MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Improved urban management in the Pacific region can boost living standards and resilience to climate change, according to a new report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

“Strengthened urban management is key to better living standards and reduced exposure to natural hazard and climate change risks in the region's growing cities and towns,” said report author and ADB Urban Development Specialist Allison Woodruff.

Moving from Risk to Resilience: Sustainable Urban Development in the Pacific outlines some of the socio-economic benefits of urbanization. For example, providing social services such as health and education can be more cost-effective when the population is concentrated in urban clusters, compared with providing the same services to small, dispersed rural communities. The concentration of people and commercial enterprises may also contribute to more innovation and greater productivity which will drive economic growth.

The region is rapidly urbanizing, with 20% of its population now living in urban areas. If Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste are excluded, this figure increases to 36%. In the region’s smallest countries—the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Palau—at least three out of every four residents are already urban dwellers. At the same time, many of the region’s urban centers are located in hazard-prone areas such as coasts, floodplains, or low-lying atolls.

Accommodating the growing number of urban residents is a challenge for Pacific governments. Urbanization has been associated with lack of access to, and poor quality basic services such as water supply, sanitation, and solid waste.

The ADB report notes that integrated urban development strategies may be used to improve urban living conditions particularly among low-income households, as well as build resilience to climate change. An integrated approach may include encouraging development away from high risk hazard zones such coastal or floodplain areas. Enforcing building codes which require homes to be built with minimum floor heights or heightening existing infrastructure can be used to mitigate the impacts of natural hazards such as flooding.

The report recommends that urban development strategies be implemented in a participatory way to ensure support from communities. Adequate human and financial resources, access to reliable data on climate change risks and coordination between agencies involved in urban management are also critical to the success of the implementation and promotion of sustainable urban development in the Pacific region.

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