M. M.Avtar, R., Ahmad, S., Inostroza, L.Misra, P.Kumar, P.Takeuchi, W.Surhan, A. and Saito, O. (2021) Does building development in Dhaka comply with land use zoning? An analysis using nighttime light and digital building heights. Sustainability Science doi: 10.1007/s11625-021-00923-0


Zoning is an important tool to regulate the use of land and to characterize built form over land, and thus to facilitate urban sustainability. Availability of reliable data is crucial for monitoring land use zoning, which contributes directly to the success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in general, and SDG Goal 11 for sustainable cities and communities in particular. However, obtaining this valuable information using traditional survey methods is both costly and time-consuming. Remote sensing technology overcomes these challenges and supports urban policymaking and planning processes.

This study unveils a novel approach to developing a cost-effective method for identifying building types using Sentinel-2A, Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS)–based nighttime light (NTL) data, and TanDEM-X–based Digital Surface Model (DSM) data. A newly developed index for this study, the Normalized Difference Steel Structure Index (NDSSI), is useful for rapidly mapping industrial buildings with steel structures.

The implementation status of Dhaka’s existing land use plan was evaluated by analyzing the spatial distribution of different types of building uses. This study classifies residential, commercial, and industrial buildings within Dhaka using building height, and nighttime light emission. The experimental results reveal that about 67% of commercial and 51% of industrial buildings within the Dhaka Metropolitan Area (DMA) do not comply with the land use zoning by the Detailed Area Plan (DAP). It also reveals that approximately 10% of commercial buildings, 9% of industrial buildings, and 6% of residential buildings have encroached upon conservation zones (such as open space, flood-prone zones, water bodies, and proposed areas for future road extension).

A major constraint in the study was the low spatial resolution of the nighttime light dataset, which made it difficult to distinguish individual sources of light. Still, the methodological approaches proposed in this study are expected to promote reduced costs and efficacious decision-making in urban transformation and to help achieve SDG 11, especially in developing countries.

Woman works in a small shop, Ghana. Credit: Arne Hoel/The World Bank

Urban–rural linkages: effective solutions for achieving sustainable development in Ghana from an SDG interlinkage perspective


Baffoe, G., Zhou, X., Moinuddin, M. et al. Urban–rural linkages: effective solutions for achieving sustainable development in Ghana from an SDG interlinkage perspective. Sustain Sci (2021).


Urbanization and concomitant challenges pose a great threat to sustainable development. Urban and rural development interacts through the flows of people, materials, energy, goods, capital, and information. Without building sound urban–rural linkages, achieving development in one area could compromise it in another area. Achieving sustainable development needs customized policy prioritization and implementation in both urban and rural areas.

Much literature exists in the research field of urban–rural linkages, but little has been done via a comprehensive analysis from an interlinkage perspective in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sustainable Development Goal 11 on sustainable cities and several targets embedded under other Goals provides a good framework for analyzing the urban–rural linkages.

This paper contributes to this novel research perspective using Ghana as a case. The study applied an integrated approach by combining the results from a solution-scanning exercise with an SDG interlinkage analysis to identify the challenges and priority solutions and assess the synergies and trade-offs of the identified solutions. It extends the conventional solution-scanning approach by further assessing the synergies and trade-offs of the solutions from an SDG interlinkage perspective. It also enables a more practical SDG interlinkage analysis through the contributions from the multi-stakeholder consultations conducted in Ghana.

The analyses show that prioritizing gender inclusion (Goal 5) will positively affect many social and well-being outcomes, including poverty elimination (Goal 1), hunger reduction (Goal 2), health improvement (Goal 3) and access to quality education (Goal 4) and basic services, such as water (Goal 6). However, gender inclusion could have potential trade-offs in the agricultural sector (Goal 2) in the case that women who dominate agricultural value chains could move to work in other sectors. Lack of proper infrastructure (Goal 9), such as transport, will hinder wide gender inclusion.

An integrated approach that considers both the synergies and trade-offs of relevant solutions is critical for effective policymaking, specifically in developing countries.