Saturday, 4 July 2009

Stories from The Economist

I’ve been catching up with last month’s issues of The Economist and a few good stories caught my eye:

(a) Waste disposal in Colombia: Muck and brass plates: Colombia’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the tens of thousands of wastepickers who scratch out a living on Cali’s solid waste dumps be officially recognised as entrepreneurs and, as such, should be given the chance to bid for the city’s waste management contract. A brilliant blow for the poor. Let’s hope a local NGO steps in and helps them prepare their bid (they’ll need help, and soon, as they’re illiterate).

(b) India’s cheap housing boom: The nano home: ultra-low-cost minimal housing is being provided by property developers. Not before time as India needs at least 25 million more homes in urban areas. And what sanitation system is envisaged?

(c) The poor and the global crisis: The trail of disaster: It’s the poorest who are worst affected by the global financial and food-price crises (this is a really good short introduction to UNSCN’s brief Global recession increases malnutrition for the most vulnerable people in developing countries − Pregnant women and children are hardest hit, undated, but 2009). UNSCN? United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition − no, I hadn’t heard of it either, and more’s the pity as there’s some good material here which could be used in advocacy for urban agriculture and, yes, even EcoSan!

(d) Migration and climate change: A new (under) class of travellers: “Victims of a warming world may be caught in a bureaucratic limbo unless things are done to ease—and better still, pre-empt—their travails.”

(e) Cleaning the Great Lakes: Swimming with E. coli: A USD 26 billion programme to clean up the Great Lakes may soon get underway. The Great Lakes have major problems: “Sewage systems continue to overflow, forcing many beaches to close. Levels of some toxins in fish have declined, but others pose new risks. Atlantic freighters still bring in foreign species − there are now 185”. But the benefits could amount to at least USD 80 billion. A lesson here for the developing world?