ADB’s Pacific Urban Update 2020 launched: Here’s everything you need to know

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and co-financing partners’ investment to make Pacific cities more livable through better essential services is poised to reach around $900 million by the end of 2022, according to ADB’s Pacific Urban Update 2020.

This document provides an overview of the Manila-headquartered regional bank’s active and proposed urban programs, projects, and technical assistance initiatives in the Pacific region.

The report also explains how ADB’s work in the Pacific urban sector supports its developing member countries in providing safe, efficient, and reliable urban services (including water supply and sanitation) that drive equitable socio-economic growth and achieve sustainable results.

In addition, it highlights some of ADB’s core activities in the Pacific urban sector, the impacts these have on people’s well-being and on economic growth, and what ADB aims to achieve in the future in accordance with its Strategy 2030.

“Making cities more livable is one of ADB’s seven operational priorities that focuses on delivering integrated solutions. The concept of urban resilience is central to the Pacific developing member countries (DMCs). It goes beyond focusing on climate change and disaster risk management to including a range of other socioeconomic and institutional pillars of resilience,” the document said.

“The Pacific Department is working to provide essential urban services to growing urban populations through a differentiated approach by addressing the root causes of vulnerability and fragility, including low institutional capacities for planning and managing urban development. This involves integrated and coordinated investments in urban water supply, sanitation, and other municipal infrastructure and services based on strategic agendas set forth in ADB’s Pacific Approach 2016–2020,” the report titled ‘Pacific Urban Update 2020’ added.

Key Takeaways:

Urban Context of Pacific DMCs

• All 14 Pacific DMCs are considered small island developing states (SIDS), of which seven demonstrate the effects of fragility.

• Of the 14 Pacific DMCs, seven (the Cook Islands, Fiji, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, and Tuvalu) have over half of their population living in urban areas. Except for the Cook Islands and Samoa, urbanization rates are increasing in all Pacific DMCs (Developing Member Countries).

• People are increasingly attracted to towns, as these urban areas become centres of commerce, seats of government, and places of opportunity and hope.

• Informal settlements dominate urban growth and are now a permanent feature of the urban landscape in many Pacific towns and cities. These informal settlements are usually characterized as having inadequate levels of basic services and infrastructure, such as water, sanitation, and waste disposal.

• Urban concentration in many Pacific DMCs contributes to public health risks. This is reflected in statistics for the prevalence of diseases related to poor water, sanitation and hygiene, such as:
– Diarrhoea
– Gastroenteritis
– Dysentery
– Typhoid
– Conjunctivitis
– Tinea
– Ringworm

• Compact urban centres, while ideal for providing efficient services, require careful consideration during design to allow for sufficient public space, provisions that target enhanced community well-being, and systematic upgrading of urban health services to be able to respond to health emergencies and pandemics, as per the document.

• Large household sizes are also common across Pacific DMCs, with an average of 8.2 people per household in the Marshall Islands and 6.2 people per household in Kiribati. These household sizes increase the likelihood of transmission of communicable diseases.

Water Resources in Pacific Developing Member Countries

Water resources in Pacific DMCs are often limited to rainwater harvesting, which is vulnerable to natural variability in precipitation patterns or changes in storm tracks.

Although surface water is found on islands with higher altitudes (parts of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu), on low islands and atolls, it is often brackish and not usable as a freshwater resource, according to the report’s findings.

Groundwater—in particular, the fragile lenses found in the low-lying atolls of Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Tuvalu— is increasingly under threat due to population growth in urban areas, contamination, and the impacts of climate change.

These water resource challenges are leading governments to look for alternative water sources, which may also be resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Spatial Urban Planning

Spatial urban planning and development in Pacific DMCs is essential to efficient land use, zoning, and development control for a defined physical area. It provides strategic direction and guidance for addressing urban growth issues, such as:
– Land use management
– Housing provisions
– Infrastructure development
– Environmental protection
– Economic growth

Urban Development in fragile and conflict-affected regions

The regional lender is working tirelessly to provide essential services to growing urban populations through a differentiated approach by addressing the root causes of their vulnerability and fragility, including low institutional capacities for planning and managing urban development. Specific interventions focus on:
(i) Strengthening urban resilience in Pacific DMCs
(ii) Assisting in urban strategic planning and multi-sector investment prioritization
(iii) Institutional strengthening and capacity development

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The regional development bank supports Pacific DMCs in their efforts toward achieving the SDGs by 2030. ADB aligns its Pacific urban and water operations with DMC policies and ADB’s Strategy 2030, including our livable cities approach. The focus of ADB’s Pacific operations include:

• Sustainable urban and water supply services

• Inclusive and equitable access to urban and water services

• Resilience to climate change and other geo-hazards

• Technology introduction and innovation

• Importance of ecosystems in urban planning and design