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  • Aubree Frost

UN Sustainable Development Goals: Sustainable Cities & Communities

The world is developing at a faster rate than ever before. Global urbanization means a tremendous growth in the number of people moving from rural areas to urban cities and communities. This growth, unfortunately, comes with downfalls; the gentrification of city living displaces people who can no longer afford their housing, pushing them and other low-income families to move to informal settlements. These settlements are informal in the sense that they have unregulated systems, which, if left unattended, can cause a great deal of harm to the vulnerable people residing there. Roads and transportation, sanitation systems, waste maintenance, and Water are all services these communities will lose without the progress of this SDG.

The UN SDG #11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities targets safe, affordable, and inclusive environments for people to live, learn and grow. The progress has been working closely with public health systems to combat new deficits that arose during the outbreak of Covid -19 by employing financial and technological assistance. The United Nation’s target 11.1 emphasizes the need to drastically upgrade these settlements to procure healthier and safer living environments for over 1 billion people in slums and 4.3 billion living in urban homes. Along with these already staggering figures, there has been a steady growth in the population of people living in slums and urban housing. As of 2018, 55% of the world's population resides in urban settlements; the UN projected that the percentage will increase to 68% by 2050. This growth is intensifying the pressures on unregulated and inadequate infrastructure.

Water& acknowledges the weight of this goal and respects all targets, but draws particular notice to Water's role in this effort. Water&'s core goal is to increase the number of people with access to clean, accessible, and safe Water. For this reason, Water& strongly supports and highlights Water's centrality in specific segments of this sustainable development goal. The growing population living in slums and urban housing signifies haste needed in the improvements to the infrastructure, particularly Water, waste maintenance, and sanitation systems which all surround the immediate preservation of the lives in informal settlements.

While drastic changes are needed to acquire drinking Water everywhere, statistics show that drinking Water is surprisingly better in slum households compared to other urban housing. USAID Census data tells that 30% of non-slum urban houses do not receive any form of tap Water compared to 74% of slum households that have access to tap Water. However, the safety of this Water is incredibly variable and hinges upon a myriad of components, including waste collection systems and sanitation within these communities.

UN data stresses that today, two million people globally are without proper waste collection services, most of which reside in settlements. Uncollected waste pollutes oceans and rivers, clogs city drainage systems, and causes flooding. UN target 11.5 broaches Water-related disasters and the demand for safeguarding against them. The World Bank discerns that 90% of waste is openly dumped or burned in low-income communities. This waste disposal pollutes the air and contributes 5% of greenhouse gasses to the worldwide climate change problem.

The waste-filled Water is a byproduct of an improper sanitation system and therefore becomes a platform to breed disease. The Water used in the showering system is a hotbed for toxigenic bacterium to spread infectious diseases like cholera among close populations. During the Covid-19 outbreak, slums accounted for a disproportionate amount of outbreaks and mortality rates due to the unsanitary and tight living standards where social distancing was not an option. Access to Water is a prominent issue, but maintenance of Water standards will also have an essential influence on lives.

Water& notes how vital Water is in this goal and its connection through each integrant of its targets. Focusing mainly on Water, waste collection systems, and sanitation to improve and defend the lives of people living in slums and urban areas, Water& employs our audience to keep watch of this SDG as it affects the world's most vulnerable population.

Works Cited

CDC. “General Information | Cholera.” CDC, 2022, Accessed 30 October 2022.

United Nations. “Goal 11 | Department of Economic and Social Affairs.” Sustainable Development Goals, 2015, Accessed 30 October 2022.

United Nations. “— SDG Indicators.” — SDG Indicators, 2015, Accessed 30 October 2022.

USAID. “Economic & Political Weekly.” From Water Coverage to Water Quality, vol. XLIX, 2014, p. 55. USAID,

Brotherhood, Luiz et al. “Slums and pandemics.” Journal of development economics vol. 157 (2022): 102882. doi:10.1016/j.jdeveco.2022.102882


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