Strategy 2030 and

Making Cities More Livable

ADB and its financing partners have made crosscutting investments to transform Asia’s cities into more livable urban centers—including environment-friendly transport, energy-saving water supply infrastructure, and green housing development. Further investments were focused on climate change and improving disaster resilience.

ADB sets out to implement its livable cities agenda by ensuring that the transformations reflect the global agenda on urban development. Specifically, ADB and its DMCs adopt a holistic approach to achieve liveable cities with the following strategic areas:

  • improve services in urban areas to make them inclusive and sustainable
  • strengthen urban planning and financial sustainability
  • improve urban environments, climate resilience, and disaster management

Asia and the Pacific is home to 54% of the world’s urban population. Nowhere else is the unprecedented economic transformation that the region underwent in the past two decades better manifested than in the proliferation of its cities.

This transformation is set to intensify as it was projected in 2019 that the region would be responsible for 90% of the 2.4 billion new members of the middle class entering the global economy. One characteristic of the middle class is that it is disproportionately urban.

Strategy 2030’s goal is to help its developing member countries (DMCs) transform their congested, polluted, and inequitable cities into livable ones—competitive, equitable, environment-friendly, disaster-resilient, and efficient in its services.

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Mumbai, India will soon have a modern public transport system that will help decongest existing public transportation in the city. The ADB project, cofinanced by the New Development Bank, will enhance urban mobility in a city of 12 million and provide some 7.5 million daily suburban commuters with a modern, safer, and more comfortable transportation.

The livable cities agenda cuts across several themes and sectors, including water and urban sanitation, transport for urban services, climate change and disaster resilience, and urban and financial planning. In 2019, 25 cofinanced projects were approved for water and urban sanitation amounting to $171.5 million. Another 17 cofinanced projects on transport were approved, totaling $2.74 billion. Climate financing reached $6.37 billion in 2019, $705 million coming from financing partners.

Improving Services in Urban Areas to Make Them Inclusive and Sustainable

Improving Urban Mobility in Congested Mumbai

India’s Mumbai will soon have a modern public transport system that will help decongest existing public transportation in the city. The ADB project, cofinanced by the New Development Bank, will enhance urban mobility in a city of 12 million and provide some 7.5 million daily suburban commuters with a modern, safer, and more comfortable transportation.

In the past decade, the Urban Financing Partnership Facility has been an essential vehicle for ADB’s partners to advance their shared vision of livable urban centers with ADB. By 2019, the facility had a total of $191.9 million, with its largest share coming from the Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund (UCCRTF) at 78%. In April 2019, ADB approved the establishment of a fourth trust fund under the UFPF, the ASEAN Australia Smart Cities Trust Fund (AASCTF). AASCTF is a single-partner trust fund with an indicative contribution from the Government of Australia totaling A$20 million ($15.2 million). The trust fund focuses on building livable cities that are green, competitive, inclusive, and resilient. All DMCs in Southeast Asia are eligible for the fund.

Water services are a critical component of a livable city. The Water Financing Partnership Facility (WFPF) was established in 2006 to provide additional financial and knowledge resources from development partners. By 2019, cumulative contributions from Australia, Austria, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Switzerland have reached $116.4 million. In 2019, a total of $9.7 million was allocated to 21 projects. Half of this amount went to projects improving services on water supply, sanitation, and wastewater management, with a total of $4.8 million.

The New Development Bank is cofinancing the Mumbai Metro Rail Systems for $260 million to help contribute to the development of a modern and safe rail-based urban transit system in Mumbai city. This will reduce pollution and traffic congestion, increase public transport ridership, and improve the overall quality of the city’s transport system. The project runs from 2019 to 2023.

In Pakistan, meanwhile, the UCCRTF provided a grant of $2 million as project readiness financing for the preparation and engineering design of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Cities Improvement Project (KPCIP). The grant will ensure the timely and cost-effective achievement of the project outcomes and will run from 2019 to 2024. The KPCIP will improve the quality of life of the residents of at least four cities, including Abbottabad, Kohat, Mardan, and Peshawar, directly benefitting about 3.5 million of the urban population.

Strengthening Urban Planning and Financial Sustainability

Improving sector plans, institutional creditworthiness, project design and delivery, and sustainability of services are the focus of this component.

The Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Sector Project in the Solomon Islands, with cofinancing from the European Union for $20.4 million and the World Bank for $15 million, was approved in 2019. The project will help provide better access to safe water and improve sanitation in urban areas of the Solomon Islands, as well as capacitate the Solomon Islands Water Authority to be financially and technically sustainable, by way of preparing and implementing financial management policies and designing capacity-building programs for the SIWA staff. The project runs from 2019-2027.

Partnerships that provide quality and sustainable urban service delivery and infrastructure enhance the quality of life of the urban inhabitants of developing Asia.

In Pakistan, the Cities Development Initiative for Asia Trust Fund completed a project preparation study linked to the ADB-financed Punjab Intermediate Cities Improvement Investment Program (Phase 2). The CDIA preparation study laid the groundwork of the investment program by analyzing development challenges and engaging in extensive consultations with stakeholders at the provincial, district, and city levels. CDIA’s support culminated in the identification of specific investment projects so that the urban populations in the four cities would benefit from improved water supply, sanitation, and solid waste management services, and the introduction of green spaces.   In Uzbekistan, the People’s Republic of China Poverty Reduction and Regional Cooperation gave $1 million to support a technical assistance on preparing for urban development and improvement projects. The technical assistance runs from 2019-2023. The cofinanced technical assistance also lays the groundwork for ADB investments into Uzbekistan’s holistic and integrated urban development, including sewerage improvements, water supply and sanitation, and solid waste management.

Improving Urban Environments, Climate Resilience, and Disaster Management

To increase the resilience of cities, ADB will promote the integration of climate change and disaster risk considerations into urban planning processes. It will also build capacity for effective disaster preparedness by strengthening early warning systems and emergency response plans to avoid loss of life.

The World Bank and the Green Climate Fund are cofinancing a project seeking to improve the water supply in Kiribati’s South Tarawa for $13 million and $28.6 million, respectively. The preparation of this project was supported by the Multi-Donor Trust Fund under the WFPF through a $120,000 project preparation technical assistance cofinancing. The project addresses factors that result in the high incidence of waterborne disease in South Tarawa, the capital of Kiribati. This is done through the delivery and effective management of new and rehabilitated climate-resilient water supply assets, as well as improved hygiene practices. Among others, a significant target output of the project is a climate-resilient and low carbon water supply infrastructure. This will be achieved by building a desalination plant of 4,000 cubic meters per day, whose energy consumption is offset by a 2,500-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system. The project will run from 2019 to 2027.

Investments that integrate climate change and disaster risk considerations into urban planning processes build people’s capacity for effective disaster preparedness, reduce their risks, and make them resilient to calamities.

The Green Climate Fund is likewise contributing $95 million to Mongolia’s Ulaanbaatar Green Affordable Housing and Resilient Urban Renewal Sector. The project, which runs from 2019-2027, will deliver sustainable and comprehensive solutions to transform the substandard, climate-vulnerable, and heavily polluting ger areas of Ulaanbaatar city into affordable, low carbon, climate-resilient, and livable eco-districts.

The UCCRTF is also supporting a $1 million technical assistance to supports the establishment of a Platform for Climate Resilient and Low Carbon Urban Development. This TA aims to establish a collaborative process among key stakeholders at ADB and the DMCs, which will result in the production of a knowledge base on climate-informed urban development. It will run from 2019 to 2022.

The WFPF financed a technical assistance for $750,000 to prepare the Climate and Disaster Resilient Small-Scale Water Resources Management Project in Bangladesh. The project, approved in 2019 and running until 2020, is expected to help about 95 districts by improving the living conditions in the area, minimizing the impacts of floods and droughts, and increasing people’s incomes.

Moving Forward

At the rate Asia and the Pacific is urbanizing, cities are clearly at the forefront in shaping the quality of life of its populace. Interventions to strengthen the financial sustainability of cities, to improve their resilience against natural and man-made disasters and crises, to better plan their towns and their linkage with surrounding urban and rural areas, and more will be needed. In the next years, ADB’s partners have pledged more support for the Urban Financing Partnership Facility (UFPF). For the UFPF, additional support is expected toward making cities more livable from the latest trust fund to join UFPF, the ASEAN Australia Smart Cities Trust Fund. In November 2019, during the ADB’s annual consultation with donors, UFPF had preliminary discussions with the Government of the UK for the latter to provide possible additional financing for Phase 2 of the UCCRTF. The indicative funding replenishment initially discussed was about $100 million (£75 million) over seven years from April 2021 to March 2028.