Building Sustainability: Much Needs to Be Done

Beach Homes Cotonou, Benin

Maintaining the ecological integrity of cities is usually a key strategic objective of any city.  And yet, on a daily basis this is the one area in which the private-public-community divides are becoming increasingly apparent. Most governments have a responsibility to balance private sector interests (where the generation of profit rules) with community interests (where individual and neighbourhood amenity rules) in the overall interests of the public good.  But equally these interests must operate in ways that are environmentally sustainable.

In Cotonou, Benin, planning processes have not stopped the development of shacks in areas which will create huge management problems as governance improves.  Here, households live on the beach at an estuary and in a place which on weekends is vibrant with people wanting recreation.  Clearly without water and sanitation, and as their densities grow, these communities will challenge the citiy as it strives to build a more environmentally sustainable city.

Managing these different interests is never easy, with officials being seen as anti-developmental by business, too pro-business by communities and too ineffective by most in stemming individual interests..  But in the end, if we are to leave this earth to future generations in a better condition than we found it, we must make sure we strive to ensure cities maintain and develop some ecological integrity.

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