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Building resilience: Urban stories from the Global South at COP28

As our world urbanizes swiftly, cities like Melaka, Independencia, Lusaka, and Minas Gerais State are taking strides to transform climate challenges into opportunities for resilient, sustainable futures. Explore their stories of innovation and adaptation.

Melaka, Malaysia: Integrating tourism into resilience plans

“Mass tourism has created an economic boost for the city. The challenge is to keep fostering tourism while preserving Melaka’s unique, authentic cultural heritage,” explains Datuk Rais bin Yasin, Senior State Member of the Melaka State Executive Council of Housing, Local Government, Drainage, Climate Change and Disaster Management.

As the oldest city in Malaysia, Melaka’s UNESCO World Heritage status attracts 10,000 visitors weekly, placing considerable strain on its infrastructure. This influx has led to traffic congestion, deteriorating air quality, and a mounting garbage problem, heightening flood risks. Melaka implemented a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and water taxi services to address these challenges, creating alternative routes and car-free zones on weekends. The city is tackling recurrent flash floods with a comprehensive flood mitigation plan, deepening rivers, enlarging reservoirs, and installing additional sluice gates.

The city’s water supply has also come under pressure with increasing tourist numbers. Through an enhanced Watershed Plan, the Melaka incorporates rainwater harvesting and engages hotels in water conservation efforts. A circular waste management approach is being adopted, with an awareness campaign targeting tourists to recycle responsibly, accompanied by strategically placed waste bins. Melaka’s commitment lies in preserving its historic landmarks sustainably amidst growing visitor numbers, ensuring a legacy that stands the test of time.

Independencia, Chile: Growing a sustainability park

Independencia is a commune within the Santiago Metropolitan Region, an area that is home to more than 40% of Chile’s inhabitants. Located right in the region’s center, Independencia faces a problem: with 1.6 m2 of green areas per inhabitant, the commune is well below the 9 m2 per person recommended by the World Health Organization. The rapid increase in population has led to the limited availability of land for the growth of green areas. Added to this, the heat waves experienced by the region make it unsustainable to endure 36 degrees during the summer in a commune whose infrastructure is primarily gray.

In 2018, in an abandoned sports court, Independencia developed the Sustainability Park, an urban forest with the Miyawaki methodology – created in the 70s by the Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki. This is an afforestation technique for cultivating fast-growing groves of native plants, with the dense, mixed planting intended to simulate the layers of a natural forest. The park was developed with significant community engagement, where residents planted the seeds. While Independencia awaits for the forest to grow, the project also includes a center for environmental practices and education, a space for waste management and recycling drop-off, and a nursery garden. “This park will tackle heat waves and the heat island effect and, more importantly, add a green area for our neighbors, improving their quality of life. Climate action must always involve social justice,” reflects Mayor Gonzalo Duran.

Minas Gerais State, Brazil: Resilience through comprehensive initiatives

“In Minas Gerais, we believe that every challenge is an opportunity to foster climate resilience and sustainable development for our communities,” says Marília Carvalho de Melo, Secretary of State for Environment and Sustainable Development.

The Brazilian State is championing a transformative approach to climate resilience. With an extensive inventory encompassing over 1 million rural properties, 94% owned by small-scale producers, the State is poised for impactful change. In alignment with Brazil’s Forest Code, which mandates conserving 20% of the rural property area, Minas Gerais has the potential to recover an impressive 3.4 million hectares.

In addition, collaborating closely with the French Government, Minas Gerais is actively addressing climate vulnerabilities across its 853 cities. This strategic partnership facilitates vulnerability assessments and empowers the State to assist the most vulnerable cities in crafting robust Climate Action Plans. Looking ahead, the focus is on supporting its 853 cities in proposing and implementing tailored nature-based solutions that elevate climate change adaptation efforts.

Lusaka, Zambia: Challenging waste management

Lusaka grapples with climate challenges, including extreme weather events and population growth in informal settlements. The city faces a dual crisis, with increasing waste from peri-urban areas contributing to blocked drains and heightened flood risks, exacerbating health issues like cholera. Since 70% of Lusaka’s population resides in informal settlements, waste management during weather-related hazards becomes a significant challenge, hindering door-to-door collections and waste services.

Lusaka has implemented a robust Solid Waste Management (SWM) program to address these challenges, featuring monthly clean-ups and community-driven efforts to unclog drainage systems. This locally-led initiative includes a desensitization program, educating the community, especially youth, on waste issues and climate-related flooding. The city’s commitment to improving community engagement aligns with its resilience-building efforts.

Lusaka City Council collaborates with private operators and community-based enterprises to enhance waste collection and disposal and tackle the separation of organic waste. In a promising initiative, the Council partners with the University of Zambia to explore the organic waste market, aiming to convert waste into liquid fertilizer that supports local communities in growing their own vegetables, addressing vulnerabilities related to food and nutrition among marginalized community members. “Lusaka’s waste journey is a testament to turning challenges into sustainable solutions for a resilient future,” concludes Mayor Chilando Chitangala.

This blog was written based on the COP28 session, “ICLEI responding to Climate Emergency in the Global South,” organized by ICLEI. Watch the webcast here.

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