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Global Ideas

Through the lens

This week, Global Ideas is taking a deeper look at cities. Life in the metropolis can be tough - especially when space, infrastructure and clean air are at a minimum. But sometimes, good design can go a long way.

A worker transporting kerosene in a bullock cart travels past Indian Oil Corporation's fuel depot in Mumbai, India. Outdoor air pollution is a major problem in cities. It causes over 3 million premature deaths per year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). But indoor pollution is a problem too - and kerosene a major culprit. Many of the around 1.2 billion people who lack access to electricity use kerosene lamps for lighting, says WHO. This exposes people to poisoning and burns, as well as high levels of fine particulate matter, which can cause serious health problems. Kerosene is also often overlooked as a major source of black carbon emissions and a significant contributor to global warming. 

As people increasingly leave the countryside for cities in search of new opportunities and work, they often find themselves living in informal settlements or slums where space and services such as waste disposal or running water are at a premium. Such conditions lead to environmental and health problems. In the pictured settlement in Kolkata, India, a man washes his horse as a woman bathes her son in concrete water pens under a flyover. 

Even in cities with formal waste collection, you're never too far from a rat like this one stuck in a garbage can in New York's Brooklyn borough. New Yorkers complain the Big Apple's rodent crisis has reached epic proportions and blame it squarely on the city's sanitation department. In the latest tactic to combat to rats, New York has enlisted the help of its abundant population of feral cats. 

With climate change and global warming, coastal cities are bearing the brunt of more frequent and violent storms. The world's poorest countries, which lack the infrastructure to cope with the flooding, mudslides and destruction such storms bring, are faring worst. The Caribbean country of Haiti, for instance, has been battered by a number of hurricanes over the past few years, most recently in early October. Here, a child plays inside a broken water tank after Hurricane Matthew ripped through Haitian city of Jérémie. 


A farmer rests upon sacks filled with paddy at a wholesale grain market in Chandigarh, India. Chandigarh was one of the earliest planned cities in post-independence India and is renowned for its architecture and urban design. The master plan for the city was prepared by Swiss-French architect and urban planner, Le Corbusier, who also designed a number of its key buildings. Chandigarh with its many gardens and parks was named the second-cleanest city in India in 2016.

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