Voice for Water

Speaking out, sharing information and pooling resources to achieve universal access to basic services and environmental sustainability all over the developing world.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Haiti Earthquake Relief Efforts

The catastrophic 7.0 earthquake of January 12, 2010, with its epicenter in Port-au-Prince, Haiti has left mass devastation and death in its wake. For the survivors, water is cut off as are all essential and emergency services. Whatever you can do, including prayer, do something to help. If you can give financially, here are some resources for you to channel your donations:

The NY Times has put up a list of organizations that are currently accepting donations specifically for Haitian relief efforts.


The Red Cross is accepting donations, even by phone. You can text "HAITI" to "90999" to automatically donate $10 to the American Red Cross to help with relief efforts (the donation will be charged to your cell phone bill).

Links to breaking news stories:
NY Times - http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/world/americas/13haiti.html?hp

BBC - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8455629.stm

CNN - http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/01/12/haiti.earthquake/index.html

Reuters/Canada - http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCATRE60B5IZ20100113

Appeals for aid - http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/americas/01/12/haiti.aid/index.html

Haitian-born entertainer Wyclef Jean spoke with CNN's Wolf Blitzer about the need for “immediate aid” from the US and the international community.


Also see Google News for a roundup.


Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Planning Sustainable Cities: Global Report on Human Settlements 2009 - Just Released

The 2009 Global Report on Human Settlements, focused on Planning Sustainable Cities, was released this week by UN Habitat. Information is available online. Various background studies prepared for the report will be made available from this link. A blurb and contents list are shown below.

Planning Sustainable Cities — Global Report on Human Settlements 2009

Planning Sustainable Cities reviews recent urban planning practices and approaches, discusses constraints and conflicts therein, and identifies innovative approaches that are more responsive to current challenges of urbanization. It notes that traditional approaches to urban planning (particularly in developing countries) have largely failed to promote equitable, efficient and sustainable human settlements and to address twenty-first century challenges, including rapid urbanization, shrinking cities and ageing, climate change and related disasters, urban sprawl and unplanned peri-urbanization, as well as urbanization of poverty and informality. It concludes that new approaches to planning can only be meaningful, and have a greater chance of succeeding, if they effectively address all of these challenges, are participatory and inclusive, as well as linked to contextual socio-political processes.

Planning Sustainable Cities will be released in October 2009.

GRHS 2009


Foreword, Introduction, etc.

Part I. Challenges and Context

Chapter 1. Urban challenges and the need to revisit urban planning

Chapter 2. Understanding the diversity of the urban context

Chapter 3. The emergence and spread of contemporary urban planning

Part II. Global Trends: The Urban Planning Process

Chapter 4. The institutional and regulatory framework for planning

Chapter 5. Planning, participation and politics

Part III. Global Trends: The Content of Urban Planning

Chapter 6. Bridging the green and brown agendas

Chapter 7. Planning and informality

Chapter 8. Planning, spatial structure of cities and provision of infrastructure

Part IV. Global Trends: Monitoring, Evaluation and Education

Chapter 9. The monitoring and evaluation of urban plans

Chapter 10. Planning education

Part V. Global Trends: Future Policy Directions

Chapter 11. Towards a new role for urban planning

Part VI. Statistical Annex

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Harnessing the Wind and Africa's future

William Kamkwamba's book, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope
is truly a story about hope against all odds and points to the real path and goal of development--to support and nurture the power, intellect and creativity already on the ground. You can find out more at William Kamkwamba's blog.

Here is a short video where Kamkwamba himself talks about the book and you can see video of his remarkable makeshift windmill.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Slum Improvement Requires More Focus on Water and Sanitation - 4th World Water Forum

The 4th World Water Forum (WUF4) is a gathering of urban specialist, ministers, mayors, parliamentarians, civil society, private sectors and other interest groups. The Forum, which held in Nanjing, China 3 - 6 November, 2008, was attended by 7,900 participants.

Ahead of the forum a colleague from WaterAid published a short report calling on city authorities, governments and donors to pay more attention to water and sanitation as an imperative to slum improvement. They point out a few surprising pieces of information , such as the fact that aid funding for water and sanitation has been declining since the 1990s relative to other sectors, and that the poorest countries and regions are not getting the bulk of aid funding for water and sanitation!

Here is the full Turning Slums Around report. Below are links to two articles about it:

BBC report

EDIE Network

Nigerian Environmental Newspaper No Longer Online?

I was excited to receive an email about The Sanitarian, an environmetal newspaper based in Nigeria. However, the excitement turned to disappointment when I tried to access the newspaper's website (supposed to be located at www.thesanitarianonline.com but as of August 10, 2009 the website does not exist). A few UNEP reports cite some articles from the now defunct website.

In the email I receive, they urge those in Nigeria to subscribe for weekly delivery. I found this contact information online, if you are looking for a way to subscribe. Let me know in the comments if you've read any issues or if they come back online or if you have any other information about this paper!

Welcome to The Sanitarian Online
Contact Information
Postal address
19 Igbobi College Road, Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria

Here's more about the paper:
"The Sanitarian was conceived out of the urge to reach the public with soft
translations of the hard truths in our environment, creating an
environment consciousness strong enough to cause positive changes with
professional ethics and passion.

The Sanitarian beams search lights on those developments that endanger the
environment and threaten our individual and collective existence within

We report and applaud the good, draw attention to the ugly and take a firm
position on issues that affect our environment, when we have to.
We publish the environment every week (for now), with the intention of
going daily soon.

Our contents are 80% environment, 5% mild politics and business, 5%
health, 5% agriculture and 5% sports and entertainment.The Sanitarian is environment friendly, has no sacred cows, is character reformative, and reorientation based."

Friday, 7 August 2009

A technological fix for water scarcity?

I came across an interesting video on Yahoo today about windmills that produce water mimicking rain creation. Marc Parent, the inventor, has created a windmill that produces clean water from humidity in the air. He got the idea from salvaging water from air conditioners and feeding it into a tank.

Wind turbines suck in air, and the electricity generated cools the air turning steam into water. He says it is a solution for very remote areas, and arid areas. There is already some interest from the Middle East. Each turbine can produce about 800 liters of water per day, but it is costly, as each system costs between 9 to 25,000 Euros.

A video featuring the process can be found here.

Do you think this kind of technology has a useful place in solving the water crisis facing many countries?

Sunday, 12 July 2009

"Good Enough" service delivery?

I just came across a wonderful video on YouTube (posted below) by Professor Michael Wesch from KSU about Web 2.0 and the need to re-think our conception of the Internet and its governance given that it is rapidly evolving into something new, a global repository of human knowledge being dynamically manifested by billions of people every day. (Something like that!) Really, watch the video (it's got great music, too) to get the feel for what he is saying.

In any case, he mentioned something in his description about Web 2.0 and the "eternal beta". Intrigued, I googled the phrase and came across an interesting post on another blog, The Good Enough Movement and the Eternal Beta. Published over 3 years ago, the article talks about a new form of web deployment that has changed the IT world, where software is essentially release in beta form (like Flickr) because it is "good enough" for end users. There's an extended discussion there beyond the scope of this blog, but interesting if you are into web architecture and all that.

The interesting thing for me was that it related to work I've read and cited by Professor Merilee Grindle of Harvard around the concept of Good Enough Governance. There's a great PowerPoint by Professor Grindle available on the web that summarizes the concept.

Similar to the eternal beta, Grindle questions this authoritative notion of developing country government having to get governance exactly right, and by extension enforcing that in foreign policy, aid and so forth. Perfect governance (does that exist??) is criticized as an overly-ambitious and distracting agenda that gets in the way of figuring out how to make things work for people all over the world. The old good governance paradigm gives 3rd World governments a list of things they must get right without, as the PowerPoint lists, regard to prioritization, sequencing, and feasibility.

When it comes to delivering water, sanitation, energy and other basic services that billions around the world still lack, we need to build on what exists, do more of what works, and prioritize based on people's needs and demands (here is where democracy comes into play)... In essence, we should be pushing an "eternal beta" model of governance that is constantly being refined and improved by the input of its users (the populace) rather than authoritative, hierarchical models of what should be, far removed from the every day reality of people on the ground.

What I'm saying is potable water and adequate sanitation can be and is being delivered in myriad ways and we should support those efforts on the ground.

About Voice for Water

This blog was inspired by my field research on the lack of access to water and sanitation in Nigeria. It continues to focus on this issue and has expanded to explore this issue regionally and globally. The idea is to share best practices, challenges and information for citizens, planners, policymakers, scholars and the public who believe that everyone deserves to realize their full human development potential and secure basic rights to health, freedom, a clean environment and economic well-being.

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